Fear of carnage at the music scene due to COVID19

Venues are facing dark times. While they can now reopen, the revenue is too small because of restrictions in the number of audiences allowed.

The venue Loppen in the free town Christiania in Copenhagen are know for hiring bands that are later to become famous. Photo: Nicoline Noe

By Leonie Fischer and Nicoline Noe

Looking the artists right in the eyes, standing so close that you can touch them.

Many iconic bands have played at the historic venue Loppen at the free town Christiania in Copenhagen, since the opening in 1973. According to PR employee Michelle Smidt the venue is special in the sense that the artists perform at the same level as the audience and therefore there’s a real, close connection between fans and bands.

After roughly half a year without concerts, the venue just reopened two weeks ago.

“It was a punch to the gut,” Michelle says about the period when the venue had to shut down due to the spread of COVID19, but as a cultural business, they were used to the struggle with raising money. Especially since the place lost their status as a regional venue in 2016 and therefore lost a grant of 1,3 million Danish kroner annually.

Michelle Smidt and Frederik Buur Rosbach are sharing a PR position at Loppen. They have worked at the venue for nearly five years. Photo: Nicoline Noe

Furthermore, on account of the current restrictions, they now have room for 65 persons instead of the 400 they normally host. Also, everyone has to stay seated.

Frederik Buur Rosbach, who shares the PR position with Michelle explains that the closed period left the venue with literally no money.

Massive expenses led to crowdfunding

“Even though we were locked down, we still had expenses for 45.000 kroner each month,” Frederik elaborates.

Since March the venue has received an extraordinary economical help from the government as have all other businesses, but the bottom of the coffin was still empty.

“Even before the impact of COVID19 we had decided to do a crowdfunding for Loppen,” the employee says. They kickstarted the fundraising in July and have raised 350.000 kroner so far.

According to Michelle, the help and concern from people has been massive. And it’s not only money they’ve received at the venue:

Quite a few people showed Loppen support, when they had to lock down in early spring. Photo: Leonie Fischer.

“We’ve had the sweetest notes from concertgoers and bands that have played here. It was so touching, and now and then we all had a good cry.”

“And sometimes we still are,” Frederik adds with a soft smile. The both of them are truly invested in the venue and describe working there as a lifestyle, putting way more hours in the job than their contract says. The same goes for the 65 volunteers in the collective.

 All venues suffer

Loppen is not the only venue struggling since they all had to lock down in early spring, and the whole scene has desperately tried to wake up the politicians in recognition that an impending carnage is to be expected if authorities do nothing.

In mid August, the established venues in Copenhagen held a meeting at the concert place Jazzhus Montmartre, also a historic music scene, to discuss how to influence their dark future prospects. Ironically the concert house has since been forced to terminate their lease and fire the staff due to lack of profit.

But then something magic happened. An angel in the shape of the minister of culture flew in and suggested that the jazz house should be saved. A statement that has left the rest of the venues wondering.

“It has a bad taste to it. We are extremely happy on behalf of Montmartre, but of course we wish, she did the same for the rest of us,” Michelle says implicating that there might be a personal interest in the matter.

Meanwhile at Loppen everyone is chipping in, and even the bands are giving a bit more, playing two days instead of one for half the price, the volunteers are flexible trying to make more pandemic friendly events – everybody is participating to make the venue survive.

We tried to get a comment from the Ministry of Culture on why the minister has chosen to help Jazzhus Montmartre and not the other equally historic venues. We also asked for a comment on the future prospect for Loppen, but they didn’t respond.

More photos from Loppen: