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Brussels events sector not yet fully recovered from pandemic

14:39 16/05/2023

The Brussels event sector is still struggling and has not yet fully recovered from the pandemic that saw it shut down for more than a year, new figures suggest.

The number of cultural events in Brussels is still lower than the pre-pandemic year of 2019, Bruzz reports.

In Brussels' parks, the drop is particularly striking: 673 events took place in 2022, compared to 1,166 in 2019. Smaller organisers are especially struggling.

The number of performances in Belgium last year fell by a third compared to 2019, according to the annual figures published by music rights association Sabam.

Part of the reason the events sector continues to struggle is that not long after the pandemic, an energy crisis and rising inflation followed.

“Higher operating costs due to wage indexations and the energy crisis play a role,” points out Charlotte Lootens, a press officer at VI.BE, a support point for artists and the music sector.

“The big players can bear these additional costs, but for smaller organisers such as clubs and smaller festivals it is much more difficult.”

Sabam's figures cover all of Belgium, but even in Brussels the number of events is still lower than before the health crisis.

Figures show that the number of cultural events in the Brussels region stood at 23,102 last year, which is still 5,740 less than in 2019.

Those figures include only events entered in the UiTdatabank, on which emerging and established Brussels organisers can promote their events.

In light of multiple crises in succession, organisers are playing it safe, Lootens explained.

“Organisers have to fill the financial crater,” said Lootens. “If they book a big, well-known artist, they are sure that their concert hall will fill up. Whereas with a smaller band or artist, this is much less obvious.”

At the same time, audiences are also making different choices: “It has all become very expensive, so people buy more consciously. If you pay more than €100 for Beyoncé, afterwards you are going to wait a while before buying other tickets.”

Lootens said these developments had made it even more difficult for budding artists to put themselves on the map.

“In Brussels, we notice that Flemish acts in particular find it hard to find a stage,” Lootens said.

“That is why with VI.BE we are also trying to create extra opportunities for that group, among others.”

VI.BE is organising Brussels café concerts for young musical talent under the banner Stoemp!, among other initiatives.

One Brussels neighbourhood working hard to uplift artists struggling as a result of the pandemic, energy crisis and inflation is Schaerbeek.

Schaerbeek has been actively building a local music policy for three years, under the label MUZIK1030. This includes support for local cafes to organise concerts and funding to help to pay artists.

“Schaerbeek is thus trying to give musicians and organisers more visibility and help build the musical network in their municipality,” Lootens said.

Last weekend, MUZIK1030 celebrated its first milestone when it welcomed its 1,000th musician.

Written by Helen Lyons