Back in USSR: Belarus introduces censorship for cover bands in bars
Once at a concert / Euroradio
What has changed, and how do we work now?
Musicians who make their living performing live in Belarusian clubs and bars talk about the scheduled concerts being suddenly canceled.
"Last week, I had three concerts canceled," one of the artists told Euroradio. "These are not some underground concerts; we usually work under contract. The bar just received some papers saying they now have to get approval for all the artists, and the guys said they would look into the procedure. They asked me to send them my passport data and repertoire in another place, and the performance took place. I've heard that musicians are also asked if they had any administrative violations after the elections in 2020, so it's clear what all this is about. The situation is unpleasant: I work full-time as a musician. It's not a side job. An hour's performance in a bar brings in about 100-150 rubles. Last week, I was basically left without a money-earning job. It is difficult to get a visa, so I cannot go to work abroad yet".
Other artists described similar cases.
"The officials check the lists of musicians and the songs they sing," says another artist. "If something doesn't suit them, they ask the organizers to cancel the performance without explaining the reason. That's already happened to some people I know. So there comes the real Soviet Union. Many colleagues have already left; we are also ready to leave".
"Just a few months ago, the club canceled my book launch because it was supposed to feature musicians who apparently didn't please the authorities. I moved it to another venue without those musicians, but they turned me down again," said one of the local writers.
She sang a Ukrainian song and pissed everybody off?
The situation with making money from creativity is aggravated by the fact that in Minsk, for example, some venues, where concerts were systematically held, are closed. The TNT club is under renovation, while the "Berlin" club is closed.
"We decided not to hold any events at all," one of the Belarusian bars told us. "Submit a list of artists? We don't know who and how will get screwed and how it will affect us later".
One of the concert organizers says: the officials have previously warned that everyone who organizes an event in Belarus, must apply for inclusion in the register of the organizers of cultural and entertainment events.
How to become an official organizer
There is a whole section on the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus which is dedicated to the procedure of including artists in the register the organizers of cultural and entertainment events:
"Legal entities, individual entrepreneurs, foreign or international organizations holding cultural and spectacular events which include the public performance of the results of creative activity by artistic groups or individual performers are subject to inclusion in the register.
Cultural and entertainment events include plays, concerts, performances and any other cultural events, the public performance of the results of creative activity by artistic groups or individual performers (festivals, parties, celebrations, corporate parties, anniversaries, theatrical processions, carnivals, circus performances, shows, battles, award ceremonies, beauty contests, fashion shows and accessories, opening and closing ceremonies of sports, scientific, economic and other events).
Individual performers include actors, musicians-instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, circus performers, original genre artists (magicians, illusionists, demonstrators of fire shows and others), songwriters, readers, presenters, animators and other persons who publicly perform the results of creative activity".
To be included in the register, the organizer must send an application to the Ministry of Culture, as well as personal data, consent to processing personal data and a statement of offenses stored in the unified state database of offenses.
The examination of documents takes 20 days. During this time, the Republican Expert Commission for the formation and maintenance of the register decides whether to include the organizers there or not.
As long as there is no permit, organizers cannot hold events. But the circus works, so even if all the artists who can't make money in Belarus today are left without food, the country's citizens won't be left without a performance.
One of the state bookstores told Euroradio that state institutions that hold events do not need special permits from officials.