“We Have Chosen to Go Down a Risky Path:” What Will Happen To Live Music In The Czech Republic?

The demonstration for live music on Old Town square in Prague used empty music equipment boxes as seats (source: FB)

The limitations on live performing in the Czech Republic will likely last longer than we thought. Starting July 27th, the number of people allowed to gather indoors has been lowered from 1000 to 500, country wide. One thousand people protested on Old Town square in Prague against the lack of clear guidelines and support for the live performance sector. The minister of culture, Lubomír Zaorálek, says artists simply need to learn how to live with this new reality.

Before the demonstration, which happened on July 27th, the minister of culture said he did want to be in dialogue with the live music sector but finds some of the demands unrealistic. He found the idea of allowing performances for over 5000 people particularly fanciful and pointed out that people in surrounding countries are more careful about public events than the Czechs have been.

 „We’ve chosen to go down a risky path and, so far, it’s working out, but the demand to expand the availability of public events is otherworldly,” he said. Some restrictions, he warned, will likely last until the end of the year.

“There will be limitations,” he said. “And artists have to be prepared for those.”

Logo of the #zazivouhudbu initiative

The minister also repeated that he wants to deliberate about further financial support for the entire sector. He pointed out there is already a fund for those who are doing culture-related business, for which the government reserved 900 million CZK (over 34 000 000 Euro). He said further financial support would have to be precisely calculated and proven necessary.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Babiš, the loose association of musicians connected with the hashtag #zazivouhudbu (“for live music”), which also organized the demonstration, stated that:

“We were the first to lose our jobs and, to this day, we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It isn’t clear when we will be able to organize larger events and with what guidelines. The government limited our freedom to do business and to work and has done nothing to help us through this time. Our entire sector is running at 15 percent. Festivals and concerts are being canceled, instruments aren’t being made, businesses that provide technical services for live events are out of work, and the list goes on.”

The goal of the protesters is for the government to lay out clear guidelines and solutions for live music. Among these solutions would be an epidemiological plan for large gatherings, a quick launch of the promised financial support programs, and a plan for how to revive live performing after the crisis is over. They also ask for a systematic lowering of rental costs for venues that are used for live performing.

The Minister of Health, Adam Vojtěch, offered that it is possible to create barriers inside venues which would create spaces for 500 people each, with separate entrances. This would be a go-around for the 500-person rule. This method could theoretically allow venues to increase their capacity to 2500 people.

The association of artists under the hashtag #zazivouhudbu is representing the interests of 130 000 individuals in the classical and popular music sector: artists, authors, dramaturges, promoters, festivals, clubs, music publicists, and various technical professions.

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