LIVE2020, a lifeline for those who make live music happen

Pictures by Annika Wallis

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2020 has not been a great year for the live music industry. That’s why we’re doing something out of the ordinary for this year’s edition of the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards: a special auction filled with unique items given to us by some of Belgium's most prominent artists. The profits of this auction will go to LIVE2020, a solidarity fund for the Belgian live music and nightlife industry. But how do they work? Where does the money go? And who is eligible for support? We asked Coralie Berael, venue manager at Forest National and spokesperson for LIVE2020.

Let’s start from the beginning. What is LIVE2020 exactly?

“LIVE2020 is a solidarity fund that was founded in June 2020 by a group of key players in the live music and event industry. We couldn't stand idly by while so many professionals, small businesses and freelancers in our industry were plunged into financial ruin. Many of them employ other people and have been active for decades. Whether it's festivals in the summer or concerts in the winter, these people count on the music industry for their income and thus survival. Unfortunately, this industry is hit extremely hard in this pandemic, and it doesn’t look as if things will get better soon”.

We want to make sure that everybody reaches the finish line at the end of the ride.

Isn’t there a system in place that supports these businesses during these times?

“Some freelancers and businesses do get a transitional allowance (‘overbruggingsrecht’ in Dutch or ‘le droit passerelle' in French) – but these sums aren't very high, and it's becoming increasingly hard to receive them as the crisis drags on. For many, this is not even an option, as their statute is not recognized, which prevents them from receiving any financial benefits at all. To give you an example: an artist booking agency is technically categorized as a ‘management company’. So, on paper, this is not part of an industry that experiences forced closure, and thus: no transitional allowance. The same goes for DJs who are technically not considered as ‘performing artists’”. 

“Very early on, we realized this was a disaster in the making. Now, it has been nine motnhs since the crisis started, and no steps have been made towards proper structural support. Putting pressure on the state to solve these issues is one of our core activities. LIVE2020 is not going to take on their responsibilities (the government should still do their homework), but we hope to provide some oxygen to those who are struck the hardest".

How does LIVE2020 differ from other similar initiatives?

“While others may primarily set their attention towards companies and organizations, we focus on the individuals: light technicians, sound engineers, stage builders, those who provide catering… It’s not just artists, it's a whole ecosphere of people that depend on music events to pay their rent. Anyone in the scene will be able to tell you what kind of work pressure these people are dealing with in normal circumstances – and that's ok – they love their job. Seeing many of them turn to unemployment agencies to support their livelihood now breaks our heart".

The event industry is labelled as ‘non-essential’, but we are most certainly essential for the well-being of our society – even the World Health Organization said so.

What does your support for these individuals look like then?

"So far, we have been able to give €750 to each of these individuals who can prove they have lost their entire source of income. We know that's only a fraction of what they need, but at least they can pay another month's rent for the time being. We want to make sure that everybody reaches the finish line at the end of the ride”.

What about financial support for relaunch initiatives to event promoters (‘relance uitkering’ in Dutch, and ‘soutien financier pour les projets de relance’ in French)?

“This is the second LIVE2020 goal: providing support to promoters who go out of their way to organize music events that comply with the governmental guidelines at that moment. We all know that throwing events now is not a profitable business; and the rules of what's allowed and what's not change frequently. So those who are determined and want to put everything on the line to provide music fans with some consolation can submit their cases at LIVE2020. After that, our committee of experts, appointed by the King Baudouin Foundation (Fondation Roi Bauduoin in French, Koning Boudewijnstichting in Dutch, ed) that decides in each case whether we're able to give them a fixed amount of €1500”.

“Often, the event industry is labelled as ‘non-essential’, but we are most certainly essential for the well-being of our society – even the World Health Organization said so. Just take a look around you: everyone is on edge, in search of some relief. It’s crucial we can hold on to these moments of positivity. Besides, you could make a strong economic argument, too; the music event industry employs tens of thousands of people in Belgium. How is that not essential"?

How do you decide who gets what?

“We don’t hand out support continuously; we work in batches. In September we released our first one: €179.000 (€110.000 to over 150 individuals; €69.000 to about 50 event promoters). Once our fund has reached a certain amount of money, we send out another round of support. In the meantime, our experts work tirelessly to decide who’s eligible and who’s not”.

What’s your view on the future of the industry?

“Every day, it becomes clearer the consequences of this crisis will last for years to come. People often think "in a year, we'll all be able to go back to festivals as we knew it", but who's going to organize that festival if all those contractors and freelancers have disappeared? We're losing knowhow at a rapid pace".

We’re doing everything in our power to help all the individuals that make live music happen, on stage and behind the scenes.

How can artists, DJs and freelancers apply to get support from LIVE2020?

“These people can go to our website and submit their file, alongside the necessary paperwork that proves your loss of income. You have to be honest about your personal situation; tell us what your fixed costs are, what perspectives you have, etc. The same goes for financial support for relaunch initiatives by event promoters. Submit your case, explain what you want to do, how you're going to do it and how much you need to make it happen. Our committee takes a deep look into every case".

“In the end, the event industry consists of thousands of people who love their job. Not being able to come together and celebrate our culture is painful on itself – but without the necessary support, the consequences are incredibly more severe. Our hearts are aching, and LIVE2020 is not going to solve the issue, but at least we’re doing everything in our power to help all the individuals that make live music happen, on stage and behind the scenes”.