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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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Lessons learnt from ‘super-spreader’ festival

Verknipt, an outdoor festival in the Netherlands, has become a cautionary tale for the sector after it recorded more than 1,000 Covid infections among 20,000 attendees.

The two-day event took place in Utrecht in early July and all attendees were required to show a QR code that demonstrated that they were either vaccinated, had recently had a Covid infection, or had a negative Covid test.

Despite the festival’s entry requirements, the event recorded 1,100 infections among the attendees, prompting the municipal health service (GGD) of Utrecht to investigate the origin of the infections, as well as suspected large-scale fraud with test tickets.

The GGD checked the pathways of nearly 400 infected Verknipt visitors from the province of Utrecht and concluded that at least 34% of those surveyed were likely Covid-positive even before they arrived at the site, it was reported by de Volkskrant.

The festival accepted negative rapid tests taken up to 40 hours prior to the event, meaning attendees had a significant window in which they could become unknowingly infected. Experts said the timeframe was ‘far too long’.

“We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things”

Lennart van Trigt, a spokesman for the Utrecht health board, or GGD, previously said: “This period is too long. We should have had a 24 hour [period], that would be a lot better because in 40 hours people can do a lot of things like visiting friends and going to bars and clubs.”

According to the GGD’s research, about 90% of the infected festivalgoers surveyed had attended multiple other social events earlier that week at which they may have become infected – following the relaxation of nightlife restrictions on 26 June.

The GGD was not able to trace the other infected festivalgoers from other regions and stressed that the research is not complete. The health service found no indications of large-scale fraud involving test tickets.

Another issue was that residents in the Netherlands could get a Covid pass for the festival immediately after being vaccinated and didn’t have to show a negative Covid test, though research shows it takes several weeks for immunity to build following a Covid vaccine.

“It is striking that 34% of the infected festival-goers we examined were already infected,” says the spokesperson for the GGD region of Utrecht. You can’t blame the youngsters, she thinks. “They had heard from the government that they were allowed to party.”

Just over two weeks after the Netherlands’ rollback of restrictions, Covid cases increased exponentially and the Dutch prime minister acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment.

The easing has largely been reversed in the weeks following as the government this week extended its ban on multi-day events until September, resulting in the cancellation of major events such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland.

More than 30 other event organisations including Event Warehouse/Paaspop, DGTL and F1 Dutch Grand Prix Zandvoort joined ID&T as co-plaintiffs in its legal proceedings against the Dutch government over the “carelessly prepared” restrictions.

 


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Fieldlab shares results of initial Back to Live tests

Seated indoor events can take place as soon as possible – even with a high prevalence of Covid-19 infections – provided a certain set of measures are adhered to, according to a study conducted by Fieldlab Evenementen.

The Dutch initiative has shared the findings from the first part of its Back to Live test series, which involved a business conference and a cabaret show by the Dutch comedian Guido Weijers. Each event took place during February at the Beatrix Theater, Utrecht, with around 500 attendees.

Based on the results of the study, Fieldlab says that these so-called ‘type 1 events’, which take place indoors, with seats and where the public behaves calmly, can take place with 50% occupancy and without social distancing.

However, visitors must be tested before and after the event and wear a mask while walking around the venue. The recommendations are also based on a venue having good ventilation and separating large groups of visitors.

“Indoor, seated events, where the public behaves calmly, can take place with 50% occupancy and without social distancing”

Fieldlab has now presented the research results to the Dutch government and hopes that the Outbreak Management Team will provide advice on organising events in the near future.

The researchers say the results of the study are “encouraging”, noting that 98.4% of the visitors who attended the events adhered to the instructions and 80% of the visitors downloaded the CoronaMelder app in advance, so that track and trace could be carried out easily.

The number of contacts within a meter and a half and lasting longer than 15 minutes was limited, especially during the theatre test. This number was higher at the conference because people actively sought out colleagues and peers.

The Back to Live series, which has so far included concerts, festivals and other live events, will continue with the 3FM Awards in a few days time and the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

Alongside the Fieldlab events, the Netherlands will also host more than 80 concerts across nine days as part of an extensive pilot programme of cultural activities, announced by the Dutch government.

 


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Fieldlab reveals details on Back to Live pilot festivals

Fieldlab, the organisation spearheading the ‘Back to Live’ test series in the Netherlands, has revealed details on the previously announced open-air festival pilots.

The eight-event test series is being orchestrated with Event Platform, the Alliance of Event Builders and the government to investigate how events with an increased visitor capacity can take place safely and responsibly during the pandemic.

The festival tests are being organised along with Dutch promoters Mojo and ID&T and will take place at the event site in Biddinghuizen – home to festivals such as Defqon.1 and Lowlands.

Fieldlab and Lowlands director, Eric van Eerdenburg, has revealed that the festivals will likely be scheduled for March, kicking off mid-afternoon and running until the early evening in case a curfew is in place.

Eerdenburg also said that each festival will host 1,500 visitors, who will be tested before and after the events, and are required to wear masks for the duration.

Participants will be ‘tagged’ at the entrance and admitted in phases before they’re free to roam the mini-festival, which will include several stages and food trucks.

Fieldlab’s Tim Boersma told 3voor12: “It is not a medical experiment, we will look at contact. Everyone is tagged at the entrance. Not all of those 1,500 people meet, but how many do, and for how long? In which places do crowds arise? Can you solve that by installing more toilet blocks, for example?”

The organisation plans to announce the exact dates for the festival tests next week.

Each festival will host 1,500 visitors, who will be tested before and after the events, and are required to wear masks

The postponed ‘Back to Live’ pilot shows that are scheduled to take place this month include a cabaret performance by Guido Weijers to 500 guests at the Beatrix Theatre in Utrecht (20 February), a business conference at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht (15th) and two football matches at the home grounds of NEC (21st) and Almere City FC (28th).

Details have also been revealed about how the football games will take place. Each match will kick off at 12:15 pm at the respective grounds and will host 1,500 season tickets holders.

For the match at NEC’s home ground, the Goffert Stadium in Nijmegen, the 1,500 attendees will be split into six ‘bubbles’ of 250 for the purpose of the investigation.

For the game at Almere City FC’s home ground, the Yanmar Stadion in Almere, the visitors will be divided into three ‘bubbles’ of 200, 600 and 700 people.

During each type of test event, Fieldlab will study several ‘building blocks’ that contribute to prevention and reduction of the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus including behaviour; triage, tracking and tracing; rapid tests; visitor dynamics; air quality; personal protection; cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and materials; vulnerable groups.

The Back to Live test series will also include a concert and a dance event at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, also organised by Mojo and ID&T, which are yet to be announced.

 


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ASOT1000 sells 55,000 tickets in four hours

The Netherlands’ A State of Trance (ASOT) has sold all 55,000 tickets for this September’s festival, which takes place at the Jaarbeurs convention centre in Utrecht on 3–4 September.

The ASOT1000 Celebration Weekend, which marks 1,000 episodes and 20 years of Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance radio show, is the most-anticipated A State of Trance to date, selling out in under four hours, according to promoter Alda.

Headlined by van Buuren, the first night of ASOT1000 will be a “nostalgic journey through two decades of trance”, with the Saturday show a more standard ASOT experience, welcoming a “star-studded line-up packed with new young talent, as well as iconic trance artists”. The nine-hour event will take place across five areas of the 100,000m² Jaarbeurs.

The festival follows ASOT 950, which took place last February, also at the Jaarbeurs, with 40,000 fans in attendance and millions more watching online.

Further ASOT1000 events will take place in Poland and Russia the following month, before heading to more countries on A State of Trance world tour.

“This incredible achievement signifies that music has always been a unifying force”

Allan Hardenberg, CEO of leading dance music promoter Alda, says: “This milestone celebration is a very special one for Alda, as we have been a part of this extraordinary journey for 14 years in organising ASOT events worldwide. We are glad to celebrate this landmark occasion with Armin and fans from all over the world.

“This incredible achievement signifies that music has always been a unifying force. See you on the dancefloor this September.”

Tickets for ASOT1000 Celebration Weekend started at €110 for a weekend ticket, or €65 for a single-day pass.

Regarding coronavirus, Alda says it will take “measures that are necessary at that moment” to protect fans and comply with all Dutch government regulations. Another dance music festival, new event Frontier, says it will also go ahead in a ‘corona-proof’ format, regardless of restrictions, this summer.

 


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Netherlands builds socially-distanced venue

A temporary purpose-built, socially-distanced theatre is opening at Jaarbeurs exhibition and convention centre in Utrecht this autumn.

The Scala Theater is currently being built in two halls of Jaarbeurs and will remain in place from 25 September until 31 December.

The temporary construction consists of three floors with 129 boxes, separate staircases and walking paths. The venue can cater to up to 1,050 guests, who will be seated above, below and next to each other around the stage.

The design and layout, which includes spacious entrances, exits and reception foyers, comply with all National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) guidelines, according to organisers.

The temporary construction consists of three floors with 129 boxes, separate staircases and walking paths

The concept for The Scala Theater originated from a collaboration between Jaarbeurs, Coreworks, Mertens AVR, IINII and Fraai Projecten, as well as AT NEXT and Senf Theaterpartners which will be responsible for programming.

André Hazes will perform on The Scala Theater’s opening night and artists including Crook, Nick & Simon, OG3NE, Rolf Sanchez, Tino Martin and Waylon will also deliver concerts in the new construction. The venue will also host comedy, family shows and special performances.

The temporary venue model follows that of the UK’s Virgin Money Unity Arena (cap. 2,500), which will host 29 events in 26 days.

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 and a 1.5 metre distancing rule is observed.

Last week, the Netherlands announced a second rescue package for cultural businesses which includes €150m to be allocated towards music venues and theatres.

 


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Millions tune in to A State of Trance 950 live stream

Trance lovers from across the world gathered in the Netherlands over the weekend for the fastest-selling A State of Trance (ASOT) event in the brand’s history.

Hosted by Armin van Buuren, the ASOT festival debuted at Ultra in Miami in 2011 as a spin-off of the Dutch DJ’s A State of Trance radio show, which recently celebrated its 950th episode.

For the sold-out A State of Trance 950, promoter Alda welcomed more than 40,000 partygoers to the Jaarbeurs exhibition centre in Utrecht on Saturday 15 February – while millions of viewers around the world watched the live broadcast.

In addition van Buuren, ASOT 950 performers included Ilan Bluestone, Ben Gold, Markus Schulz, Grum, Aly and Fila, Andrew Rayel, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Jorn van Deynhoven and Rank1.

Alda’s other festivals include Amsterdam Music Festival in the Netherlands and the upcoming Saga event in Bucharest.

 


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First Netherlands music venue goes smoke-free

De Helling in Utrecht has become the first Dutch popular music venue to completely outlaw smoking on site, following February’s ban on indoor smoking rooms in bars, restaurants and venues.

The 400-capacity venue (pictured) says it will turn its existing indoor smoking area into a second stage, with smokers able to light up outside.

In a statement, a spokesperson explains: “For a long time we have wanted to be more flexible in our venue and we simply ran out of space because of the smoking room.

The 400-cap. venue will turn its indoor smoking area into a second stage

“Moreover, the total ban on smoking areas in venues that serve food and drink is imminent. So, for us, it was a [no-brainer].”

The court of appeal in the Hague ruled on 13 February that indoor smoking rooms are no longer permitted in cafés, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, concert halls and other venues where food may be served. Although smoking has been prohibited indoors in the Netherlands since 2008, these venues were previously excluded from the ban – a position the court said violates the United Nations’ framework convention on tobacco control.

The decision was met with dismay by the Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association (VNPF) and Association of Event Producers (VVEM), with the industry associations warning, among other things, that forcing smokers outdoors presents a danger to public safety.

 


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TivoliVredenburg partners with Eventim

Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg, one of the Netherlands’ largest concert venues, has agreed a ticketing partnership with Eventim Netherlands.

As of its autumn/winter cultural season, the venue, whose main room has a capacity of 2,000, will utilise CTS Eventim’s Eventim.Inhouse system to manage ticket bookings via its own web system. TivoliVredenburg hosted some 1,700 events attended by more than 1m visitors last year.

Suzanne van Dommelen, managing director of the venue, says: “The cooperation with Eventim is a great match. As TivoliVredenburg consists of six different halls – some seated, some unseated – and as many of our visitors are used to buying their tickets at a physical point of sale, we are quite a demanding client.

“It’s fantastic to add TivoliVredenburg to our list of clients and partners”

“The Eventim.Inhouse solution provides us with great support, giving us more resources to fulfill our ambitions in other areas. [It also] optimises the customer journey for our visitors.”

Henk Schuit, managing director of Eventim Nederlands, adds: “It’s fantastic to add TivoliVredenburg to our list of clients and partners. We will do everything we can to offer an outstanding service that goes beyond selling tickets.

“With our approach, we not only want to enable our customers to work more efficiently, but we want to give them the opportunity to focus on creating even more high quality live entertainment content for the widest audience possible.”

 


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The value of a strategic mindset

Music management qualifications are not a guaranteed road to success in the music industry. With dozens of young creatives entering an already saturated jobs market each year, it takes the perfect combination of (academic) knowledge, insight and entrepreneurship to get a foot in the door of the music industry for any graduate.

At 22 years old, I am fortunate enough to work with and represent amazing talent from all over the world. How? The key word is ‘strategy’.

Walking through the doors of the Utrecht School of the Arts for the first time, in the autumn of 2013, I saw many of my peers immediately finding bands from the local scene to work with. Naturally, I did the same. However, I soon felt my work didn’t do the band justice. The network I was creating consisted solely of bars and amateur festivals, and therefore would never earn the band or I a living. This needed to change. But how?

The answer came to me at Sziget 2014 in Budapest when I saw New Zealand-born singer-songwriter Thomas Oliver play his first-ever European show. On the hunt for a physical copy of Thomas’s music, I ended up talking to his manager at the time, Cushla Aston (Aston Road), and something clicked. I introduced myself as a booking agent – which I definitely wasn’t yet. And this was something she definitely knew.  I told her that if they had any plans to tour the Netherlands I was happy to get involved. Long story short: in early 2015, Thomas Oliver was the artist for whom I booked my first ever tour.

So, I had to book a tour for a still unknown musician from the other side of the world with basically no valuable connections – let’s go! Looking at the tour schedules of similar artists, I quickly generated a list of venues to approach. However, many turned out to be a little too ambitious, so I came up with an alternative plan: I figured that by booking shows in irregular venues, like churches and factory halls, the atmosphere would add promotional value to the shows. This especially turned out to be true outside of cities – in villages where not many international artists pass through – resulting in a full house at almost all of his shows.

“Figure out what part of the industry fascinates you most, analyse the necessary steps to get involved and take the risk”

Treetop Agency was founded a month later, and from then on I kept an eye out for international artists whose music I enjoyed but who had not yet toured the Netherlands, hoping to add a couple of dates to their schedules. Earning the trust of experienced artists, managers and agents early in my career, I quickly introduced myself to the country’s top venues, too, while avoiding the bar scene mentioned earlier. This way, I managed to put on hundreds of shows while still in school, the revenues of which I reinvested by visiting showcase festivals to keep the ball rolling.

Having received my bachelor’s degree in June 2017, I now represent 20 artists from ten countries. My interest in finding ways to add promotional value to shows has slightly shifted to a fascination for the promotional spiral in which recorded and live music can catalyse each other. The combination of live shows being the main source of income for most artists and the promotion of live shows being strongly dependent on the results of the recorded music industry (and vice versa) inspired me to investigate the best possible balance and timing to create a solid foundation for success. Working closely with artists’ management, I now focus on creating elaborate development plans for Treetop artists to gain momentum in the Netherlands and beyond.

With the network and reputation of Treetop Agency in the Netherlands still growing steadily, more artists are asking me to get involved in the coordination of their European tours and promotion. The future will see a focus on not just expanding the network of promoters, but also of booking agencies and record labels throughout the continent, hopefully turning my passion for live music into a career as an international agent.

With an estimated 50 years to go before retirement, there’s plenty of time for me to dream big. This is my personal advice to anyone starting in music management, school or no school: figure out what part of the industry fascinates you most, analyse the necessary steps to get involved in it and take the
risk.

With a clear strategy and just a little bit of courage, you might just secure your spot in the market.

 


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