The Year In Europe: A State-By-State Crisis

European Union
Kenzo Tribouilard / AFP / Getty Imag
– European Union
flags fly outside the European Commission building in Brussels.
When it comes to the COVID crisis, the EU largely stayed out of its member states’ business. Each country has been coming up with its own strategies to combat an invisible enemy that has ended life and live as we know it. However, as individual as each country’s catalogue of COVID mandates may be, they have all disproportionately targeted live events and hospitality.
While the reasoning seems plausible at first – restricting the contacts and therefore, in theory, the risk of spreading a virus – questions come up when seeing that the aviation industry and public transport sectors, for instance, are allowed to operate at capacity. Prominent figures, like Live Nation GSA CEO Marek Lieberberg or British theater icon Andrew Lloyd Webber, have been lamenting this discrepancy publicly. There’s been some head-scratching over measures that aren’t scientifically grounded, like arbitrary curfews or alcohol bans.
Other live pros point toward the lack of meaningful organization within live, resulting in a lack of lobbying power. “We need much stronger collective representation and a clear voice.” Tallinn Music Week founder Helen Sildna, for instance, told Pollstar decision-makers must truly  understand “the economic and social consequences of the restrictions,” which have been severe across the entire continent. 
Given the highly individualized nature of this industry, the backbone of which is formed by self-employed, independent freelancers, many of the government programs didn’t reach the people most in need, like crew, supply, transport, catering and the many other vital parts of the live value chain. In the UK, an initiative called Excluded formed around all those live pros, who fell through the cracks of financial aid programs. The initiative’s founder Aron Padley told Pollstar, “We are sitting on a ticking time bomb that has already shown glimpses of the devastation about to incur. Suicides are now a very real and regular occurrence and I’m afraid the neglect and denial of our government towards our community is nothing short of shambolic.”
Many in Europe made the best of the situation, hosting COVID-compliant events under economically unviable circumstances, just to keep the spirit of live going. However, since there’s no way of turning a profit on large indoor and outdoor events as long as distancing mandates are in place, the large companies have mostly been idle. 
For some, waiting it out was simply no option. They left their corporate homes in order to form their own, independent businesses; across the pond, most notably, Jon Ollier left CAA to launch One Fiinix Live, and Natasha Bent left Paradigm to launch Mother Artists with her brother and artist manager Mark Bent. The U.S. has seen similar moves made over the past months. Ollier said, “The reason you’re going to see this happening more and more is because it’s our instinct, when there’s a problem, to apply all our problem-solving skill and proactivity in finding a solution to move forward. People in my line of business need to feel like they’re attacking the problem,” he explained.
What’s been missing is a coordinated EU effort to save culture. In November, 110 organizations from across the cultural and creative sectors in Europe sent an open letter to the EU addressing this situation. In times when swift, individual and substantial financial help is needed, a large bureaucratic beast like the EU simply isn’t able to react as quickly as each member state, let alone the private companies and individuals making up the live entertainment sector, and knowing best how to deal with large crowds in a safe manner.
Thus, a group of industry leaders from across the European festival sector just announced the formation of a working group, “to ensure fans are able to return safely to full-capacity outdoor live events at the earliest opportunity.” It’s an initiative driven by independent European festival association Yourope, and has AEG Presents, Eventim Live/FKP Scorpio, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct Entertainment on board. The group is consulting with production, supply, health and safety, as well as COVID experts, in order to implement best practices for the health and safety of fans as festivals return