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Home » I would like my children to be able to go to a concert without fear of physical harm

I would like my children to be able to go to a concert without fear of physical harm

De Volkskrant Diederik Van Vleuten Peter Gabriel in Concert

In self-protection, theater producer Diederik van Vleuten has decided he will no longer go to concerts. He calls for swift, crystal-clear legislation on maximum decibels to finally protect concertgoers from hearing damage.

On Monday, I and the rest of a sold-out Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam enjoyed legend Peter Gabriel who, with his world-class band consisting of legends as great as bassist Tony Levin and drummer Manu Katché, could finally be heard live again. And how. After the second song, I rushed with my 17-year-old son (yes, him too) to the service counter to purchase earplugs. I had, against my better judgment, forgotten that one for a moment.

I have hardly gone to pop concerts for many years, for that very reason. Not even in much smaller venues than Ziggo Dome. I want to keep my hearing intact. That, as insane as it is worrisome, is no longer possible without solid protection. Not even at concerts by a recognized audiophile like Peter Gabriel.

Sound engineers and organizers too often claim the same thing: There is no other way in such venues. And, convenient deadpan: it’s also about the ‘experience’. As I stood at the service counter, I saw people walking out with their fingers in their ears. Back home. Had those earplugs not been on sale I would have done the same thing. So much for the ‘experience’.

Sound terror

Don’t come to me with “you know that, right? Don’t come to me with ‘then you should bring earplugs’. Also, definitely don’t come at me with “this isn’t for people over 60 either” when my 17-year-old son also puts his earplugs in as fast as he can. This sound terror is an outright physical assault with catastrophic consequences. A hearing impairment is not for a moment, but for life. Especially for the younger generation, who, seriously, already don’t know any better.

People are largely responsible for their own actions. So do concertgoers. But in practice, apparently only one thing fits here: swift, crystal-clear legislation on the maximum number of decibels a human being may be exposed to. And then go below that. Nothing maximum but normal. Healthy. Not listening to sound engineers and event organizers who all have their own reasons for not having to turn down the volume. Especially let the doctors and people with permanent hearing damage have their say. Put your ear to the ground there. Will be a short conversation.

I invite the entire cabinet to attend the next pop concert. In a large or smaller venue. At my expense. On one condition: All come and from start to finish without hearing protection. Let’s see how long the well-meaning exploratory discussion that is being held about hearing damage and protection lasts then. No, this was not a joke and not meant to be playful. I mean it, because it is worrisome.

Political intervention

I am by no means the first to say this. Ticketswap, major player in the pop and festival ticketing and exchange market recognizes the problem and is helping to find solutions. Colleague Stephen Emmer, now a tinnitus patient, is demanding intense hearing everywhere for a problem that also has a social side. He founded the Artists Against Tinnitus foundation and started a petition against hearing damage (to be signed until 1-10-2023). Where are the limits and where should politicians intervene to protect citizens, in this case hundreds of thousands of concertgoers each year? Not driving faster than 100 here is obvious. Those who will not hear should feel it and get an envelope in the mail. Last Monday I also heard and certainly felt. Despite my quickly procured protection, the evening sizzled after.

Peter Gabriel, in short, was deafeningly good. His In Your Eyes got Ziggo out of the seats. Goosebumps. Superb. But now In Your Ears. Sort out that legislation, Cabinet, and do it quickly. Out of self-protection, I think my beloved Gabriel was also my last concert. You certainly don’t have to worry about that. My concern is for my children, the younger generations, who hopefully have a lifetime of carefree music enjoyment ahead of them. Without fear of possible bodily harm. Because that is what it is and nothing else.

Let this cry for help not fall on deaf ears. Cause then you’re too late. That, unfortunately, is a good tradition in Dutch politics. And traditions are there to be broken.

[De Volkskrant/LinkedIn – Diederik van Vleuten – 7 Juni 2023]