GraciaLive To Put Belgian Clubs On The Map

Live Spring Sessions is a new festival in Antwerp, Belgium, taking place April 18-20 to highlight the role of small venues as talent incubators. 

Live Spring Sessions

“We’re offered a lot of acts that are still in the development phase – unfortunately as an external promoter that does not own any clubs,” GraciaLive promoter Sam Perl told Pollstar. “Financially it makes no sense to try and promote them in established clubs, as the costs of renting the venue, PA and lights will set me back into negative numbers before the onsale.”

So he started to look for a 100- to 200-capacity venue in Antwerp to offer developing acts “a stepping stone to potentially build their career.”

Perl hit pay dirt with The Dirty Rabbit, a 150-capacity club that will host Other Animals from Australia, Pat Dam Smyth from Northern Ireland and Wild Front from the UK over the three nights of Live Spring Sessions.

“The bigger picture here is that we can offer acts their first chance in Belgium. If the feedback is good and there’s long-term potential, we can take the next step,” said Perl, who would like to sustainably develop acts by taking them through the country’s venue circuit, building up an audience as they go.

Speaking about Belgium’s venue landscape, Perl said, “You basically have three options: when we’re looking for an 8,000-plus-cap venue we go into the  in Antwerp. It can host up to 23,000 people standing in-the-round, but the venue already looks good with 8,500 tickets sold because you can curtain the balconies and advance the stage.”

Smaller-sized options include the  in Antwerp (capacity 6,500) and the  in Brussels (8,000).

“Again, both venues have various configurations, and shows will always look good from 2,500 plus tickets sold,” he said.

When looking at venues under 2,000 capacity, one has to take into account the genre of music, Perl said. Younger crowds can be found at the  (1,100 capacity) in Antwerp, the  (2,000), the  (650) or  (1,200) in Brussels and the  (1,100) in Ghent.

More established acts who want to play an intimate show would go to the  (1,750) or Stadsschouwburg (1,850) in Antwerp, the  (1,500) in Ghent, the Kursaal (1,850) in Oostende, the  (1,650) or the  (1,750) in Brussels.

With Live Spring Sessions, Perl intends “to put the smaller 100-200 capacity clubs back on the map,” and become a force in artist development. Besides regular concerts, GraciaLive also promotes film concerts (“we’re going to bring ‘La La Land’ in concert to the Benelux in October 2017”), shows and events.

The company expanded into exhibitions in January, currently running the Art of Banksy exhibition in Antwerp.

Perl founded GraciaLive in 2011 with his father Michel, who had left Live Nation in 2009.

Together they’ve promoted concerts by AdeleCeline DionAndrea BocelliJamiroquaiJohn FogertyBob DylanMark KnopflerZZ TopNeil YoungCat StevensCharles AznavourDream TheaterEros RamazzottiSeal and many more.

“Our focus was entirely on promoting established acts, as we had to reposition ourselves in the market. Now that we’ve done that, we’re looking at diversifying our activities.”