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We needs ‘tens of millions’, says live music sector in open letter

18:37 04/08/2020

Brussels concert halls Ancienne Belgique and Botanique have officially cancelled ongoing contracts with outside service providers, such as stage technicians, production managers, caterers and cleaners. According to the venues’ spokespeople, it is impossible to keep anyone on retainer or maintain contracts in the current climate.

Some of these professionals are self-employed or work for interim agencies on a project-by-project basis. This is common practice in the cultural sector.

“This is a real blow to the freelancers,” Kris Mouchaers of Botanique told Bruzz. “But if there are no concerts, then there’s just no work.”

Botanique has had to cancel or postpone 300 events since the corona crisis began. Some of them are rescheduled for the autumn, but even those dates are unsure, particularly when it comes to international acts.

Between both the concert halls, hundreds of people are effected by the ending of formal agreements. “Breaking our contracts with external colleagues is a clear signal to the government,” said Mouchaers, “proof that our sector is suffering heavily under the pandemic.”

95% of earnings lost

To that end, the Live Sector Overleg, an initiative spearheaded by musician support network VI.BE, published an open letter to politicians today. It points out that no single sector has been harder hit by corona measures than theirs. “What other sector can say it has lost 95% of a billion euro industry?” the letter reads.

It points out that the most recent announcement – that indoor events must further limit the audience numbers from 200 to 100 and open-air events from 400 to 200 – has thrown the sector back into confusion and loss.

“In the wake of that decision, many mayors have found it necessary to further surf on that wave of fear and sail out a total ban on all events, sometime into the autumn,” the letter reads. “This happens with a swiftness such as has never been seen and with zero consultation. And zero compensation.”

The Live Sector Overleg, which includes festivals and venues as well as artist management agencies and cultural centres, is asking for support from the government to be able to survive 2020. “Let’s stop pussyfooting about and say it like it is: A real relaunch will not happen until 2021. The current measures for temporary unemployment and subsidies must be extended – but will not be enough. This sector needs a financial injection of tens of millions, and for that we are looking at the various levels of government in this country straight in the eye.”

Photo (c)Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw