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Australia’s music industry launches #vaxthenation campaign

Australia’s live industry has come together to launch a pro-vaccination campaign under the banner #Vaxthenation.

Spearheaded by the newly established Live Industry Venues & Entertainment Alliance (which includes Frontier Touring/Mushroom Group, Live Nation, Live Performance Australia, Secret Sounds, TEG and more), the initiative urges Australians to get vaccinated against Covid-19 to “stop the interruptions” and end the cycle of lockdowns.

The initiative is backed by more than 400 Australian artists, performers, promoters, festivals, venues, ticketing platforms, record labels, producers, theatre and opera companies, streaming platforms, industry associations, peak bodies and more.

Advertisements for the campaign are being rolled out on national television and through social media.

“We all have a part to play in getting back to the gigs, events, concerts and festivals we love”

“We’re all united by the same vision: ending the constant interruptions to our live entertainment culture by encouraging everybody to get vaccinated,” reads a statement on the campaign website.

“We all have a part to play in getting back to the gigs, events, concerts and festivals we love. Live entertainment is one of the nation’s most beloved pastimes.

“So no matter who you are, your background or where you live, now’s time to get vaccinated. We guarantee the first show back will be one of the best of your life. There’s nothing on Earth that compares to seeing it for real.”

The Live Industry Venues & Entertainment Alliance says that 79,000 jobs in the live performance industry had disappeared by the end of 2020, and AU$23.6 billion of economic output lost.

As of 5 September, 38.4% of the country’s population are fully vaccinated, according to the government’s vaccine rollout update.

 


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Iceland Airwaves 2021 cancelled due to new restrictions

Iceland Airwaves has been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to “new and ongoing Covid-19 measures imposed by the government”.

The festival was expected to return to Reykjavík in November this year after being cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic but organisers say the current restrictions “render a multi-venue, multi-capacity, standing event, such as Iceland Airwaves impossible to produce”.

The new measures, just delivered by the local authorities, will see venues capped at 500 people per section, all of whom must be assigned a seat as guests are not allowed to face each other.

The government is also introducing mandatory rapid tests, which must be taken within 48 hours of the event, for everyone attending an event.

Events that do not require attendees to be seated or to take a test cannot have more than 200 people in each section.

The news comes months after the Icelandic government abolished all temporary regulations relating to the coronavirus, as the country was reaching a vaccination rate of 90% in adults.

“It seems these new measures are here for the indefinite future”

“Despite Iceland approaching a vaccination rate of over 90%, the Icelandic government has, to date, not laid out any plan to get large-scale music events started again,” reads a statement from the organisers.

It continues: “It seems these new measures are here for the indefinite future and everything regarding the execution of, and access to the obligatory rapid tests is still unclear. This means that for the time being, planning any all large-scale events in Iceland is not possible.

“Even though it is our belief that events like Iceland Airwaves can now be executed in a safe and responsible manner, using all available safety measures, the authorities apparently disagree. It goes without saying, the team at Airwaves is devastated to have to move the festival for yet another year.”

According to the Reuters Covid-19 tracker, infections are actually decreasing in Iceland, with 73 new infections reported on average each day. That’s 62% of the peak — the highest daily average reported on August 5.

Arlo Parks, Sad Night Dynamite, Eydís Evensen, Bartees Strange, Daði Freyr, Daughters of Reykjavík, Metronomy, Mammút, Squid, Dry Cleaning, Porridge Radio, Black Pumas and more were due to perform at Iceland Airwaves 2021.

The festival will return to Reykjavïk from 2-5 November 2022. Visit icelandairwaves.is for more information.

 


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UK report: Double vaccination rate higher in concertgoers

The double vaccination rate among UK concertgoers is substantially higher than in the country’s general population, according to a new report by Music Venue Trust (MVT).

More than three-quarters (76.3%) of people attending live music events in the UK were fully vaccinated, while just 61.3% of the general population received two jabs, it found at the time of data collection.

Furthermore, almost all UK concertgoers (91.6%) will have been fully vaccinated by the end of September if they complete their vaccination programme – again, substantially higher than predicted for the general population (77.9%).

According to the report, these statistics aren’t a coincidence; 91.3% of attendees had chosen to take an additional personal precaution such as double vaccination, testing or immunity to support their safety.

Despite a high vaccination rate among concertgoers, only 2.1% of live music fans wanted to see certified double vaccination as the sole mandatory condition of entry and 8.9% wanted to see mandatory certification of health status as a condition of entry to grassroots music venues.

Only 2.1% of live music fans wanted to see certified double vaccination as the sole mandatory condition of entry

A mix of mandatory certification options, displaying vaccination, testing or immunity, was more strongly supported by live music fans.

The findings are from a series of surveys and data collection exercises conducted by MVT during the first month of the full capacity reopening of grassroots music venues in the UK.

The audience survey recorded answers from 1,891 people who normally attended live music events prior to the Covid crisis.

While 221 grassroots music venues took part in a survey about the precautions they had taken around opening and the attendance at their events.

And 100 grassroots music venues were selected as representative of the sector, with case rates and transmission rates in their locality mapped to explore if the full capacity reopening of grassroots music venues had a discernible impact on local case rates.

In the local areas around a representative sample of 100 grassroots music venues, Covid-19 case rates declined by 39%

Notably, in the local areas around a representative sample of 100 grassroots music venues, Covid-19 case rates declined by 39%.

“The response from venues, artists and audiences to the Covid threat has been incredible,” says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.

“These survey results clearly demonstrate a will by the live music community to create safe spaces, to take personal responsibility for ourselves and each other, and to act to Reopen Every Venue Safely. It is particularly striking that local case and transmission rates around grassroots music venues, far from exponentially increasing as was predicted, have, in reality, exceeded the decline in rates witnessed nationally.”

Other findings from MVT’s report include:

 


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Both concert giants to make vaccines mandatory

Live Nation and AEG, the world’s biggest live entertainment companies, will both require all full-time employees in the US to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when they return to the office, the firms have announced.

Live Nation Entertainment, comprising the company’s concerts, ticketing (Ticketmaster) and sponsorship divisions, and Anschutz Entertainment Group, including Goldenvoice/Coachella, ticket agency AXS and AEG’s owned sports teams, will mandate that all employees working at their US offices have had the vaccine, with “limited exceptions as required by law”, the Los Angeles-based companies say in a rare joint statement.

The announcement makes official previous comments by Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino, who first mentioned a potential vaccine mandate during the company’s recent Q2 2021 earnings call and followed up with a memo sent to employees last week. “Our business and our industry are about uniting people,” he wrote, “and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together.”

Rapino also announced that artists would be given the choice as to whether they require all concertgoers and venue staff to be vaccinated for their US shows, and it is understood a similar model will likely be rolled out internationally.

AEG Presents, AEG’s concert promotion division, will additionally require all fans in the US to be vaccinated from 1 October. “We realise that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it’s the right one,” says AEG COO and AEG Presents CEO Jay Marcino.

“These organisations are setting a good example for other companies, and I applaud their efforts”

In addition to live entertainment firms such as AEG Presents, Goldenvoice and AXS, AEG’s vaccine mandate will apply to employees of the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Kings and LA Galaxy, all of which are at least partially owned by AEG or the company’s founder and chairman, Phil Anschutz.

Two other California-based clubs, ice-hockey team the Anaheim Ducks and American football squad the Los Angeles Chargers, have also said they will require their employees to be immunised against Covid-19.

Every organisation “has or will be implementing policies designed to expand on health department guidelines and ensure the best interests of employees,” according to the Californian Department of Public Health.

“We must work together and across sectors to ensure that we are increasing vaccination rates, especially now as we see an increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations and intensive care admissions due to the highly contagious delta variant,” says Dr Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary. “Vaccination against Covid-19 is the most effective means of preventing infection from Covid-19 virus and subsequent transmission and outbreaks.

“These organisations are setting a good example for other companies, and I applaud their efforts.”

 


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Live Nation allows artists to choose entry restrictions

Live Nation is allowing artists performing at its US venues to require all attendees and staff to be fully vaccinated or to show a negative test result to gain entry, where permitted by law.

This is according to a document obtained by Variety, in which the global entertainment giant outlined standard practices for its US events in response to the varying Covid protocols in each state.

The company says the model has already been successfully implemented at many major shows in the US, including Lollapalooza which took place at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, between 29 July–1 August.

Live Nation will also require that, as of 4 October, all employees in the US be vaccinated to enter the company’s events, venues or offices – with limited exceptions as may be required by law.

“Our business and our industry are about uniting people and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together,” reads the note, signed by CEO Michael Rapino.

“Vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together”

Rapino initially mentioned the vaccination mandates during the company’s Q2 earnings call, explaining that it would help protect employees – whichever state they’re in.

“I think that the biggest challenge we’ve had is just scrambling on a day-to-day basis with part-time employees back, and abiding by different local Covid laws; mask, no mask, now test, no test. I think that’s been our only real challenge from HR and communication,” he said.

“So, hats off to my frontline. They’re doing an incredible job trying to adjust, and we’re going to move to more central protocols now on mandating the vaccine and making sure they’re all safe, too.”

Live Nation’s memorandum comes shortly after New York became the first major city to require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show – reinforcing similar requirements already set by venues such as Madison Square Garden.

 


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New York to require Covid-19 vax for all indoor shows

New York City, one of the world’s live music capitals, will soon require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show, mayor Bill de Blasio announced today (3 August).

The strict new requirements will be extended to other indoor activities, including dining at a restaurant and working out at in the gym, throughout August and September, as the city seeks to stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, reports the Associated Press.

New York is the first major city to impose such restrictions, though some venues already have similar requirements: Iconic arena Madison Square Garden, for example, has required all fans to be fully vaccinated for its non-socially distanced events since the Foo Fighters’ huge show in June. (Interestingly, the city mandate won’t require ‘full’/double vaccinations – only the first jab.)

“If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated”

According to AP, the policy will come into effect on 16 August but inspections and enforcement won’t begin until 13 September, when the city’s schools reopen. About 66% of adults in New York are fully vaccinated, according to official data.

De Blasio has so far rejected calls to require masks indoors, as some cities in California have, focusing instead on getting the city’s population immunised against the virus.

“The only way to patronise these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” says de Blasio, whose office administers a city of over eight million people.“The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”

 


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UK open for business as quarantine axed for int’l artists

International performers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the United States or European Union will no longer need to quarantine after entering England from Monday, the British government has announced.

The change, which comes into force at 4am BST on 2 August, will see the replacement of mandatory quarantine with a single Covid-19 test before departing their country of origin and a PCR test on the second day after their arrival in England. The new rules apply to all countries rated ‘amber’ for coronavirus risk, with the exception of travellers from France, who will still be required to quarantine.

In addition to the pre-departure test, arrivals from the US will also need to provide proof of US residency.

In a statement, LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), which represents the UK’s live music business, welcomes the move, saying it will enable foreign artists to play shows and festivals in England in the coming months.

“We are extremely pleased to see that government has taken the decision to allow people into the UK without the need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated in Europe or the USA,” says a LIVE spokesperson. “This will allow international artists to perform at our world-leading festivals and venues over the coming months and will provide a vital boost to our iconic live music industry as we come out of lockdown.”

To take advantage of the changes, artists will need to have taken a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or the US Food and Drug Administration (ie Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) and been vaccinated in either the EU or US.

“This will allow international artists to perform at our world-leading festivals and venues over the coming months”

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps says: “We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel, and today is another important step forward. Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade, this is progress we can all enjoy.

“We will of course continue to be guided by the latest scientific data, but thanks to our world-leading domestic vaccination programme we’re able to look to the future and start to rebuild key transatlantic routes with the US while further cementing ties with our European neighbours.”

It is not known when Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (which, unlike England, have devolved local governments) will follow suit in doing away with mandatory quarantine.

A Scottish government spokesperson tells the Scotsman it will wait for a whole-of-UK solution before opening Scotland’s borders, and warns against travel for leisure: “We aim to come to a four-nations position on international travel restrictions wherever possible. However, our current position remains international travel for holidaying purposes remains risky and subject to sudden change.

“We have said before people should think very carefully about travelling, and especially so given the prevalence and unpredictable nature of variants of concern.”

 


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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Fest gets green light for full-capacity festival

Poland’s Fest Festival has been given permission to go ahead as planned, without any capacity limits, provided that attendees have had their Covid-19 vaccinations.

The event, which is scheduled to happen 11–14 August in Chorzów, has been told it can go ahead after the Polish government announced an easing of certain pandemic restrictions.

During a press conference last week, the Polish minister of health confirmed the information that people vaccinated against Covid-19 do not count towards the established limits applicable during mass events.

“We are leading conversations to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a European certificate can also enjoy this year’s edition”

Fest Festival launched in 2019 as a multi-genre event and enjoyed a successful debut when more than 30,000 people attended the gathering. The 2021 edition has been extended to four days and organisers have so far confirmed acts such as Kygo, James Bay, Rag’n’Bone Man and Alan Walker on the bill.

However, Follow the Step Agency has pledged to try to open the gates for others. “As per today, the festival can only be held for vaccinated people,” says Fest’s promoter.

“Considering the fact that it’s not a perfect solution, [we] are leading conversations […] to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a valid European certificate – available for free for [Covid] convalescents, people tested and vaccinated with the first dose – can also enjoy this year’s edition of Fest Festival.”

 


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Exit festival to offer vaccines to int’l visitors

Exit Festival plans to offer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to international guests who attend the event this summer.

The Serbian festival, which will be held in Novi Sad from 8–11 July, is set to go ahead as normal as the country charges towards a full reopening on 21 June, thanks to Serbia’s “successful mass vaccination programme and significantly decreased number of new Covid cases”.

Now, “as a way to aid countries that currently have vaccine shortages,” Exit has partnered with the ministry of health to organise “a few thousand” coronavirus vaccine doses for international artists, ticketholders and accredited press who attend the festival.

The festival told IQ that international guests will be able to apply to have their vaccine in Serbia. More information regarding the vaccination process for international visitors will be announced soon.

Attendees who can prove they are immune against Covid-19 or can produce a negative PCR or antigen test will also be able to attend the 20th-anniversary edition of Exit – which is slated to feature international acts including Robin Schultz, David Guetta and DJ Snake.

“Serbia has been one of the global leaders in mass vaccination for months,” says Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić. “Thanks to that, we have an ever-improving epidemiological situation and the plan is to open the country for gatherings, concerts and festivals on 21 June.

“Exit festival happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”

“In this way, we show not only the care for the event industry that contributes so much to our tourism and economy, but we also fight for the mental health of young people. Also, we confirm the strategic commitment of the government of Serbia towards the development of creative industries. Exit festival, which our country is globally proud of, happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”.

The country’s prospective 21 June reopening, which coincides with World Music Day, depends on 50% of adults getting vaccinated by that date.

Currently, around 45% of adults in Serbia have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with a further 5% expected in the next few weeks.

The government recently launched an immunisation campaign that would “reward” citizens for their “responsibility” to get inoculated against the virus.

Citizens over the age of 16 who have either already received one or two doses, or will be vaccinated with at least one dose by 31 May will receive a one-time payment of 3,000 dinars (€25). The amount equates to around 5% of the country’s average monthly salary.

The government initiative – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – is aiming to revive Serbia’s immunisation campaign amid waning public interest and growing scepticism.

Read about the international live music industry is divided as to how, if at all, fans’ vaccination status should be taken into account as live activity resumes here.

 


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Industry divided over vaccinated-only concerts

Nearly six months after Maggie Keenan, a 90-year-old Briton, became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial, opinion remains divided among international live music professionals about how, if at all, fans’ vaccination status should be taken into account as live activity resumes.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the United States, where the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) say that those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (i.e. had both jabs of one of the three vaccines, BioNTech/Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson or Moderna, approved for use in the US) may once again attend indoor events, including concerts, with no need for social distancing or mask wearing.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky told press at the White House earlier this month. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Following the CDC’s announcement, some of the country’s most famous concert venues, including the 20,000-capacity Madison Square Garden arena in New York and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl (17,500-cap.), have signalled they will differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated patrons when they reopen, with the latter planning designated vaccinated seating sections where no social distancing will be required.

MSG, along with other venues in New York, will be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity if patrons show proof of vaccination, under plans drawn up by New York state governor Andrew Cuomo. It hosted 15,000 people for a New York Knicks basketball game earlier this week, with vaccinated fans not required to wear a face covering.

New York venues will be allowed to reopen at 100% capacity if they require patrons to show proof of vaccination

In Florida, meanwhile, a concert promoter made headlines yesterday (26 May) after announcing plans for a ‘no-vax tax’ that would see concertgoers charged 50 times as much for tickets should they choose not to get the vaccine.

Leadfoot Promotions, which is promoting a show by pop-punk legends Teenage Bottlerocket in Saint Petersburg on 26 June, explains: “DISCOUNTED tickets are available for $18 in advance, $20 day of show. To be eligible for the DISCOUNT, you will need to bring a government issued photo ID and your PHYSICAL COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. […] If you do not care about the discount, tickets are available for a flat rate of $999.99.

“Note that all staff, volunteers, and band members will be vaccinated. Also know if you buy one of these advance tickets and show up without your vaccination card or government issued photo id [sic], you won’t be let in at this price, you will need to pay the remaining $981.99 to enter or go back and get your card. There will be NO REFUNDS. We are NOT telling you what to do here, we are making a business decision and letting the market decide. If someone wants to come in unvaccinated, they will scare off a large number of patrons and will need to pay the difference.”

Speaking to Tampa Bay’s ABC Action News, Leadfoot’s Paul Williams explains: “We’re just trying to do a show safely. And they [fans] should go out and get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families and their community.”

Back in New York, baseball team the Brooklyn Nets is also incentivising immunisation by charging more for tickets sold to fans who have yet to receive both vaccines, as well as introducing a Hollywood Bowl-style vaccinated-only section at its home venue, the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center.

“We are not telling you what to do – we are making a business decision and letting the market decide”

Williams says he came up with idea of a ‘tax’ after realising in Florida he probably couldn’t legally restrict entry to those who can prove their vaccination status.

In contrast to the position taken by Cuomo in New York – where a planned ‘Excelsior pass’ will verify New Yorkers’ vaccination status – Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has taken a hard line on vaccine certification, having signed into law a ban on so-called vaccine passports earlier this month.

“Under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination,” said DeSantis, “and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal.”

The launch of the Excelsior pass follows the successful roll-out of the similar green pass in Israel, where promoters were once again putting on (non-socially distanced) shows before the recent flare-up in violence. In fact, so successful is the combination of vaccination + certification that Israel will axe all restrictions – including the green pass – from the beginning of June, though health minister Yuli Edelstein says it could be re-introduced should the situation change. For now, he said, “The economy and the citizens of Israel will get extra room to breathe.”

Despite allowing for concerts of thousands of people in pandemic conditions, the green pass programme is not without its critics: writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph today (27 May), five Israeli doctors say the scheme has ‘backfired’ by creating “two classes of citizens: the upper vaccinated and the lower unvaccinated”. This situation, they say, has resulted in a situation incompatible with the “basic principles of the medical profession”.

Talk of vaccine ‘passports’ is equally controversial in the UK, where critics warn of government overreach and an ‘us and them’ society divided along vaccination lines. As such, the UK live business is pushing for a system of certification that would also include people who have natural immunity to the virus, or who can produce a negative Covid-19 test.

“The intention of Covid-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution”

Writing to the government last month, a cross-section of the UK live entertainment, events and sports sector suggested that so-called Covid-status certification is the key to reopening venues safely following the planned abolition of all restrictions on 21 June.

“Not to be confused with the term ‘vaccination passports’, the simple premise is to reduce the likelihood of people who may be infected from attending events and ensure the safety of other attendees and event staff,” say the signatories, who include AEG Europe, the Concert Promoters’ Association, Ticketmaster, ASM Global and umbrella body LIVE. “This would be managed by ensuring that all attendees are either vaccinated OR have natural immunity OR have a negative Covid test within a set period of time prior to arrival.”

Unlike restricting entry only to those who have had the vaccine, certification would not discriminate against those who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons, or otherwise don’t feel comfortable having being immunised against the virus, they say.

“The intention of Covid-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution that is safe, simple, protects privacy and doesn’t cause unnecessary delays or a poor experience for visitors,” the letter reads.

Outside of live events, vaccine passports are also being trialled for international travel, with the European Union, China and Japan among those developing digital vaccination certificates to enable the resumption of overseas holidays from this summer.

 


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

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.