The Event Industry on Red Alert – A Flaming Appeal in Germany

Illuminated satellite dishes by Neumann&Müller for the Night of Light

Credit: Neumann&Müller

Red is a color that is associated with fire and blood. It represents strength, power, determination, passion, love, desire, and danger. And it stood for all of that on Monday, June 22 when over 9,000 buildings in more than 1500 cities all over Germany were bathed in bright red as part of the Night of Light initiative. It stood for the passion and love for live experiences that drives every player of the event industry in their jobs day after day, the determination to keep their businesses of all sizes afloat despite the dire circumstances, their desire to go back to producing major live events, the power in numbers, and the acute danger over 1.5 million German jobs are currently in.

To see what has triggered such an unprecedented, nation-wide light show, we have to go back a week in time, or rather, four months. With the coronavirus spreading at a rapid pace, on March 10 Germany was one of the first European countries to restrict large-scale gatherings, immediately plunging the event industry head-first into crisis. After months of surviving solely on digital events and drive-in solutions, production companies’ hopes that from September onward all major events could finally take place were dashed as state leaders agreed last week to extend the ban on large-scale gatherings – business events, conferences, congresses, concerts, festivals or theatrical performances – by at least two months. There are some exceptions to this restriction, such as trade fairs and small events with up to 250 attendees, but only in cases where organizers can guarantee that the necessary hygiene rules are met, and contact tracing is ensured.

The map that shows the majority of the German event industry participates in the Night of Light initiative

Click here to visit the map

This latest setback affects quite a significant part of German economy – its sixth largest branch, the event industry – that was effectively put out of work back in March. A study by the R.I.F.E.L. (Research Institute for Exhibition and Live-Communication) reveals that the domestic events sector injects €130 billion directly into the German economy and generates an annual turnover of over €200 billion. It employs almost 1.5 million people across the country, and it is the bread and butter of more than 3 million people and 300,000 companies: organizers, venues, suppliers, service providers including AV companies, catering businesses, logistics suppliers, artists, event communication agencies, cultural services, etc.

The extended ban on large-scale events by the federal government means that an unimaginable wave of bankruptcies is looming, as by the end of October the majority of the event sector will have to deal with a 80-100% loss in revenues, and not even a fully packed 2021 event calendar. The government has offered loans to businesses, however those only go so far as covering operational costs but do not solve the dire financial situation of business owners, and only create future debts for an industry that is already on its knees. The event industry in Germany encompasses over 150 different trades and special disciplines, which means that there is no single union that represents all employees in the sector. And many fear that without any help, the entire event market will expire within the next 100 days, unless politicians and decision makers come together and start a long overdue dialogue with the industry. If together they can work out a solution, there can still be a way out of this crisis.

A light in the dark

It was to this end that Essen-based live and brand communication company LK-AG initiated the Night of Light campaign (now called the Alarmstufe Rot initiative) as a response to the government’s decision last week, in order to – quite literally – shine a light on the danger that is threatening the livelihood of millions of people. Within only a few days they received an overwhelming response of unity from over 8000 participants who all said “wir sind dabei” (“we are in”). In the end instead of the originally estimated 250 cities more than 1500 took part in the initiative. All kinds of buildings – more than 9000 altogether – such as business headquarters, warehouses, venues, clubs, restaurants and bars, train stations, exhibition centers and museums, landmarks and private homes alike lit up in red all over Germany on Monday night to signal the unity of the event industry, reaching millions of people around the world with awe-inspiring images.

The AV Alliance is heavily represented in Germany with five members and two technology partners. For the entire AV industry this is a fight for survival, and it is far from over; for our friends and long-time partners in Germany it is reaching a whole new level in light of the new restrictions.

For Alexander Ostermaier, CEO of Stuttgart-based Neumann&Müller, it was important to participate to set an example that the event technology industry in Germany presents a united front. “Red as a color is a perfect way to show we’re on red alert and need the government to acknowledge it and help us.” You cannot help but appreciate the symbolism, too: the whole of the industry “being of the red list of endangered species”. During the Night of Light, Neumann&Müller lit up buildings mostly in Stuttgart – including the Fernsehturm TV tower, the Stadt Palais and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – but also participated in the event in Cologne via their partner location Bauwerk Köln, and also lit up the satellite station Radom Raisting in Bavaria.

Satis&fy AG is present in six locations in Germany, and two of those branches – Frankfurt and Berlin – are part of the AV Alliance. For the Night of Light the company went all-out in the six cities and illuminated 12 buildings and landmarks, including the Frendenhagen in Offenbach, close to Frankfurt, the Tempelhof Airport, the Columbia Theater, the Columbiahalle, Kraftwerk, or the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. Nico Ubenauf, co-founder and CEO of Satis&fy AG, is confident that this huge effort of solidarity and silent and peaceful protest has brought public and political attention to the industry more than ever before.

sld mediatec contributed to lighting up its home city of Nuremberg in red: the Germanic National Museum, the Lorenz Church, the Max Morlock Stadium, the Nürnberg Messe, almost all clubs and discotheques and the drive-in cinema located at Albrecht Dürer Airport were illuminated in red. In addition, sld mediatec also lit up venues such as the City Theatre in Fürth, and the chimney of the power plant and the power station itself in Erlangen. For CEO and owner Sebastian Kamm the event was a “very important and signal-setting action which we naturally supported in order to point out the difficult situation of the event industry”.

Our Munich-based member, Limelight Veranstaltungstechnik GmbH covered four locations on its home turf, and lit up not only their offices and warehouse, but also the event venue Corvatsch, which is home to Limelight’s web studio, and with special permit the building of Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, in collaboration with a neon artist Jan Kuck. CEO and owner Oliver Lembke has told us that “in addition, we sent “care packages” of red colored gels to some of our clients so that they could also light up their offices in red in solidarity, and supplied several kits to other companies as well.”

PM Group, whose event technology rental branch PM Blue represents the city of Hamburg within the AV Alliance, also took part in the event in multiple locations. In collaboration with many other companies, they dipped Hamburg’s Reeperbahn and the Spielbudenplatz in red light on Monday. PM Group, headed up by CEO Tobias Lange, did not hesitate to join the event sector in using this initiative to set an example of emergency. “With the Night of Light, the industry is demanding a dialogue with politicians for real help instead of credit programs!”

Standing with the event service providers

Our Germany-based technology partners also took part in the initiative. Our Platinum sponsor and leading manufacturer for sound reinforcement systems d&b audiotechnik illuminated their headquarters in Backnang, Germany in solidarity with the entertainment industry and to raise awareness of the situation that all businesses, manufacturers or technology and service providers alike, are struggling with. For d&b audiotechnik this incredible display of unity is the way to highlight the long term impact of the current crisis on culture, community and individuals, and the way for the government to finally start a meaningful dialogue with the industry to find a solution to the crisis together.

Our Gold partner Sennheiser also took part in the initiative, lighting up the theater of the Innovation Campus at its headquarters in Wedemark, near Hannover, in red. said: “The entire event and music industry has practically come to a standstill as a result of the corona pandemic,” says Daniel Sennheiser, Co-CEO of the leading audio specialist. company. “This hit many of our customers – especially the distributors – very hard, and we too are feeling the effects.”

The same intention was shared by our Silver AV Alliance partner, Germany-based electric chain hoist manufacturer LIFTKET, which also took part in the Night of Light event by bathing their offices in Wurzen, as well as the Nufringen office building of their kinetic solutions manufacturer branch, MOVECAT in red. For them, this flaming appeal was the perfect way to show just how many industry players “from catering to manufacturing, technician to artist” have found themselves in deep trouble because of the pandemic.

Solidarity across the globe

We are also proud to mention all our AV Alliance members and partners in other parts of the world who, like so many others, did not hesitate to stand in solidarity with the German event industry. Habegger Switzerland, owned by Simon Ackermann, the founder of the AV Alliance, lit up in red in five locations: Hallenstadion Zurich, Lake Side Zurich, Trafo Baden, Kursaal Bern, Volksaal Bern, and of course their own Zurich-based headquarters. Neumann&Müller Event Technology, LLC illuminated their office building in Dubai “to make some noise and raise the level of awareness of people, especially in authorities” to the economic devastation that the pandemic has brought to live events. ES:ME Entertainment Services in Qatar lit up their Doha offices and warehouse building “in solidarity not only with our German colleagues, but our colleagues everywhere”.

Our Platinum sponsor and global manufacturer of award-winning entertainment/theatrical lighting technology, ELATION Professional proudly joined the good cause in support of their German partners, and their European headquarters in Kerkrade, The Netherlands glowed in a wash of red on Monday night. Our Netherlands-based Gold partner and leading international supplier of high-quality aluminium truss systems, Eurotruss was also dedicated to stand in solidarity with the industry and illuminated their sales office in Germany as part of the Night of Light event.

The message has been loud and clear, and it went up like a giant emergency signal flare over an entire country, a shout for help hopefully impossible to ignore by politicians and decision makers. It can be taken as a reassuring sign that on Wednesday, June 24 the first discussion between members of the German Bundestag and the organizers of the Night of Light took place. The unprecedented display of unity and integrity of all players of the German event industry is exemplary for not just the global sector but for other industries as well, and it has one other message that should not be lost on anyone. It showed us that despite all the hardships and setbacks that 2020 has brought not just to the event industry but to all aspects of our lives, there are still and will always be lights – in this case powerful, professional lighting equipment – in the dark that show us the way out of this crisis.

It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn“, wrote Thomas Fuller, so let us hope that all these red lights also signaled the dawn of a hopeful new day.