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Mass events this summer are canceled: how is the Belgian hip-hop industry reacting?

The news is out. Mass events in Belgium this summer are canceled, and we are as bummed out about it as all of you are. But the main question is: how will our event- and music industry survive the upcoming months? 80 000 people working in the Belgian music industry are currently unsure about their financial and creative situation due to the lockdown, and canceling the large summer festivals bummed out many artists even more. We called some of those working in the Belgian hip-hop industry about their unsure future.

Article by Yaell Monas, header image by Bavo Goossens

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Kevin Kofii

Kevin Kofii - DJ and event organizer

“At this point, I had to cancel two SHE. events in March already and there are 3 others which I will have to cancel if the government doesn’t clarify what they see as ‘mass events’. Maybe we might go through with smaller events, and that might also turn out nice for the artists. The fast life I was living is on pause now, but if the events become smaller they might focus more on the music and the artists instead of attracting a lot of visitors. Corona used to be something we had a laugh about, a party and a conversation starter. But it turned into the biggest enemy of the event industry.”

“Exceptional situations ask for exceptional measurements, and in my opinion, better safe than sorry. I’d rather have one summer taken away from us than a whole future taken away because we did not take this seriously enough. All of this definitely has a financial impact on everyone in the music industry. And I hope that the government comes up with financial support for those struggling.” - Kevin Kofii

Kate Housh - stylist for multiple Belgian hip-hop artists

“To me, summer is a period where I get all my energy from. It’s really hard to imagine a summer without touring with Coely or Dvtch Norris, serving looks for them to wear on stage. Now there’s this enormous emptiness in the next months, and looking towards the future is hard as nobody knows exactly how it will look like. Everyone in the event industry needs extra information. How it looks now, we will have absolutely no income until September. And it’s not just artists and organizers, but everyone who works behind the scenes. Stylists, light- and soundmen, journalists and band members. They tend to forget about those people.”

“In some way, this lockdown also opens up new ways of being creative. I see people doing photoshoots over Facetime, artists giving live concerts on Instagram. I understand that health is the most important here, but our industry should get a little bit more information on what exactly the government sees as ‘mass events’. Will we be able to give more intimate shows in July and August? Apart from that, there’s currently no income for the creative sector so once this is all over I doubt that there will be any money to be spent on music videos, outfits, etc. To me, that’s what makes the future so cloudy. But I’m trying to stay positive.” - Kate Housh

Darrell Cole

Darrell Cole - Rapper

“I am currently living in Amsterdam, and here the measurements are a little different from Belgium. There are fewer people dying here, so the way of locking down the country is less strict. Although a friend of mine from Belgium lost his dad to this, so I think we should all just stay inside and have respect towards the caregivers by living up to the measurements.”

“I had some big features and travels on my agenda these months, but it is what it is. Everyone should just keep streaming and keep being the amazing fans they always were. No matter how we get through this, everything will change. People are way more conscious now about their hygiene and the way they live. I wouldn’t call it a wake-up call, but it somehow is.” - Darrell Cole

Hussle Events from Barry Maertens

Barry Maertens - Booker at Hussle Events

“I think every single one of us saw this coming but seeing it become reality hits. For us, as bookers and event organizers, it’s patiently waiting until the government comes up with a lower limit: they’ve said ‘mass events’, but what will be the maximum amount of visitors? Once we know these numbers, we will be able to think about the upcoming months. Damage control is what we are focussing on right now.”

“Of course there’s enormous support for our sector from the media. We have #ikluisterbelgisch, and depending on what type of events we will be able to still organize, the Belgian artists might be booked even more now. In the meantime, I think we should all keep streaming and if you have the financial opportunity: buy merchandise, a CD or vinyl from your favorite artists.” - Barry Maertens - Booker at Hussle Events

Cedje

Cedje - Rapper

“The hardest part for me is not being able to go to the studio and not being able to shoot any music videos. All studios I used to work in are closed now, although I still write a lot of music. This situation has not shut down my creative process, it just delayed some parts a little. I do support the government’s decisions, as the health risk is a priority here.”

“I think the government should definitely come up with some sort of payment for the financial victims here. Although it’s not because there is no new music, that people can’t keep streaming. I still look forward to the future, as I just started my own label and to me, it feels like I have been growing music-wise. Lockdown, or no lockdown.” - Cedje

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MEDS - Singer

“I have a lot of shows that are canceled due to coronavirus, which affects my income. But what bothers me more is that a lot of our visibility as artists depends on those shows. I completely support the government their decision and take this as a time to work on myself and write a lot of music. Once the first part of the lockdown will be over, I bet many artists will dive into the studio with a shitload of new music.”

“I think we should get creative in how we can serve live experiences, and maybe we’ll be able to do small events in the near future. I’d rather have one summer canceled, than going through with it now and every other summer being canceled. Imagine having nothing to look forward to at all? No one took the future from us, only the summer. That’s why I want everyone to keep streaming our music, and to keep supporting our own music industry. Because once this is over, we’ll come harder than ever.” - MEDS


Chase joins the call for the financial support measures regarding temporary unemployment for employees and bridging rights for the self-employed to be extended until at least the end of 2020. Next to this, there should also be increased attention for the vulnerable profiles of employees who work with day contracts via interim agencies (who often had not yet concluded an employment contract at the time of cancellation) and self-employed persons who do not meet the current conditions for support measures. Only this way, the Belgian government can avoid a huge economic and social battlefield in the short term and can the Belgian music sector overcome this blow.

If you are working in the music industry we would like to ask you to fill in this survey to help map all the different experiences.



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