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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.”

 


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Eventim’s Henk Schuit appointed head of VVEM

The board of the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) has appointed Henk Schuit, managing director of Eventim Netherlands, as chairman.

Schuit succeeds Hèrald van de Bunt, MD of Arnhem stadium GelreDome, who stepped down in in April 2021 after 16 years at the helm of the Dutch industry association, which represents promoters, festivals, venues and suppliers.

Schuit began his music industry career in 1991, initially at a record label, Provogue, and later moved into ticketing. He has been MD of CTS Eventim Nederland since 2005 and a VVEM member since 2009.

 

He is also chairman of the jury of the Dutch Live Entertainment Production Awards (DLEPA) and treasurer of the Weet Waar Je Koop! campaign against secondary ticketing. He joined the VVEM board, which recently expanded from seven to eight members, in April and started his role as chairman this month.

“I am proud and honoured to be chairman of the VVEM,” says Henk Schuit. “I believe in the power of working together and helping each other, and that is also what the VVEM does. In this coronavirus time, we have seen once again how important that is.

“I look forward to working with the entire board and everyone involved to represent the interests of all event makers and to contribute to a bright future for live entertainment in the Netherlands.”

 


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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.

Austria, meanwhile, set up a €300 million fund of its own in October, while pressure is growing in the UK for a similar government-backed insurance fund.

“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.”

 


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Let us offer credit for cancelled shows, say assocs

As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert financial pressure on the live sector, industry associations and businesses in Europe, Asia and North America are asking for changes in the way refunds are issued for cancelled events.

In Europe, research shows digital footfall to event ticket sales sites has collapsed in recent months, with only travel agencies harder hit by concerns over the virus. According to Comscore, visits to ticketing sites fell by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain and 26% in the UK between 17–23 February and 9–5 March.

The figures come as associations in the the UK warn of a cashflow “crisis” amid widespread concert cancellations – with British artists and managers alone expected to lose more than £60 million should a ban on mass gatherings last for the next six months – and other sectors, including cinema and aviation, similarly grapple with an unprecedented drop-off in ticket sales.

In countries including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan, associations representing cash-strapped local operators are pushing for an extended refund grace period (up to 365 days), to be permitted to give vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, or a combination of the two.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is really necessary to return your ticket for a refund,” reads a blog from Ticketmaster Germany, which is supporting the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC)’s #keepyourticket campaign. “Every ticket that is not returned helps organisers, venues and [sports] clubs, even after the coronavirus has passed, and enables them to be able to organise great events in future.”

The EVVC, which represents arenas and conference centres in central and southern Europe, is inviting its members to support the campaign by sharing text and visual materials calling for solidarity with promoters and venues. “For organisers, suppliers and cultural professionals, the corona pandemic is a threat to their existence,” says the association.

“If you can afford it, you should consider whether it is necessary to return your ticket for a refund”

Promoters’ association BDKV – which estimates its ~450 members will lose a combined €1.25 billion from March to May as a result of Germany’s event ban – is asking the German government to extend temporarily, to 365 days, the time within which a refund must be paid, as well as offer credit for tickets instead of cash refunds (a solution it says would especially benefit members sitting on large ticket inventories, such as theatres).

The former request (a grace period for refunds) is also believed to be the option preferred by Britain’s UK Music and Colisium, which represents promoters in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

In Spain, newly launched umbrella body Esmúsica (which includes the Association of Music Promoters) is also asking for a grace period, lasting until 31 December, for cancelled events. For postponed events, however, “given the exceptional situation”, the organisation says promoters must not be obliged to offer a refund, instead offering only a new ticket for rescheduled date(s).

“Several organisations and municipalities are cancelling events on a daily basis. Shows on sale for the end of the year and early 2021 are not selling. We have to work together on a reimbursement policy for postponed and cancelled shows that helps to minimise catastrophic losses,” says Portugal’s APEFE, which backs Esmúsica’s position on no refunds for postponed shows, suggesting that “purchased tickets must be valid for postponed shows without mandatory reimbursement”.

Both Esmúsica and APEFE (Association of Promoters of Shows, Festivals and Events) are also calling for a temporary reduction in VAT charged on tickets, among other relief measures.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the associations’ counterpart there, VVEM (Association of Event Producers), appears to be making headway with its campaign for ticket vouchers, with the Dutch cabinet discussing the issue this week.

“It is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers”

Dutch culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has previously asked ticketholders not to request cash refunds, while VVEM has also reportedly found a sympathetic ear in the form of economy minister Eric Wiebes, who has said the government will provide further “strong help” for the sector (though it remains to be seen in what form).

While European associations focus on lobbying their respective governments, US secondary ticketing giant StubHub has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that – where legal – it will no longer provide refunds for cancelled events to its American and Canadian customers. Instead, ticketholders will receive a voucher worth 120% of the original value of the ticket.

The change in policy comes as StubHub, which is in the process of being acquired by European rival Viagogo, lays off as much as two thirds of its workforce, in what it calls a “difficult but sensible decision”.

Explaining the shift in its refund terms, a StubHub spokesperson says: “In normal times, we’ve made the decision to refund buyers before collecting money from the seller to offer buyers more convenience. And under normal circumstances, this works well, even with StubHub taking the risk of timing delays and some losses when we are unable to collect from the seller. With the coronavirus impacting 28,000+ events and the associated magnitude of challenge in recouping monies owed by sellers over the coming months, it is currently impossible for us to offer immediate cash refunds to all buyers.

“When the volume of cancellations accelerated a few weeks ago, we were the first in our industry to offer a coupon worth 120% of the ticket value. This will now be our default option in Canada and in the US. Outside of the US and Canada, fans are defaulted to a refund.”

 


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“A rescue umbrella”: New funding offers biz financial boost

As the coronavirus does its best to ensure venues remain shuttered for as long as possible, a range of organisations are stepping in to ease the financial pressures faced by live entertainment businesses worldwide.

In Europe’s largest live music market, Germany, the government has dedicated €50 billion to its creative and cultural industries. The financial aid consists of grants for small companies and the self-employed to cover overhead costs such as renting venues and studio space, and loans for business premises and leasing instalments.

A further €10bn will be provided to facilitate access to social security for self-employed workers for a six-month period, including unemployment insurance and expenses for housing.

Culture minister Monika Grütters calls the aid package a “rescue umbrella for the cultural, creative and media sector”. All cultural institutions in Germany remain closed until 19 April.

“The cultural sector, in particular, is characterised by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods,” says Grütters. “These multilevel protection measures show that the Federal government is determined to do everything possible to counter the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the cultural and creative fields. We won’t let anyone down.”

The funding is part of a wider €750m aid package, approved by the German parliament on Friday, to protect the country’s economy from the effects of coronavirus.

“A high proportion of self-employed people now have problems with their livelihoods”

Other aid set to benefit the creative industries includes short-term work benefits, tax liquidity aids and €550 billion worth of loans, available from state business development bank KfW, with no upper limit set on credit offerings.

The government in Switzerland has also recently announced a targeted package for the cultural sector, totalling CHF280m (€264.6m). The funding has been welcomed by Swiss promoters’ association SMPA and the wider cultural and events sector.

The financial support comes after the Swiss government unveiled a CHF20bn (€18.8bn) emergency loan programme for companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak at the end of last week. After a quick initial uptake in loans, the government is already in talks to increase the available funds.

In the Netherlands, the government is working with industry representatives to potentially bring in legislation to allow event organisers to refund ticketholders with vouchers to spend on future events, rather than cash refunds.

Dutch promoters’ association VVEM recently sent a letter to the government estimating the damage done to the industry by Covid-19 could be as much as €1.5bn over the summer months, and asking for more concrete support with regards to finance and cooperation from local governments.

Rights societies have also been playing their part, with the German music licensing society (GEMA)’s €40m crisis fund for song writers and the UK’s PRS for Music offering grants of up to £1,000 to each of its members.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently”

Recent support for the sector in Australia has come from Apra Amcos (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society), which is bringing forward its live performance royalty payout from November to May.

Members will receive a full year’s worth of royalties using data from last year’s reports.

“The Covid-19 crisis has hit every segment of Australia and New Zealand’s music sector,” comments Apra Amcos chief executive, Dean Ormston.

“From our songwriter, composer and publisher members to the venues, events and festivals and the managers, crew and SMEs of the industry, the impact of necessary government regulations has been immediate and devastating.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently.”

The news comes as Australia’s three biggest live companies, Live Nation Australasia, TEG and Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment, form a music promoters’ taskforce to call for government aid for small- and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus shutdown.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry, so that we can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy when we eventually emerge from this crisis,” reads a letter from the taskforce.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry”

Performing rights organisations in France have contributed to the National Centre for Music’s €11.5m emergency fund for the entertainment sector, with Sacem, Adami and Spedidam, each adding €500,000 to the centre’s initial €10m funding package.

Industry body Prodiss had previously deemed the government’s targeted funding for the music and performing arts sectors – which totals €15m – “completely divorced from reality”, although it welcomes the government’s wider €45bn aid package for businesses.

The French government has also dedicated €22 million to support the “intermittents du spectacle”, or freelancers working in the entertainment industry.

Funding for the UK’s cultural sectors has come from a range of places, including significant funding from Arts Council England, which has dedicated a £160 million package for cultural organisations, freelancers and individual artists, £5m from the Help Musicians’ coronavirus financial hardship fund, plus a £500,000 boost from the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain, and £1m from the Musicians’ Union’s coronavirus fund.

New Zealand music industry charity MusicHelps has launched MusicHelpsLive, an appeal to support those facing hardship due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The charity aims to raise NZ$2m (€1m) for workers in the live industry.

 


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Dutch concert revenue up 25% in 2019

New figures have shown that over 2.9 million people attended large concerts (over 3,000-cap.) in the Netherlands in 2019, a 16 % rise from the year before, with Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome recording the highest footfall of any venue in the country.

The findings, presented by research agency Response and the Association of Events Makers (VVEM) at Eurosonic Noorderslag last week, show revenue generated by live music events equalled €165 million in 2019, a 25% rise from the year before.

According to the VVEM, the revenue increase is due in part to a 7% growth in the number of large concerts in the Netherlands last year, “regular price increases” and a rise in the tax levied on live event tickets from 6% to 9%. Ticket prices rose on average by 7% in 2019, to €56.60.

The 17,000-capacity Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam was the most-visited concert venue, welcoming over one million fans in 2019

The 17,000-capacity Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam – the city that took 75% of the national large concert market share – was the most-visited concert venue, welcoming over one million fans in 2019. Afas Live (6,000-cap.) offered 80 live events over the year, the highest number of any venue, and reported the second highest number of visitors at 412,000.

Mojo Concerts, which celebrated its 50th year in 2018, remained the “most important” concert promoter according to the report, with Amsterdam-based Friendly Fire recording the most growth.

Dutch singer Marco Borsato sold the most tickets of any artist, attracting 240,000 fans, with André Rieu’s concerts at the Vrijthof in Maastricht and Guus Meeuwis’ shows in Eindhoven also proving popular with 150,000 and 135,000 tickets apiece.

Photo: Shirley de Jong/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 


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Use of laughing gas on the rise at events

The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, at live events such as concerts and festivals is on the increase, according to the members of the Dutch Association of Event Producers (VVEM).

VVEM – which along with promoters’ association VNPF represents the country’s live entertainment sector – says use of the gas, which is usually inhaled via balloons filled with nitrous by metal ‘whippets’, is becoming more popular in the Netherlands, with users typically not seeing nitrous as a ‘drug’ in the same way as other substances.

While the association notes it’s receiving more and more questions from promoters about “how to deal with members of the public who take laughing gas [whippets] to an event, or ask for it to be sold”, it is difficult to prevent its use: There are currently “no indications of serious health risks”, and the sale, possession and use of nitrous oxide is legal in the Netherlands and throughout most of the EU. “That is why the drug, which is usually inhaled via balloons, is popular,” reads a VVEM statement.

“The choice to allow nitrous oxide on site is up to the organiser”

Its legality, however, “does not detract from the fact that there are indeed dangers associated with the use” of nitrous, the association continues. “For example, according to the Trimbos Institute, users have reported, in addition to the desired effects (hallucinations), side effects such as dizziness, confusion and headaches. […]

“Several VVEM members state that – although there is no legal obstacle – they see nothing positive in the sale of nitrous oxide at their event. Why would you deliberately send your visitors into a daze? In addition, they have witnessed [negative] side effects in combination with alcohol.”

“Nevertheless, the choice is up to the organising party, and venue owners can not forbid event organisers who decide to allow its sale. VVEM does, however, argue for more education about the use and effects of nitrous oxide.”

 


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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.

 


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Dutch festival attendance grows to all-time high

The number of festival tickets sold in the Netherlands grew to a record high of over 23 million in 2015 – equivalent to one ticket for everyone in the country, plus another six million – a report commissioned by Dutch industry associations VNPF and VVEM has revealed.

Festival attendance rose 2.7%, with the two organisations citing a shift from smaller to medium-sized events and an increase in the number of festivals (up 4.5% on 2014, to 837 events).

Spending was also up, and by a higher margin than the increase in visitor numbers – 9%, to €513.1 million – with an average spend of €37 per visitor per festival.

Festival attendance rose 2.7% amid a shift from small to medium-sized events and an increase in the number of festivals

Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) was for the third year running the festival with the highest attendance, although the report says the capital appears to have reached a “festival ceiling”, with arts and cultural events growing faster than music festivals. Other towns and cities in the province of North Holland, such as Alkmaar, Harlem and Zaanstad, “seemed to benefit [most] from the Amsterdam ‘festival ceiling'”, it notes.

A total of 365,000 people attended ADE in 2015, with Pinkpop (whose attendance fell from 194,000 to 175,000) the next most-visited music festival. (In between the two are the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and car festival Zwarte Cross.)

The Flying Dutch, promoted by ADE organiser (and major SFX creditor) Alda Events, was the biggest newcomer, with 100,000 visitors for its first edition in June.

 


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