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Experts warn GMVs need support as German gov steps up

The German govt’s €50m boost for GMVs is needed elsewhere, said those on the latest IQ Focus panel, as social distancing fails to provide the answer for small venues

By IQ on 05 Jun 2020

Grassroots venues lobbyists came together in the latest IQ Focus panel to discuss the government aid the sector desperately needs and why social distancing can never work.

Available to watch back now on the IQ website, as well as on Facebook and YouTube, the session featured Ticktemaster’s Sarah Slater in conversation with the Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd, the National Independent Venue Association’s Rev. Moose, LiveKomm’s Karsten Schölermann, Dachstock’s Kathy Flück and Lluís Torrents of Catalonian venue association Asacc.

Schölermann proved the envy of the panel – and those watching – upon revealing that the German government has dedicated €50 million to help grassroots music venues (GMVs) – enough money to prop up the sector for a year, part of a wider €150m live music support package.

“From our point of view, the german government has done well,” said Schölermann. “Now we just need to figure out how to use that money to reopen after such an intense set back.”

Davyd, who has so far raised over £1.5m (€1.7m) with MVT’s Save Our Venues campaign says this kind of sector-specific support is what GMVs in the UK need. MVT has calculated that sector has received £35m (€39m) so far from general government support packages, but has so far lost £48m.

“Now we just need to figure out how to use that money to reopen after such an intense set back”

“We need to get to a point where the government can deal with sectors specifically,” said Davyd.

For Torrents, the government’s underappreciation of live music as a cultural force is the main obstacle, whereas Flück also appeared dissatisfied with the Swiss government’s support, saying the “responsibility is very much on [event] organisers” to figure out how to survive the crisis and reopen safely.

In the United States, the grassroots sector had no representative body until very recently. “In a time of crisis, it was obvious that there was no one fighting on indie venues behalf,” said Moose, who co-founded the US National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) in April.

Starting the conversation around small venues has been easy, but urgent action still needs to be taken in the US, said Moose.

“If we can’t get the assistance to get through this period, the market is going to shift in a significant way.”

Venues reopening under social distancing measures was ruled out by the panellists, with Davyd saying that, in the UK, only 2 to 3% of venues could open under the two metre distancing rules, “and they would be hemorrhaging money doing so”.

“If we can’t get the assistance to get through this period, the market is going to shift in a significant way”

Torrents, who is the co-director of Barcelona venue Razzmatazz agrees that any form of social distancing is a “temporary and exceptional situation”.

“In the long term, we will recover the true normal. [Going to venues] should be a social activity, we cannot apply social distancing measures to this,” said Torrents, pointing out the oxymoronic nature of the very phrase “social distancing”.

“We should resist until we can open with a minimum of 60 to 70% capacity, but never less.”

Schölermann discussed alternatives way for venues to reopen such as putting on matinee shows, with multiple, short concerts being played throughout a day and, potentially, venues being open for 24 hours to make up numbers.

Venues will have to use space better, he said, suggesting the reappropriation of outdoor spaces such as car parks for staging shows.

“We can and will find out how to survive.”

“We should resist until we can open with a minimum of 60 to 70% capacity, but never less”

For Davyd, a kind of on-the-door testing system would allow GMVs to open at full capacity, with the knowledge that no-one at the show had the virus.

“If I was in government, that’s what I’d be focused on – testing.”

In times of crisis, there are some positives to draw. Moose noted that those who “are typically somewhat adversarial are now working towards the same goals”, with the result that the whole industry is now more prepared to address its problems.

Davyd added that the importance of the sector has really come to light for all in recent months.

“Maybe this is an opportunity to shake things up and reimagine how we respect the value of GMVs in society and also within government.”

The next IQ Focus session, The Agency Business 3.0, is taking place on Thursday 11 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, with panellists Angus Baskerville (13 Artists), Jules de Lattre (UTA), Maria May (CAA) and Tom Schroeder (Paradigm).

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