Events in Corona times: “We want to be able to survive”


The concert and event industry is suffering most from the Corona crisis. Jens Michow, President of the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV), demands more tailored help from politicians: The situation is dramatic. Hopes of easing by the end of this year have been dashed. There will be no events in December either. How is your industry in?

Jens Michow: The events industry has been in a total lockdown for nine months. Such a long time without income and the lack of any perspective for the future would probably bring almost everyone economically to their knees. Organizers in particular have invested a lot of money in order to ensure all the requirements for the implementation of all hygiene regulations that are not mandatory. If the countries talked to us about what is feasible, they would find that events can be much more secure than, for example, public transport or department stores.

I don’t want that to be misunderstood: We respect all necessary measures to protect against infection. But it is also up to the state to maintain proportionality. And to do this, what we have already achieved in terms of hygiene protection must be taken into account.

“Really remarkable measures” At the moment the obligation to file for insolvency is still suspended. How bad is it for companies?

Michow: In my estimation, at least 50 percent of the companies are no longer economically viable. At some point everyone’s reserves are used up. In the last few weeks and days the state has finally implemented some of our demands with the November Aid and the Bridging Aid III and is offering us more tailored aid programs. These are really considerable measures. Are the measures sufficient?

Michow: Unfortunately, some event companies again fall completely through the cracks. For example, companies with a turnover of over 500 million euros are not eligible to apply. Since all sales of a group of companies are added together at affiliated companies, this affects almost all larger event companies. They have sold stakes in their companies in recent years to shoulder the ever-increasing risks of the business.

About the person: Jens Michow

Jens Michow founded the Federal Association of the Event Industry (bdv) e. V., of which he was President and CEO until December 31, 2018. Since the merger of the bdv with the VDKD on January 1, 2019 to form the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV), Michow has been the executive president of this association. The BDKV represents the interests of over 420 companies in the event industry and thus represents an annual market turnover of around five billion euros.

The fact that these companies, which for the most part have been investing higher six-figure amounts in maintaining their operational structures for months, are now missing out is completely unacceptable and leads to considerable distortions of competition. The fact that event sales generated abroad are not taken into account is also a major problem for the international event industry. Limiting help for solo self-employed persons to just 5000 euros is also not appropriate.

Incidentally, it is not only the concert industry that suffers from these problems, as mentioned by way of example, but the entire event industry. This also includes, for example, trade fair, congress and conference organizers or the showmen’s businesses. Overall, it is the sixth largest industry in this country with over 1.3 million people in employment.

Will not return to normal before 2022? When do you think there will be concerts “like before” again?

Michow: In the medium term, a lot will depend on how quickly vaccination can be carried out across the board. A return to normality will, however, depend on a number of other developments: It is currently almost impossible to book a concert hall for the second half of 2021, as all dates are already reserved for backyard concerts. And it is also questionable when artists from abroad – for example from the USA – will be allowed to travel to Germany again. Then the fight for free dates from internationally known artists will start, of course the requests for catch-up dates from all over the world. So “concerts like before” – apart from some fundamental changes – there will probably be again in 2022 at the earliest. Will the event industry be different then?

Michow: I am afraid so. It starts with the question of whether there will still be enough organizers after the crisis to actually present all genres and dimensions of the cultural industry. I’m less worried about the mainstream and the shows with world stars. But I doubt that there will still be enough companies that can come to terms with the comparatively narrow profit margins at small jazz, blues or singer / songwriter concerts. But if they no longer exist, the diversity of the cultural offer will suffer considerably.

Another big problem can already be foreseen: namely the question of whether there will still be sufficient event service providers such as sound and light technicians, stage builders, production managers and construction workers in the future. None of these are unskilled workers, but experts in their field. Events don’t work without their performance. However, we are already observing that they are taking a different career path because they no longer see any prospects in the event business.

The interview was conducted by Ute Spangenberger, SWR.

Deutschlandfunk reported on this topic on November 14, 2020 at 6:40 p.m.

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