Music sector rings the alarm: “If we want another sector, a big rescue plan is needed”


Photo Belga / J. Jacobs

The entire Belgian music sector is coldly affected by the decision of the Security Council to drastically limit capacity at events without consultation. On top of that, many mayors decided in the meantime to impose a total ban, sometimes well into the autumn. Therefore, an additional financial lifebuoy of tens of millions is now needed on top of the current arrangements, the industry said in an open letter.

The signatories say to look “open-mouthed” at the decisions made in recent weeks. They point to months of negotiation in order to organize safely. The result of these negotiations was a sector guide and the COVID Event Risk Matrix (CERM), which was regarded as the tool for organizing safe events. “But the lack of unity in command means that months of preparation work ends up in the trash,” it now sounds.

More distance than in shops

The sector is committed to ensuring that events in the open air run perfectly safely, “with more distance than in shops, restaurants or on the dikes, not to mention airplanes”. Organizing concerts for 400, or 200 people since the last Security Council, is therefore safe, but organizing them profitably is “almost impossible”. By allowing events to continue, this sector hoped to give artists, technicians, stage builders… a little oxygen. However, that has now ended.

95% loss of income

The loss of income is estimated at 95 percent, or about 1 billion euros. “If then the little bit of financial breathing space is taken away with one word and without any excuse – let alone compensation for lost income – then we get angry,” the artists write. “We have already made many proposals, it is time to make them concrete.”

The sector also realizes that the real recovery will be before 2021 at the earliest. The measures on temporary unemployment and bridging rights must therefore be extended, but that will not be enough, the music sector fears.

The call is supported by almost the entire Belgian music sector: concert halls such as Ancienne Belgique, Roma and Handelsbeurs, festivals such as Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop and the management agencies of artists such as dEUS, Selah Sue and Bazart.

Read the open letter here:

To the bankruptcy of the live sector?

Last week, the Security Council decided to drastically limit the capacity allowed at events. In the aftermath, many mayors felt it necessary to continue to surf for anxiety psychosis and to issue a total ban, sometimes even well into the fall. This happened with a fluency du jamais vu. Without consultation. And also as if it were nothing. We erase the pleasure of the people and with that, enough. Without any compensation. The little resources that could go to the sector are largely gone again. Both nationally and locally, the policy is pushing our sector even deeper into the swamp.

The cultural sector is there and looks at it with open mouth. Months were negotiated to organize safely. Let’s stop spinning around and face the facts: real relance won’t be until 2021. The current regulations (including measures regarding temporary unemployment, bridging rights, etc.) need to be extended, but will not suffice. This sector needs an additional financial lifebuoy of at least several tens of millions, for which we look directly at the various governments in our country.

Safe organization is possible, profitable organization is not

The concerts for 400 or now only 200 people in the open air are perfectly safe, with more social distance than in shops and restaurants and on the dike of our coastal cities, not to mention airplanes (where the definition of social distancing is the equivalent from ‘a bubble of 9 people who often meet for the first time’).

A sector guide has been worked on with the entire sector and the COVID Event Risk Matrix (CERM) was introduced after long negotiations and fine-tuning at federal level as the tool for safe organization. But the lack of unity in command means months of prep work ends up in the trash. Ultimately, every municipality now has to decide for itself, with the result that there will then be an auction to tighten up the agreed federal security measure.

Safe organization is therefore possible, profitable organization is almost impossible under the given circumstances. However, this mutually supportive sector wants to do everything to ensure that the most severely affected (the artists, the technicians, stage builders… without work and with a particularly limited income since March 13) could still get a little oxygen.

Many cities and towns pushed their budgets for the major summer events to a series of small concerts and other cultural performances. Together with limited ticket sales, this allowed some fees to be paid back and artists and their entourage could earn a few hundred euros again.

Know that most of them do it with 900 euros net per month. That helps to bridge a few months (now almost 5). But as it stands, we are at least as busy until next summer. You can not pay rent from that 900 euros and have something left to cover other costs of normal living.

In addition, organizations are also confronted with an overhead that may not have any income for more than a year. For some major players, it’s about a cost of over a million a month. Because these are very successful companies, they can draw on the accumulated reserves for a few months, but by the end of the year they will at least run out and credit must already be paid.

Investment repayments have been pushed forward by the banks, but an extension of a year is now necessary, otherwise we can say with certainty that we will already have a wave of bankruptcies this fall. It is on the one hand about possibly no more concerts in the Antwerp Sportpaleis, no 450,000 tickets for the Studio 100 Pop-Up Theater, no more Stageco building stages for Rammstein and The Rolling Stones, … but on the other hand, and above all, no more jobs for thousands of artists and technicians!

1 billion loss of income

We hear a lot of virologists and medical specialists say it is five past twelve in recent days. Well, the clock has stopped ticking for our industry. The bomb is going to explode. The now well-known admonition that the culture sector was the first to close its doors and the last to start up again needs an update. The culture sector was the first to close its doors, the last to restart and the first to close again.

What other sector is losing 95% or about a billion euros in revenue today? If then the small amount of financial breathing space is taken away with one word and without any excuse – let alone compensation for (once again) lost income – then we become angry. This shows so little respect for the people who work hard for this.

What happens to the funds that cities and municipalities have received from the Flemish emergency fund for culture, sports, youth…? Can we immediately agree that the cities and municipalities that have banned the events will deposit the foreseen amounts in LIVE2020, the sector’s solidarity fund? More than ever it will be necessary to save people and keep your head above water! Because it is increasingly starting to seem that our government wants to throw our sector – which represents 5% of the gross national product – into the rubbish bin.

The time is now

Stop spinning around the jar. Stop treating us like ignorant silly. We all know that this will take another year. How do we ensure that one of the healthiest and most successful sectors can survive and that we ensure maximum retention of more than 80,000 jobs? How do we ensure that internationally recognized know-how remains in the sector and that no massive brain drain starts? How do we ensure that we can keep putting top artistic talent on our podia? How can we keep our gross national happiness from going deep for many years to come? Where’s the economic contingency plan? We have already made many proposals. It is time to make it concrete.


Signed by the Live sector Consultation – an initiative of the Belgian festivals, bookers, artist managers, music clubs and cultural centers, facilitated by VI.BE.


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