2&6 Journalist: CHARLOTTE HINGLEY
Editor: Will Nehra
2020 saw the cyclical routine of life become inherently distorted. COVID-19 induced the global society into a unified frenzy of panic, despair and confusion as we helplessly witnessed the demise of life as we once knew it.
Now we are in September, and the past six months seem like a glitch in the universe. As social creatures, it has been vital to supress our fundamental need for communal contact to necessitate the greater good. Although the virus is still very much present and rife, the once strict lockdown guidelines have faded away, leaving us askew of a reality of socialising and a hole in the heart of the event industry.
As the weeks roll over, school is beginning, and work commences. The yearning for live events is becoming ever stronger – the intoxicating ability to free your mind and soul of mundanity is something extraordinarily special that this industry continuously fulfils.
As France begins to open its doors of the night, the rest of Europe remains in a state of limbo. While safety is priority, it is imperative to shed light on the current situation to keep the live events industry afloat. Through this, we will be able to broadcast the urgency of frequently reshaping and reforming regulation to enable the rebuilding of a pillar instrumental to creative expression.
In order to get a dual perspective from people involved in different areas of events, we interviewed two industry professionals: Thijs Boer and Coco Bryce.
Coco Bryce (@cocomyor), a Netherlands based DJ and producer known for his new wave jungle and breakbeat sound. Bryce is a long-standing figure in the Netherlands’ music scene, having been making music for over twenty years. Bryce has dabbled in a myriad of sounds over the years, making him one of the more prolific and diverse DJ’s in the Dutch scene.
Thijs Boer (@farmerpapa), inspired by the nightlife scene in Rotterdam, has recently launched an independent advisory board: the ‘N8W8 R’Dam’ (@n8w8.rdam) – a non-for-profit foundation that advises entrepreneurs and the city of Rotterdam on nightlife matters. Boer started N8W8 R’Dam after the ‘Opstaan voor de Nacht’ demonstration back in February 2019, with the aim of creating a vibrant and inclusive nightlife, one that be beneficial for residents, visitors and businesses.
- Many industries are now able to operate within adapted COVID measures. In the music industry, we have seen the emergence of ‘sit down’ events. Do you think people will be able to adapt to a ‘new normal’ with raving?
TB: No, I do not and cannot believe that ‘sit down’ events are a permanent phenomenon. We are not conditioned to keep a constant, so called, ‘social’ distance from each other and this is not sustainable in the long run. Rave is not going to stop but we can and must pause the show temporarily to be able to let go in the future as usual.
CB: Partially perhaps… I mean, back in the day, even rock and pop concerts used to be pretty much exclusively sit down events, but as far as dance music goes, I think as soon as venues are allowed to do “normal” events again, those sit down gigs will quickly become a thing of the past. As far as I can tell, the only reason people are attending these at the moment is because there’s no other options… besides illegal raves of course.
- Twitch enabled ravers to be involved with a new type of experience via the ‘Quaranstream.’ Do you think that this trend will continue to be popular after COVID measures are eradicated, or is this just an interlude for the live music industry?
TB: Streaming events offers the opportunity to appeal to a larger, international audience. Certainly now that there are no specialised companies anywhere, this technique will probably be used in the future as an extra opportunity to involve translational communities in events, but the focus of the live music industry has always been and will always be on the live experience.
CB: Yeah well, all the live streams were already starting to become more of a thing ever since Boiler Room blew up, and then especially when Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc made it so easy for pretty much anyone with an iPhone or a couple apps and a laptop to do live streams it really took off. So I think those are here to stay, albeit perhaps in a smaller form than it has been these past few months. However, I think [apps like Twitch] have become a pretty big and solid part of the music industry and yes, remain quite popular.
- The events industry has been the first to close and will be the last to open. Obviously, everyone in this industry has been confronted with previously unimaginable circumstances but how has this personally affected you in your sector?
TB: In January this year our company started with a big kick-off event at which our vision document was handed over to the Alderman for Culture of Rotterdam. This document contained 8 focus areas for the city, including 10 concrete action points. Unfortunately, we are currently not working on any of these action points, but on extinguishing fires caused by COVID-19 and the following harsh measures. Also, it has become very difficult to raise money for our cause because in order to keep our independent position we have to raise funds from entrepreneurs, visitors and the municipality. At the moment it is particularly difficult to raise funds from the first two groups.
CB: Oh, it’s completely messed things up for me, and every other DJ or artist that made a living off of their music for that matter. Not so much financially (yet) for me personally, as I’m self-employed and the Dutch government gave all of us some money, plus, record sales were a bit better than before. But I really, really miss gigging and hope to be able to get back to it soon, though I don’t think that’ll happen before 2021. Maybe there’s a wee chance of some small-scale events happening before the end of the year, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.
I fully realise that there’s loads of people out there who’ve had to deal with way more serious issues because of COVID than I have but, in all honesty, it’s not been too good for my mental well-being. I’ve felt quite down for months now because of it.
Another thing that comes into play for me personally is the fact that I’m Dutch, I live in the Netherlands, but I’m more or less dependent on the UK for the bulk of my gigs, as well as record sales, which adds another factor of uncertainty for me.
- The campaigns such as Night of Live 2020, Red Alert, ‘Save your ticket’ & Sound of Silence are an effective way of raising the alarm for the event industry by projecting the importance of outside help to prevent industry collapse. How exactly can the government and community support your sector of the industry?
TB: For the time being, the government in the Netherlands is letting nightlife and the non-subsidised side of the live music sector go completely to waste. The community, stakeholders and professionals working in this sector must work together to develop and present clear and feasible measures that will keep their businesses and culture alive. The campaigns you mention above are really just tools to get the conversation going, then the most difficult part starts: working together and finding an agreement with parties that are just operating in another niche or could be considered a competitor not too long ago.
CB: Right now, I think it’s the venues that are actually most at risk. From what I gather when talking to the people around me, most of the artists, record labels, shops and even promoters seem to not be struggling too hard to get by thus far but that might be because for most of the promoters I know for example, it’s not their full time business, so it doesn’t cut into their income too much. The labels are still selling lots of records, maybe even more than before, I can’t speak for everyone, but it definitely has been the case for me. A lot of artists, same thing and shops, especially the ones who are also selling online, they seem to be doing alright.
The venues though, they have rent to pay, and close to no income. So, for now, I think they need the most support, those sit-down events are nice and all but, because of social distancing, they often can’t house anywhere near the amount of people it would take to make a decent profit. So perhaps the government(s) could do something like doubling up the amount of money for every ticket sold? Or help pay the rent?
- It is safe to say that human nature will not stop – there will always be a burning global desire for live music. What do you think the next steps are for solidifying a new sustainable foundation for the events industry?
TB: People will greatly revalue the events industry and the great gatherings it organises but, in the short term, I fear that intercontinental touring may cause further problems. At the end of the day, festivals and big club nights are a chain of gigs for bands and DJs, and the COVID crisis has made it difficult to plan a trouble-free chain of gigs in different countries.
Incidentally, I do not think that this will be very bad for the Dutch sector. Larger parts of the programming in the coming period will consist of local heroes and talents. From a talent development perspective, this is actually ideal; knowledge spillovers are promoted by this mix.
In the coming period, there will certainly still be a focus on going out with little or no risk. Such events are difficult to make profitable, because the revenue model was based on several people per square metre. Hopefully we will not have to abandon this.
CB: Finding a vaccine, or a strict door policy where you’ll have to show a negative COVID test or something? Sounds a bit ridiculous, scary and “1984/New World Order” even perhaps (the door policy I mean) but what I said in my previous answer, throwing money at venues and artists etc will help, but probably not in the long run. Funds will dry up at some point and so I think a vaccine and things being able to go back to “the old normal” are, in my eyes, the only ways to make things really sustainable again. I could be completely wrong though
- Leaving lockdown, do you feel a heightened sense of community within the music industry?
TB: I think there is not only an increased sense of community, but we have also finally really experienced first-hand the necessity and power of live music: gaining a musical experience with familiar and completely unknown people in one room, getting to know new people and learning about yourself and each other. Because we have temporarily missed this, we only now realise how important this is and has been for us.
CB: I can’t answer that question just yet, because I think we’re not anywhere near to leaving lockdown. I’m 99% certain there’s gonna be new and possibly even stricter regulations soon. The UK just imposed another 2-week quarantine for people travelling from certain countries, and I see places all over the map tightening up again.
- And finally, through all this shit, has lockdown positively affected your creative inspiration at all? Are you leaving it with new material/contacts/dreams and goals?
TB: Unfortunately, I cannot say that social isolation has been conducive to my creative inspiration. Normally I get inspiration when I am among people in weird places and situations. The vibe that’s sometimes in the air when you are together and the special awkward and challenging moments we sometimes create together lead to a certain synergy in my head, which I express creatively by writing stories and poems. However, the whole COVID crisis did gave the time to finally write down long-term plans and have many slow and good conversations with many parties working in the nightlife scene.
In addition, the amount of music and films that I have discovered over the past few months is truly remarkable. Not a lot of new work came out in this period, but apparently you miss quite a few releases and premieres when you’re constantly working and partying and working and partying in pre-corona times.
CB: Yes! Like I said, it’s been tough mentally, but I definitely did make a whole lot of tunes. I finished loads of old projects and did a bunch of remixes, also released a fair few EPs and got more in the pipelines for the months to come. Plus I was approached by a couple of labels I’d never expected to show interest in my music, which definitely made me see things in a different light… made me think of other possibilities you know, which make me even more eager for this COVID mess to come to a halt and see what the future holds. Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming and doing tunes and mixtapes, I guess.