Dutch no-show rates soar since reopening
Dutch trade body VNPF says the country’s music scene is recovering well since Covid measures were lifted last month – but no-shows at gigs remain a problem.
The government removed all remaining restrictions – most notably pre-admission testing for indoor events – on 23 March following tireless lobbying from the Netherlands’ live sector.
And despite ticket sales for cultural institutions such as museums and theatres struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels, the appetite for live music events has proved more resilient.
“It is going quite well at the music venues,” VNPF director Berend Schans tells NRC. “All programmes that would normally run well before the pandemic are now running well.”
Schans points out that shows by emerging acts are proving a harder sell than established artists, while customer demand has shown to be age-dependent.
“A relatively unknown band that plays post-punk with ’80s references, where more people my age would go, has a harder time than a hip new band that my daughter goes to,” he says.
The no-show rate at concerts has ballooned from 10% to up to 40% in the Netherlands since touring resumed
As has been reported in other territories, Schans adds that major issues have emerged around audience no-shows by ticket-buyers at concerts. The average 10% pre-Covid no-show rate has ballooned to up to 40% since touring resumed, he says, leading to knock-on effects for venues.
“The pop venues have to earn their money with the average €12 that people spend during a concert,” he says. “And they also need that money to buy new programmes.”
Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ taskforce for the cultural and creative sector has written to the government to call for “bridging measures” following the expiration of emergency aid, reiterating that visitor numbers were still below 2019 levels for large parts of the industry.
Jeroen Bartelse, director of TivoliVredenburg, tells the publication that theatres and classical music have averaged 60% of normal numbers since reopening, while Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw reports 65% occupancy, down from 85% in the same period in 2019.
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Netherlands concerts postponed amid new lockdown
Scores of concerts in the Netherlands have been postponed after the Dutch government imposed a new partial lockdown in the wake of rising Covid-19 infections.
A capacity limit of 1,250 has been imposed on venues, while sports events will be played behind closed doors.
Restrictions will last at least three weeks until 4 December, with the situation to be reassessed by the government on 3 December. Covid entry passes are already required to attend concerts in the country.
“If we succeed in reversing the current trend in the weeks ahead and the number of positive cases falls, the government believes it will be possible to reopen society as fully and as safely as possible,” it says in a statement. “We will then be able to roll out the coronavirus entry pass system more widely.”
High-profile postponements include shows by Burna Boy, Simply Red and Nightwish at Amsterdam’s 17,000-cap Ziggo Dome, while Burna Boy’s performance at the 16,426-cap Rotterdam Ahoy on 20 November and Nicky Jam on 21 November will also be moved.
Amsterdam’s 1,500-cap Paradiso, meanwhile, has postponed events by acts including Mykki Blanco, Oh Wonder and Spector.
The government says financial support will be available for businesses “directly affected” by the new restrictions. However, the Netherlands’ Alliance of Event Builders and the EventPlatform have declared themselves “deeply disappointed” at the measures, which they claim are not backed up by the scientific data.
Once again, many event builders… suddenly find themselves in a new reality, with mountains of uncertainty
“Professional events with corona ticket control have not or hardly turned out to be a source of contamination, according to the Source and Contact Survey,” says a statement. “They have hardly appeared in the figures of the RIVM since the restart in August, and no significant contamination clusters have arisen at events, while they have been visited by millions of people.”
The statement continues: “Once again, many event builders who were busy with their work today and tomorrow, events that the public longs for, suddenly find themselves in a new reality, with mountains of uncertainty.
“The cabinet still seems to have no answers to the essential questions and continues to make ad hoc and arbitrary adjustments. They mainly react in the short term instead of anticipating.
“The Alliance of Event Builders and the EventPlatform are not only concerned about the short term, but also very concerned about the period after the announced lockdown. There is again no road map, no plan, no end goal. The Alliance and the EventPlatform therefore call on politicians to opt for an approach that is based on facts, figures and clear insights and that provides a dot on the horizon.”
“The cancellation of these programmes again is symbolic politics,” it said. “Lockdowns and other restrictive measures are creating new programming uncertainty and the already very shaky finances in the pop sector.”
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Dutch trade body hits out at lockdown plans
The Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) has hit out at plans to impose a partial lockdown in the Netherlands.
With Covid restrictions on the cusp of being tightened in several European countries, Dutch media have reported that strict new measures will be introduced from Saturday (13 November) in a bid to combat record numbers of new Covid-19 infections in the country.
The restrictions, due to be announced this evening by prime minister Mark Rutte, are expected to last at least three weeks, sources have told public broadcaster NOS.
However, the VNPF claims that cancelling live events would merely be “symbolic politics”, pointing to figures showing infections are occurring mainly in family circles and schools, rather than at concerts.
“It is clear that the increase in infections is not caused by organisations affiliated with VNPF,” says the organisation. “The concerts and events are professionally organised and the corona [pass]/QR code is strictly checked everywhere.
“Cancelling concerts and other events is therefore not a solution to the problem of increased infections. The cancellation of these programmes again is symbolic politics. Lockdowns and other restrictive measures are creating new programming uncertainty and the already very shaky finances in the pop sector.
“Moreover, such a measure erodes support for the policy of the corona admission ticket and its compliance, which is now working very well.”
Buying a ticket for a concert or event almost becomes a false promise
The body recently published its new Pop Stages and Festivals in Figures 2020 report, based on data from 101 Dutch music venues and festivals, which reported that revenue from ticket sales and catering at domestic shows plummeted from €121.7 million in 2019 to €29.7m last year as a result of the pandemic.
Events in the country have been restricted to 75% capacity and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET. Insisting the new measures “must be effective and appropriate”, the VNPF warns repeated postponements could have lasting consequences.
“Buying a ticket for a concert or event almost becomes a false promise,” it says. “So much programme has been shifted, so often, so the pop sector is confronted with a relatively large audience that does not show up. In a sector where the ticket proceeds go to the artist and the other public income, including catering, is for the organiser, this is very threatening.
“New restrictions are not necessary within the pop sector and, once again, cause programming and financial hopelessness for pop artists, pop venues, event organisers, producers and pop festivals.”
In its latest weekly report, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) revealed the number of new cases among EU/EEA countries increased 19% week-on-week.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s disease control centre the Robert Koch Institute has called for large events to be cancelled after the country’s infection rate hit a new high, while Austria is mulling introducing a lockdown for unvaccinated people.
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VNPF demands further support for Dutch live sector
The Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) has warned the sector will remain in need of financial support as long as Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.
The warning follows the recent publication of its new Pop Stages and Festivals in Figures 2020 report, based on data from 101 Dutch music venues and festivals.
According to the study, revenue from ticket sales and catering at domestic shows plummeted from €121.7 million in 2019 to €29.7m last year as a result of the pandemic.
“In 2020, almost 23,000 fewer performances were given by artists than in 2019,” says the report. “For pop venues affiliated with the VNPF, this led to €92m less income. As a result, many employees lost their jobs. The impact of the pandemic on the entire live music industry is still profound today.”
The damage was mitigated by generic and sector-specific support, with 83% of music venues receiving additional financial resources from support measures. However, events in the country are currently restricted to 75% capacity and are required to close between 00:00 and 06:00 CET.
Financial support remains necessary as long as restrictive measures are still in place
“The VNPF expects similar or worse results in 2021,” it concludes. “Financial support, such as guarantee schemes… are still very much needed. With the end of the generic support measures as of 1 October, pop venues and festivals, artists and suppliers could run into further problems, now that programming and receiving audiences at full capacity and at night is still not possible.
“There is understanding for restrictive measures that combat the coronavirus, because the stages and festivals want nothing more than for society to be able to open fully again, but the measures must be effective and proportional. In addition, financial support remains necessary as long as restrictive measures are still in place.”
In September, the Dutch event sector lost summary proceedings brought against the state due to the latest restrictions. Twenty organisations including Mojo, ID&T, Unmute Us and Apenkooi Events demanded in court that all events and club nights be allowed again without restrictions on capacity and time.
The sector has continuously argued that the government restrictions do not reflect the three months’ worth of findings from the Fieldlab Evenementen studies. However, the judge said that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) factored in the results when giving advice to the outgoing cabinet.
The Dutch government has attempted to soften the blow of the restrictions by announcing a €15m fund to compensate promoters and venues for lost revenue from indoor standing shows – on top of its €385m guarantee fund.
ID&T to sue Dutch gov over “disproportionate” restrictions
ID&T, the promoter behind festivals including Mysteryland and Awakenings, has announced it is taking the Dutch government to court over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.
Prime minister Mark Rutte held a press conference last Friday (9 July), in which he announced that restrictions would renew on 10 July and remain until 14 August, in an effort to halt a sudden surge in Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the new measures, multi-day events will be banned and only one-day festivals will be permitted until 14 August, provided visitors are given a seat and no more than a thousand people attend.
In the press conference, Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date – leaving organisers in a stalemate situation.
ID&T called the measures “disproportionate” and announced that the company would be filing a draft subpoena with the court today (12 July).
“It is our expertise to organise events well and safely and we know that our audience has the discipline,” says said Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.
“It feels like a death knell for our industry”
“We are now the good who suffer from the bad and it seems that the government prefers holidays over festivals. You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling. Young people are disproportionately affected by these measures. The social importance of our industry is enormous.”
Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands) is due to take place on 20–22 August but festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ that the Dutch government has created an “unworkable situation”.
“For our festivals, Lowlands (20–22 August) and Down The Rabbit Hole (27–29 Aug), as well as suppliers and artists, this has created a lot of uncertainty. We are already building the infrastructure as we speak, and will continue to do so as we believe it should be possible to let them happen,” says Eerdenburg.
“Our belief is based on a constructive relationship between Mojo and the ministries of health and economic affairs, as well as the Outbreak Management Team that advises the government, we will get more clarity on how we can move on after close consultation in the next few days,” he added.
The Association of Dutch Poppodia and Festivals (VNPF) and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) are also hoping to sit down with ministers to get a perspective on the summer season and discuss extra support measures.
In January, the government announced a €385 million insurance fund which would compensate organisers 80% of the costs of their event if it is cancelled due to state-enforced coronavirus measures.
“You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling”
However, VNPF and VVEM are calling for the compensation to be increased to 100% and extended to organisers who have to cancel within an “unreasonably short period of time” but can’t claim under the scheme.
Eerdenburg says that Mojo is also pushing for the scheme to cover fees for UK artists, as well as those of Dutch and EU artists.
In a joint statement, the VNPF and VVEM wrote: “It feels like a death knell for our industry. Of course, it is understandable that measures are taken when the infection rate increases. However, within those measures, the industry that has not contributed to that higher infection rate at all is being hit hard. It was precisely our industry – the only industry in the Netherlands – that has actively sought solutions in recent months in collaboration with science and ministries.”
Fieldlab Evenementen – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies – recently revealed findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
According to OurWorldinData, daily cases in the Netherlands have risen almost sevenfold, from a rolling seven-day average of 49.2 per million people on 4 July to 328.7 on Sunday (11 July).
The Dutch prime minister today (12 July) acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment with the rapid relaxation at the end of June. “What we thought was possible, was not possible.”
Resurgent live music sector faces staff shortages
UK industry bodies including LIVE (Live music Industries Venues and Entertainment), the Concert Promoters Association, the Events Industry Forum and the UK Crowd Management Association have written to the prime minister regarding what they describe as crippling staff shortages across large parts of the UK economy.
The live entertainment and events associations are joined by trade bodies representing other sectors, including hospitality, food and drink and retail, in calling for government action to help remediate the situation, with the letter suggesting that EU workers could be allowed to return on a short-term basis to help fill the empty roles.
“While the overall picture is complex, one short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements for the large numbers of workers, particularly from the EU, who have returned to their homelands during the lockdowns. This has contributed greatly to the shortfalls,” reads the letter, which can be read here.
“Indeed, a study in 2020 by the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence estimated that 1.3 million migrants left the UK between July 2019 and September 2020. This figure was based on UK labour statistics, and represents over 4% of the UK workforce.
“Unfortunately, evidence suggests that those unemployed within the UK workforce seem unwilling to take on many of the jobs where there are vacancies in the industries we represent. To help resolve this we ask that all those who have worked in the UK over the last three years are given the freedom to return to work here with less restrictive immigration regulations on a short-term basis.
“One short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements”
“A relaxation of the rules does not need to be open ended but it needs to happen quickly if we are to support the recovery of the UK economy.”
The letter comes as entertainment and hospitality businesses in other countries also warn they are facing a staff shortage as they begin to reopen this summer.
In the Netherlands, live music association VNPF is warning that the industry will likely be short of staff when full-capacity shows restart later this year, with many professionals having left the industry over the past 16 months.
Both venues and festivals are short of people, VNPF director Berend Schans tells NU.nl, with the former sector having laid off an average of 20% of their staff last year and the latter probably even more. “Exact figures are lacking, but because that industry [festivals] has been hit even harder than venues, and they have received relatively less government support, I would say that the situation there is even more serious, especially in view of the lay-offs at Mojo Concerts and ID&T, for example.”
Similarly, France, the US and New Zealand are all facing post-pandemic labour shortages, particularly in the hospitality sector, and while the issue has been exacerbated by Brexit in the UK, experts have been warning of shortages for months.
“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff”
The UK Door Security Association (UKDSA) said back in march that venues and clubs could face trouble reopening as planned following an exodus of security staff during the pandemic.
In addition to EU workers who have gone home, many qualified door staff were forced to find work elsewhere when venues were closed in March 2020.
According to the Security Industry Authority (SIA), over a quarter of the UK’s total security workforce were non-UK nationals in 2018. The UKDSA estimates that over half of the vacancies in the sector may be left unfilled when business restarts gets back to normal later this summer.
“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff,” says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association. Concerning new elements in the SIA door supervisor licence which require more training for door staff, Kill adds: “While the training is welcomed, it is not timely given the current economic situation across most of the sector, and consideration needs to be given to it being pushed back to 2022.”
Read IQ’s feature on the challenges of recruiting and restaffing post-pandemic in the latest, 100th issue of the magazine.
Netherlands mulls cancellation fund for concerts
The Dutch government is considering introducing a German-style fund to reimburse organisers whose events are cancelled by coronavirus restrictions.
Following lobbying by the Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers), an umbrella group whose members include promoters’ association VVEM and festival/venues body VNPF, calls for a cancellation fund have reached the corridors of power in the Netherlands, with minister of culture Ingrid van Engelshoven said to be close to making a decision on the way forward for live events.
In December, Germany became the latest European country to set up a cancellation fund, worth €2.5 billion, to de-risk the organising of live events while Covid-19 (and associated restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement) is still a threat.
“We are happy to make it a happy new year, but we need a guarantee fund from the government”
A spokesperson for van Engelshoven (pictured) tells the VPRO the minister will announce whether her department is backing a ‘guarantee fund’ by early February at the latest.
Jolanda Jansen, a spokesperson for the alliance, comments: “I am looking enthusiastically at the 2021 events schedule, with major international crowd-pullers, such as the Eurovision Song Contest and [the delayed] Euro 2020, set to really put the Netherlands on the map,” says alliance spokesperson Jolanda Jansen. “In addition, we have a rich festival culture with around 1,200 festivals, from small to large, throughout the country, and we know a large number of clubs and theatres.
“Almost everyone in our industry is eager and ready to get back to work. We are happy to make it a happy new year, but we need commitments and a guarantee fund, on the German model, from the government to continue.”
Ben je oké? Biz backs Dutch anti-harassment initiative
To mark 6–12 October’s ‘national action week’ against unwanted sexual behaviour, Dutch promoters’ association VNPF, along with some of the Netherlands’ leading music venues and festivals, have thrown their support behind Ben je oké?, a new campaign taking aim at sexual harassment at night-time events.
An initiative of sexual and reproductive rights charity Rutgers, Ben je oké? (Dutch for ‘Are you okay?’) is backed by VNPF (Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association), Celebrate Safe and No Thanks!, and seeks to raise awareness of sexual harassment in a country where more than half of women and one in five men have been the victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour, according to Rutgers.
The idea behind the campaign is simple: To encourage concertgoers who witness unwanted sexual behaviour to ask the victim, “Are you okay?”. There are videos on the Ben je oké? website showing how to discuss the incident and deal with the reaction of the other person, and people are encouraged to share their stories and photos on social sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to normalise such conversations. “This way we can make it clear that it is okay to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour,” says Rutgers director Ton Coenen.
“We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change”
Although sexual harassment is common throughout society at large, Coenen says it’s especially prevalent at concerts, festivals and nightlife events, “where flirting plays a big role, and boundaries blur”.
“These figures are unfortunately not new,” says Coenen. “We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change. A culture in which everyone realises that sexual [interaction] is only okay if you both want it.”
Other supporters of the campaign include Eurosonic Noorderslag, Welcome to the Village and venues TivoliVredenburg, Melkweg and Luxor Live, as well as several Dutch municipalities.
“It is important that we work together as venues, clubs [and] festivals […] to make going out safer by reducing unwanted sexual behaviour,” says Sandrijn Dekkers, GM of Amsterdam’s Melkweg.
Industry groups protest Dutch smoking ban
Representatives of the Netherlands’ two major live music industry associations have written to Dutch health minister Paul Blokhuis to appeal a recent legal ruling that outlaws smoking in music venues.
As a result of a decision by the Hague’s court of appeal on 13 February, 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 now says 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) – which between them represent major arenas such as Amsterdam ArenA, GelreDome, AFAS Live and Ziggo Dome, along with more than 400 festivals and events – with the associations warning, among other things, that forcing smokers outdoors presents a danger to public safety.
The letter, seen by Entertainment Business, urges Blokhuis to consider appealing against the judgment on a number of grounds.
The associations say that to force smokers to light up outside “is impossible and irresponsible”
Among their objections are that the ban creates legal inequality – penalising venues while allowing offices and other public spaces to continuing to provide indoor smoking rooms – and makes existing smoking rooms, often built at significant cost to the venues, worthless without providing for compensation.
On the safety front, meanwhile, the associations say that to force smokers to light up outside “is impossible and irresponsible”. “The objective of a good promoter is to keep visitors safe and secure,” the letter reads, saying “it is simply impossible and unsafe” having “thousands and thousands of people [walking] in and out” of major venues such as the 17,000-cap. Ziggo Dome to smoke.
“For the entire event sector,” they conclude, “it is of the utmost importance that clarification is soon given about whether smoking rooms may or may not be used” by music venues.
Int’l associations pay respects to bomb victims
Live industry associations across Europe have paid their respects to the victims of Monday’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, which left 22 people – many of them children – dead.
Amid news Ariana Grande is expected to call off the rest of her Dangerous Woman tour in the wake of the attack, associations of promoters, venues and festivals across the continent have issued statements expressing solidarity with all those affected by the tragedy.
Dutch promoters’ association VNPF says it “deplores this attack” and offers its thoughts to both “relatives and friends of the victims” and the organisers of the Grande concert.
“We stand in solidarity with the United Kingdom,” reads a VNPF statement. “It was an attack on freedom. Terror can not destroy freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children”
Prodiss in France – itself no stranger to attacks on live music – says the industry is “deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”.
Animadas Productions director Albert Salmerón, recently appointed president of Spain’s Association of Music Promoters (APM), says APM stands in “utter solidarity with the victims and their respective families”.
“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children,” comments Salmerón.
APM – which calls the bombing an “attack on on the freedom that allows us to enjoy music and decide what to do at all times” – adds that “there is nothing that should make our societies succumb to the fear terrorists seek to instil”.
“The industry is deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”
In Denmark, meanwhile, Dansk Live boss Jakob Brixvold calls the bombing a “terrible tragedy” and a “cowardly attack on live music, the community and our values”.
He warns, however, that it can “be extremely difficult to curb” incidents where, as in Manchester, the perpetrator attacks from just outside the venue, echoing comments made yesterday by Reg Walker – but reassures Danish promoters that the “level of security at Danish events in generally high”.
Along with several other associations, including Norske Konsertarrangører in Norway, Livemusik Sverige in Sweden, Petzi in Switzerland and Music Venue Trust in the UK, Dansk Live is participating in a memorial for the victims this Friday (26 May).
Live DMA’s One Minute of Noise encourages venues across Europe to mark the attack by holding a minute’s silence at 9.59pm – followed by a minute of the exact opposite at 10 to show that live music “will not be silenced”.