Everyone responds to crisis differently. There's no right way of doing this, only your way.
In this short three-part series, we talk with three people at the heart of our industry to find out how COVID-19 has changed their professional and personal lives and envision what a post-Corona world might look like.
Since this week, WAS.’ booker, club manager and an all-round boss lady Veronique has allowed herself to work at the office a few days a week as the walls of her apartment started closing in on her. “It’s strange though. You have no idea when you can start your activities again, especially with bookings we’re really thinking: now what?”
As Veronique looks for a sunny spot in the outside area of her office, where she just started working again two days a week, we chat about the weather. Mid-conversation it hits me that 3-months into the lockdown we skipped a whole season. What did Spring 2020 even look like? Luckily Veronique’s uplifting mood rubs off on me before I get the chance to sink into an existential crisis.
So, what does an average day look like for you amidst this crisis?
We’re now mostly focussed on the future, the far future that is. We’re writing out concepts and are carefully on the lookout for bookings in the late season. Of course, with great reservation. I check my emails and work on marketing. I’m trying to figure out how to remain visible despite not having any running events. And I listen to a lot of music. This is definitely an added benefit.
When it comes to the rest of the work related to the club, there’s only so much we can prepare. In that sense, we’re depending on the government and their policies, which makes it hard to prepare for anything, really.
How does this work exactly?
After the first announcement, some were under the impression clubs wouldn’t be as affected as events. It wasn’t until the township communicated that all licensed events, including those in clubs, would have to put their activities to a halt. And it’s logical, any crowd of a certain size is prohibited, including corporate events.
In my last conversation with DJ Bone, he talked about his newly launched project where there’s an emphasis on depth and context focussing on smaller crowds. Is this something you could see develop into being a new form of events?
Of course, I’m open to that. Especially because it’s something entirely new and you will have to reinvent and rethink processes that are otherwise quite crystallized. In our case, however, we do not own the location which means we pay rent for every club edition, and those are not pennies. It’s not viable to spend thousands of euros on a 30-person event with a guaranteed loss knowing the company is already going through a rough patch now. Don’t get me wrong, we truly understand the venue’s position in all of this too. They are going through the same rough patch as we are and not having their main income from corporate events makes their incomes have reduced to almost zero too.
It’s clear that these are tough times on an industry level. That being said, what do you think is next?
Well, since it’s not at all feasible, let alone profitable, to put up an event for 30 people with a significant amount of rent plus it will take a while before there will be any large events. People in the industry feel this too. and you can see freelancers looking into retraining options to broaden their skillset.
Yes, the longer it takes the less perspective you have, so it seems, on all the possibilities that are still there.
Indeed, and this is what is killing us right now: the insecurity and ambiguity. Not knowing when you can start working again and for which period. It makes you paralyzed. There’s only so much preparing and concept writing one can do before getting to the actual working part.
But this time has also allowed me to dive into a sustainability plan I’ve been dying to develop. Together with an agency in Berlin and hopefully more people, we want to see how we can make our industry more sustainable by the time we get the green light again. This was something we wanted to do before COVID-19 forced all labour to stop but seems even more important now when envisioning a future industry. Think about bringing down the number of flights, more efficient touring and stronger collaborative relationships with artists, agencies and promoters. By involving the entire chain we can send a stronger message to the rest of the industry.
In that sense, this period is like a big reset button that has been forcefully pressed.
Yes, you could say that the pandemic has come at a useful moment. It offers us the opportunity to truly consider these initiatives and take time to work them out. Everyone has time to talk about these things now, so we should!
Are there any other ideas you’ve been working on?
Yes, I would love to unite the Dutch event industry (for electronic music) even more. We’re all in this together now and we were stuck figuring out what to do with all the cancellations, the rescheduling, the announcements. Everyone is experiencing this for the first time at this scale so in the past few weeks I’ve made a lot of phone calls checking in with my peers.
Next to WAS. I'm also the booker of several festivals since this is the core business of the company I work for. While making those phone calls I thought to myself: why is it now, all of a sudden, possible to collaborate so smoothly? Is it only because of the pandemic? And what if we could unite like this continuously, collaborate and make our work be about the music again. I would love to see it all become fairer, it to be about local talent again and that we start making a conscious effort in offering real possibilities by booking locally.
This seems closely linked to the sustainability aspect, no?
Definitely. Booking local talents also means that you’ll distribute your fees more fairly. You can give better slots to homegrown people. I also think that this engages the audience differently because it won’t be as easy to hear a big international name play like before. Everybody is ready to party again and I believe we should take this opportunity to do it differently. All promoters have suffered from this pandemic so for those who will still be standing, going back to the way it was before is not even a possibility. I hope people will realize that and that we can turn this into something positive.
What are some of the lessons you learned in this quarantine?
This period I felt even more connected with friends and family. Even though I didn’t actually see them that much because of self-isolation, your need for valuable contact and relationships grows. You realize who are closest to you and who isn’t and what people’s true colours are both on a personal and a business level. To be able to invest time in myself and my health has made it possible for me to put a lot of things into perspective, such as my work-life balance. It’s been eye-opening to see how fragile and unimportant some things were. So yeah, I feel very healthy and zen.
Thank you for your time and insights!
01.07.2020 | Words by Manal Aziz