Column: The entertainment economy

Do you miss concerts? Are you reminiscing over past festivals, dancing in the knee high mud, holding a beer in one hand a hotdog in the other and making memories with friends? Do you actually miss being touched by the lyrics, words or performances of artists? Are you a little fed up by online entertainment? No more new shows to watch on Netflix? Well, you are probably not alone.

2020 should have been THE summer of our lives but it was quiet in entertainment land like never before. Covid and the lockdown cut of our life from any interaction with others, almost without free movement and with the fear that some incredibly harmful virus is hunting mankind. The general lockdown was lifted in May and June but if you believe everybody just went back to work, you are mistaken. You might be the fortunate one going back to the office or working from home, some of us are still not working at all. Making ends meet without any real perspective. Trapped in an economic system very much dependent on others. 

Happy NY

Imagine you are a sound engineer, a  ticket agency, a catering company, a music hall, a photo or videographer, a stage building company, a toilet lady, a graphic designer etc. In 2019 your schedule was filling up with lots of great projects scheduled in 2020 the year every company, production house and many others wanted to put themselves on the map. You rejoiced the arrival of January 1st. Happy New Year! There was 2020. This was supposed to be OUR year.

But instead life as we knew it stopped. We are heading to a new normal. Shaken to the core. We now speak of a life pre-pandemic and hopefully post-pandemic but right now we are mid-pandemic. Life as we knew it is over. You might be the employee stressed by juggling work from home, with or without kids, with social distancing, zoom calls and virtual happy hours. Many others stare at an empty schedule.

No work, no plans, no income. Events are forbidden, discos are closed, parties are restricted to 10 or 50 people if it’s a funeral. You can mourn the loss of a loved one but you can’t sit with family and friends and share your grief. No weddings with wild parties and drunken aunties, in-laws dancing you into a bright future. Love is from a distance. No theatre plays, no standing ovations, no tears rolling down moved faces. Watching movies in almost empty cinemas, no popcorn anymore just sealed products; a few of the long list of restrictions to protect others and yourself. Imagine a world without movies, concerts, dancing, parties and social interaction. Welcome to the desert of the mind and the spirit. 

Men and women in black

To put any artist on stage and deliver a performance requires a vast ecosystem made up of full time staff, freelancers, SME’s and larger businesses some of them even in the hospitality and travel industry. All of these people earn a living from income provided from an audience or client. The host or performer is just the top of the iceberg. So instead of thinking about your favorite band not being able to perform or a famous Broadway actor being without a job, imagine all the small companies, businesses and people asking themselves every day how they will survive.

The people suffering are the men and women dressed in black. Those you don’t see shining on stage but make everything possible in the dark. There are hundreds of them for every show, event or party you attend. The entertainment business is bleeding. The entertainment pyramid is crippled and starts to deteriorate from the bottom up. This is an economic tragedy with a  Shakespearean twist in an unknown amount of couplets. Don’t tell them to go and find another job, advocate with them and for them. 

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings

Now rest assured, humankind is like a weed, and we will recover from this. Artists will recover. Not all of them unfortunately but they will. And I will support them by going to theatres and movies, concerts and parties as soon as possible. But in the meantime we must face and accept the limitations imposed by our governments. We need to keep explaining to our politicians, who seem to have forgotten all about the entertainment of showbusiness, that entertainment is not a luxury but a necessity. Next time you book a ticket for your entertainment be proud you are helping a family paying for ballet classes or a small business owner being able to invest in a new camera or recruit their first employee. 

I don’t know where and I don’t know when but we will definitely meet them again. Because creativity will never stop flowing, artist will deliver magic again and the crew of men in black will be there to help them do so. 

This article has been written by @VALERIE THYS

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