Like many, Tim Vanhaecke (42) shared this week’s bitter cynicism-drenched death advertisement from the culture sector on his Facebook page: ‘Fought its fight and was ignored by the government: the culture and events sector. Never mind: 80,000 employees and a turnover of 23.8 billion euros and work for 12.9 percent of the total number of self-employed people in Flanders. ‘
Our eye fell on another photo on his page late last week: the sales ad for his tour bus. Because he had transported us with his dark gray Ford to the loft of singer Eefje de Visser, who recorded her concert film there. It is one of the last trips made by the small coach for professional reasons. The tour and production manager got rid of his van this week. The monthly leasing weighed too heavily.
“The buyer will pick it up tomorrow,” he says in his parents’ driveway, where Vanhaecke lives for the time being, while he pulls open the rear door. “I just have to unscrew this.” He points to two signs full of stickers of Belgian artists that he has driven to concerts in Belgium and the Netherlands in recent years: Pregnant Guy, Tourist LeMC, J. Bernardt, Stikstof, Pomrad and blackwave. In between, a handful of ‘all areas stickers’ from Ancienne Belgique, where Vanhaecke has freelanced as production manager in recent years. He is one of the 200 employees who was forced to close the Brussels concert hall early this week due to a lack of income due to the corona crisis.
Selling his van was an emotional decision, but he had to. Since the beginning of March, Vanhaecke has seen more than a hundred orders go up in smoke with his one-man company Number One Entertainment. Due to the dire prospects for the concert world, another 60 working days have been cut from the calendar until December. ‘This was going to be my best year ever. I had just landed a major contract with a theater company for a summer tour of France, Austria and Spain. There was so much work that I would gather around me a crew of outside drivers. (laugh) I seemed on my way to becoming a real company. ‘
This had to be my best year ever.
De Hallenaar worked as a tour manager for seven years. He got a taste for the Brussels casino Viage. After several years in the marketing department, he was allowed to do the production of concerts. He came into contact with the tour managers of Prince, Vaya Con Dios and other greats. ‘I was completely jealous of their job. The great thing about the profession of tour manager is that we make life easier for others. You organize the entire tour of the band, bring everyone safely and on time to the ‘venue’, that everything is in order on the spot. You are a family couple, you go out together and you take care of each other. ‘
Due to corona, he has to say goodbye to those families. Just today he is starting a new chapter in his life. The buyer comes to pick up his van and he goes to apply, in another sector. ‘I hope to find work by September, because with a bridging loan of 1,200 euros, a person will not jump very far.’ Vanhaecke hopes to be able to work in the film and TV sector. He is undergoing web training as a Covid-19 safety coordinator on film sets. But a guarantee on work is not. ‘We are 27 participants. That is quite a lot. The film industry faces a difficult restart and most of the other participants are already working in it. Anyway: if it doesn’t work, I will have another experience that I can take with me if I return to the music world after corona. ‘
‘Damage is done’
Will the music world still look the same post corona? With long days, irregular hours and a lot of evening and night work. Vanhaecke has made up a lot of quality time with friends and family in recent months. He was not the only one who enjoyed it, he heard from colleagues who also fell silent due to corona. ‘If even a fraction of all colleagues who have fallen by the wayside do not return because they no longer want such a hectic life, a lot of knowledge and experience will be lost.’
The request from the Flemish government to the municipalities to be lenient with event organizers comes too late. Our year is already broken.
Several people from the Belgian music world rang the alarm this week. The resurgence of the virus has led to multiple local authorities canceling events in recent weeks. ‘I feel a lot of anger around me, while the sector has adapted enormously. We do everything we can to safely organize events and concerts. The Vraag of the Flemish government to the municipalities to be lenient with event organizers comes too late. Our year is already broken. The damage is done. ‘