A conversation with Max Gadeyne from Ancienne Belgique

Another familiar face for people in the music industry is Max Gadeyne. As a former employee at DBNR (artist management agency for e.g. Bazart, Oscar and the Wolf, Charlotte de Witte, … ed.) and former freelancer for Red Bull Elektropedia. He’s now working as Communications Officer at Ancienne Belgique. Max is a solid reference when it comes to how the crisis is reaping havoc in our cultural landscape. It’s hard enough for the man not seeing his precious ‘Mauves’ (RSC Anderlecht) on the field, but seeing his work and community around it suffering under the harsh but necessary measures put in by the government is worse. How things will go from here at Ancienne Belgique and other concert halls and venues, that’s what we were wondering…

Which measure is still missing, in your opinion?

“On a professional level? None. For the time being, there is only one measure for our sector that you can apply to slow down this phenomenon: not organizing events, no matter how hard it is. Creative solutions such as concert /events for less than 1000 people are useless. I am anxiously awaiting the restart of the sector, because it will be far from easy. How and where do we have to draw a line? How do you weigh medium-sized events against top festivals?”

How do you experience the corona crisis on a professional level?

“Stressful. The future remains vague. I hope that next season we’ll be able to grow back to a “normal” season, but a scenario where we restart our productivity overnight is unlikely at the same time. The lack of clarity by the decision makers makes it very difficult to plan for both the short and long term.”

Are there any measures that AB already had prepared? Some sort of “contingency plan”?

“After the attacks in Paris in November 2015, Brussels was locked down and AB had to close its doors for ten days. It is not a pleasant learning process, but a learning process nonetheless. In that sense, we were sort of prepared.”

How did artists deal with the cancellations?

“I have the impression that the sector understands the situation fairly well. Terribly frustrating when you lose your momentum as an artist, but what can you do? In terms of replacement promotion, many artists seek refuge in creative online solutions. Often inspiring to watch.”

How is AB dealing with it?

“We are in a crisis caused by a phenomenon that is so little known about, which makes it almost impossible to estimate further development or effect in the coming months. We can only continue to plan for the long term, so that we are ready when a restart or relaunch is possible. I am also a project manager for some of our summer festivals (Boterhammen in het Park, Feeërieën, Global Street Sounds). We currently assume that these can continue, but for all we know, we will be told next week that there will be a ban on events this summer. Only option: keep going and be prepared.”

Are there things that you’re trying out which would not be discussed otherwise?

“Completely new things? Not really. Rescheduling concerts and projects and communicating is quite time-consuming. We can brainstorm a bit about projects that have been delayed, but it is not like there’s a lot of extra margin in time now to set up new projects.”

Any new media you’re exploring now?

“No. AB TV and our Youtube channel remain our strong assets and we try to play them out during this period. Through the AB Canapé campaign, we bring concerts to our community instead of the other way around. We’re getting a lot of great feedback on it and plan to continue in this direction.”

Are there learnings you can share?

“As a team, it is certainly a learning in crises communication. As we speak, we’re learning to coordinate tasks even better, double check information and work overarching, all from a distance. Strangely, at these moments, as a group, you also grow closer towards each other, while you have to physically distance yourself. We are also looking for creative ways to continue doing what we are good at: bringing people together through concerts.”

Is there a future for an online concert platform? And please, do elaborate.

It’s hard to say. It might have some potential during these times of crisis. We’re supporting the AU! Livestream Festival, an initiative which is curated by Artist Unlimited and four concert venues; Vooruit, Trix, Handelsbeurs and AB. On Sunday April 26 ten top Belgian acts (among them Tessa Dixson, Faces On TV, Susobrino, Absynthe Minded,…) will give their best during a professionally streamed living room concert. All generated revenues will be used to support artists during these trying times.

I do hope we get to go back to the real deal. A lot of the whole experience begins when people come together. The energy that is released in the dynamics between artist and audience is something that you cannot imitate and therefore will be absent within this concept. That vibe, that feeling is unparalleled.”

How do you think people will change their behavior in your industry in a post-corona era?

“Concertgoers will undoubtedly pay more attention to hygiene and social distance. It will take some time before people feel comfortable attending a concert and crowded places in general, which will also translate into their purchase behavior.”

What do you predict the first concessions that will apply in concert halls will be?

“A revival of our productivity like it was pre-Corona seems whishfull thinking. It is very difficult to say how we can build this up step by step, because how do you define measures for a sector that is so diverse? Is it justified to hold small concerts for 250 people but forbid bigger ones? Close consultation with experts is necessary, but think it will take a while before we can resume everything and pick it up just like it was before. I do believe everything will be fine again, but it will be a long-term job.”

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