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French biz pushes for full capacity shows by Sept

Over 3,000 members of the French live music industry have signed an open letter to the government, asking for “clear and coherent” forecasts on the reopening of the sector after more than four months of shutdown.

In the letter, French industry professionals including concert promoters, venue owners, technicians, service providers, producers, artists, freelance workers and others, ask for a decision from the government regarding a possible date for the resumption of standing shows.

“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities.”

The industry representatives say they are committed to restarting shows at 100% capacity from 1 September, but state this date is getting increasingly difficult to envisage due to issues related to programming and the organisation of tours.

The live professionals also state they have “demonstrated our sense of responsibility and our ability to rigorously apply government decisions and regulatory framework”, as well as submitting “concrete proposals” with a view to working with the government to restart business.

“As we can no longer live in a state of expectation, we ask you for clear and coherent scenarios and deadlines so that we can work to restart our activities”

However, unlike other French sectors such as sport and hospitality, the live music business has not received a concrete timetable for reopening.

“Nobody understands the silence concerning us,” say the industry representatives, “starting with the public who question us insistently and who tell us their desire to go back to concerts.”

“We feel abandoned and despised by our public partners.”

The number of signatories of the letter has more than doubled since being sent to French president Emmanual Macron, prime minister Jean Castex and culture minister Roselyne Bachelot on Thursday (23 July), with festivals Hellfest Open Air, Eurockéennes de Belfort, Les Rencontres Trans Musicales de Rennes and Vieilles Charrues; venues the Bataclan and Zénith Paris; and trade union Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA) and industry body Prodiss among those to show their support.

Large-scale events (over 5,000 capacity) are currently banned in France until September. Social distancing measures are still in place for all shows, with masks obligatory at indoor venues from 1 August.

The letter is available to read in full here.

Photo: © Rémi Jouan, CC-BY-SAGNU Free Documentation LicenseWikimedia Commons

 


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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2,000 attend concert at Accor Arena in Paris

Christine and the Queens was among acts to perform to a 2,000-strong, socially distanced crowd at the Accor Arena on Friday (19 June) to kick of the Fête de la Musique celebrations, which later saw some flout Covid-19 restrictions on the streets of Paris and other cities.

The free-to-attend concert, Tous ensembles pour la musique (All together for music), was the first to take place in the 20,000-capacity arena in Paris, which was formerly known as the Accorhotels Arena, after almost four months of silence.

The arena operated at a tenth of its usual capacity to maintain social distancing rules and all fans had to wear masks during the event, which saw performances from over 40 Francophone artists including LEJ, Benabar, Salvatore Adamo and Vianney and was broadcast live on France 2.

A few days later, music fans from all over France gathered in the streets to mark the official date of the annual Fête de la musique – known as Music Day in English – which sees concerts held in bars, cafes, squares and parks throughout the country on 21 June.

The French Ministry of Culture, which created the annual festival in 1982, had announced that this year’s celebration could go ahead provided that concerts only took place in pre-authorised locations; a distance of one metre be kept between individuals; and public gatherings did not exceed ten people.

Bar, cafe and restaurant owners wishing to host concerts were advised that doing so was their own responsibility and advised not to if “likely to lead to uncontrolled gatherings on the street”.

“We can celebrate music by keeping our distance and being careful”

“I call on all those who are about to travel to be careful and responsible,” said culture minister Franck Riester before the event. “We can celebrate music by keeping our distance and being careful.”

Despite the restrictions, images of the celebrations online have sparked criticism, showing large crowds gathering in many parts of France, most notably in Paris, without wearing masks or abiding by distancing measures.

In the city of Nantes, thousands also joined together to pay homage to Steve Maia Caniço, who disappeared following police intervention during last year’s festival.

Celebrations elsewhere in the country, as well as some in Paris, got underway in compliance with coronavirus restrictions. In the city of Rennes, home to Rencontres Trans Musicales, open-air concerts in undisclosed locations took place to avoid large gatherings, while a barge fitted with loudspeakers entertained locals in Strasbourg and musical floats appeared in the streets of Sète.

At the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, successive waves of 500 spectators took part in a series of karaoke sessions, seated around tables of ten, space out at intervals of three metres.

A number of virtual events also took place as part of this year’s festival, with DJ Jean-Michel Jarre performing as an avatar as part of a special, virtual-reality concert.

A ban on events over 5,000 people remains in place in France until September, although concerts with fewer than 5,000 attendees will be permitted from 11 July, with Live Nation France’s Big Tour kicking off later that month.

 


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Encountering Trans Musicales

We started Trans Musicales, which recently celebrated its 41st edition, because we noticed that many local bands were often not well-known by local audiences, even if they lived in the same city.

At the very beginning, we didn’t set it up as a festival; we did a concert to support our association, a French not-for-profit entity that was created in 1975 by a friend called Hervé Bordier, with the aim of organising concerts. We invited 12 local bands to perform at the initial event, which took place over two days in June 1979.

The concept was different then. There were fewer than 20 rock and pop or world music concerts happening in Rennes each year. The entrance price was on a voluntary donation basis, and the event was pretty successful, with a total attendance of 1,600.

The following year, both the audience and artists came to us and asked why we hadn’t run the event again, so we decided to organise a second edition, this time in December. The idea was the same: to create the right conditions for artists and audience members to meet (rencontres).

In 1985, we redefined the Rencontres Trans Musicales de Rennes as a festival, and stopped doing other shows so that we could focus on the one event. We went from having just local bands, to bands from other French cities, to European bands, and, from the end of the ’80s, to bands from all around the world.

While we don’t look down on the music industry, we don’t feel that our event is part of it

We chose and still choose bands that we believe have something new to bring to the current music scene.

We like to keep in mind the humble beginnings of our event, back when rock music was a counterculture and there was little access to live music from that genre; it was difficult to see live on stage the bands whose records we were buying.

Nowadays, the music market focuses on artists who are already famous and on those with a huge potential for record and concert ticket sales, which has led to the industrialisation of music. But we are not aware of the reality and potential of musical creation across genres. Maybe we miss artists that we might have otherwise liked.

To us, this translates as not really having a choice when it comes to what music we are exposed to. We aren’t really free to choose. So that’s what we want to offer our audiences: a real choice. We expose them to a diverse lineup and they are free to take away what they want and like from it, and leave the rest.

We’re lucky that through our choice of artistic direction, we haven’t experienced the huge rise in artist fees that most festivals have in past years. Artistic freedom is really the big benefit, as we don’t depend on musical trends and what big acts are touring that year.

We have evolved slowly as an event, and our audience has stayed loyal

We have evolved slowly as an event, and our audience has stayed loyal. We also stick to our guns and we have done so since the beginning, always defending the same ideologies: the unknown is worth knowing; the liberty of choice is compelling; and popular music genres (rock, jazz, world music) are arts first and foremost, before becoming part of an industry. While we don’t look down on the music industry, we don’t feel that our event is part of it.

We may run parallel to it, but we start from a different location. Trans Musicales is a great place for bands to play because we attract most of the music industry professionals from France and beyond. An agent once said to me that he got 40 offers the night of his band’s show at the festival. We play our part.

We have a low-price policy because our purpose is to help people discover unknown bands, which is impossible to do if you don’t have a price policy that allows everyone to be able to access the event, even if they are on a low income.

Finally, we are a “sustainable development” festival (certified ISO 20121) which means we pay attention to all our stakeholders, and try to make the festival an easily accessible one. For us, the easier the access, the more people can attend and the better the ambience of the festival.

 


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‘Joyful’ Trans Musicales triumphs amid French unrest

The 41st edition of “see-them-here-first” festival Trans Musicales took place from 4 to 8 December in Rennes, France, against a backdrop of national strikes.

According to organisers, the festival did not experience a drop in attendance rates, despite the outbreak of protests across the country on 5 December over proposed changes to the national pension system, which affected both domestic and international travel.

Around 56,000 people from 50 different countries attended the event across four days, including 31,000 at the festival’s main site, Parc Expo, on the outskirts of the city of Rennes in northern France and 1,350 conference delegates.

A total of 84 acts, including Parisian electronic music crew Acid Arab, polyphonic choir San Salvador, Barcelona rap trio Tribade and English-Irish singer Maverick Sabre, played at the 2019 festival, which featured 12 European debuts and 12 performances that were created especially for the event.

“Trans Musicales 2019 was a contrasting edition,” comments Béatrice Macé, co-founder and co-director of Trans Musicales. “There was a very joyful and relaxed atmosphere at the festival, while the context outside of the festival was far from it.

“The special relationship that we, as a festival, have developed with our audience, was not affected by this context [of unrest]”

“Apart from Thursday (5 December), which was a day of national general strike, we had a similar attendance to last year, both in terms of delegates and the general public,” continues Macé.

“The special relationship that we, as a festival, have developed with our audience, was not affected by this context.”

In addition to a three-day French-language conference, the 2019 edition included an English-speaking conference session for the first time, in which French industry experts discussed the specificities of the country’s “welcoming but protective” live business.

Founded in 1979 by Macé and Jean-Louis Brossard, Trans Musicales has featured early-career performances from the likes of Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Björk, LCD Soundsystem, Jamiroquai, Lenny Kravitz and Justice.

The 2020 edition of Trans Musicales will take place from 2 to 6 December.

 


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Line-up revealed for 41st Trans Musicales

Independent festival Trans Musicales, France’s leading “see-them-here-first” music event, has released the full line-up for its 2019 edition, which takes place in Rennes, Brittany, from 4 to 8 December.

Founded in 1979 by Jean-Louis Brossard and Béatrice Macé, Trans Musicales has featured early-career performances from the likes of Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Björk, LCD Soundsystem, Jamiroquai, Lenny Kravitz and Justice.

The festival now takes place across 25 venues in the city of Rennes, from small clubs to a 6,500-capacity concert hall. Last year, 58,000 people attended the event over five days – including 43,500 repeat attendees – to see artists such as Flamingods, Underground System and Pongo.

Trans Musicales also serves as one of the French live industry’s largest gatherings, welcoming more than 1,600 delegates to its 2018 event.

“Music, like all art forms, has infinite forms of expression”

A total of 87 acts from 49 different countries are playing this year’s festival, including Parisian electronic music crew Acid Arab, San Francisco ensemble Gilberto Rodriguez y Los Intocables, Taiwanese group Go Go Machine Orchestra, Senegalese/French “electro-sabar’ group Guiss Guiss Bou Bess, New York DJ Marc Rebillet, UK singer and rapper Maverick Sabre, and Thai psych funk band YĪN YĪN, as seen at the International Festival Forum (IFF) last month.

A festival “priding itself on booking acts before they break”, the programming at Trans Musicales spans all genres. “Music, like all art forms, has infinite forms of expression,” comments festival co-founder Macé. “Different aesthetics, types of stage presence – it is in a neverending movement, always evolving and changing.”

Macé, along with fellow Trans Musicales co-founder Brossard, received the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2015 European Festival Awards.

Tickets for Trans Musicales 2019 are available here, with three-day passes priced from €32 to €69.

 


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