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Amazing Artistic Achievements: Triple A Entertainment at 20

If Pete Wilson and Dennis Arnold of Triple A Entertainment were writing their own 20th anniversary testimonial, it might go something like: “Twenty years of promoting and producing events. Not rocket science. Let’s not (ironically) make a big song and dance about it.”

In an industry with plenty of big talkers and impresarios, Triple A are the least self-promoting promoters you will find. They don’t put their name on the poster, they don’t tend to do interviews (they would have been just as happy, you suspect, not to do this one) and you’ll search in vain for a website. And in a world of corporate power and shareholder value, they do what they fancy doing, keep things sensible and run their business the way they want to.

Together, promoter Wilson and production man Arnold have run tour after tour for acts like Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Paul Weller, Ray Davies, the Beach Boys, and The Cure; organised the 2002 Royal Albert Hall tribute to George Harrison; sold a million tickets for Steps; and guided Boyzone, Kylie, Jason Donovan, Five, Westlife, Blazin’ Squad, Lord of the Dance, WWE, Shaolin Monks, Harlem Globetrotters and many others through the arenas of this land.

But for some reason, the story Wilson tells that seems to make the most meaningful point about the particular way they do things involves boisterous, Test Match Special anecdote machine, Henry Blofeld. “We did his 70th birthday at the Albert Hall,” says Wilson. “There were 2,000 tickets, it needed 1,800 to break even and I think it did 1,750, so it lost a little bit of money. But it’s something we wanted to do,” he explains. “We’re cricket fans.”

Wilson and Arnold do a lot of work in that kind of spirit, from bailing out and professionalising Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Music Festival, just because they liked it, to faithfully promoting much-loved established acts of a more modest size who might not strike a different kind of company as being worth the sweat.

“There are a lot of things we do because they need to be done,” says Wilson. “And it’s our money. We don’t have masters; we don’t have shareholders or some American saying, ‘listen, this has got to make a certain amount.’ We have shows that the odd one doesn’t do very well but we don’t pull the ads – we keep advertising. Which probably isn’t a great business decision, but that’s how we do things.”

The world has plenty of principled little indies of a certain age – for the time being, at least – but Triple A isn’t just that. Powered by a team of six – Wilson, Arnold, Jeanne White, Fiona Atwood and longstanding freelance producers Dan Scott and Jolyon Burnham – they were the 25th-biggest promoter in the world last year, with 650,000 tickets sold, according to Pollstar.

“They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background”

At the time of writing, current projects are as diverse as shows for David Crosby, Paul Weller and Roger Waters, the touring production of Dirty Dancing and new WWE dates. Ask around and you hear it again and again: they’re not flash about it but they’re very good at what they do.

“Pete is definitely one of the best promoters in the country, by far,” says United Talent’s Gary Howard, a friend since his days as a young club agent in the 1990s. “His knowledge is second to none and he is one of the best marketing guys in the business. Everything I have ever done with them has always been a huge success.”

ILMC founder and former Primary Talent MD Martin Hopewell concurs: “They are extraordinary promoters, and incredibly modest – they just keep themselves in the background,” he says. “I like a lot of the people in the business who are larger than life. But Pete and Dennis are the opposite of that, and really they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Because when you look at the artists they have worked with and the things they have pulled off, it’s quite incredible.”

Wilson has a matter-of-fact explanation. “We have been doing it for a long time,” he says. “We know what works and what doesn’t work.” Certain things typify the Triple A approach. They retain a fondness for traditional advertising, and they don’t much love social media. They hang onto their friends for a long time, and don’t poach anyone else’s artists. They don’t do much dressing-room schmoozing. And, setting aside the recent retirement of finance man Martyn Stanger, one of the three founding ‘A’s, they are lifers, doing it because they love it.

“Everyone they take on, they are passionate about,” says Dan Scott. “They will do all manner of things but usually there’s an interest behind it: music they like, something they find exciting or they can see an opportunity in it.”

Some of their eye for an opportunity they picked up under Harvey Goldsmith, for whom Wilson worked for 18 years, Arnold for nine. “I used to run a stagehand company before that,” says Wilson. “I actually built the Wall at Earl’s Court – I physically put the bricks in. And then a year later I was the promoter that was selling it.”


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Big Concerts mobilises lawyers over Sara ‘racism’ claims

South Africa’s biggest promoter, Big Concerts, is considering taking legal action against the South African Roadies Association (Sara) and its president, Freddie Nyathela, over allegedly defamatory remarks posted about the company on social media.

Nyathela has used the impending visit of Global Citizen Festival, the UN-backed series of benefit concerts, to South Africa (Beyoncé and Jay-Z will headline Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, held in Johannesburg on 2 December) to once more draw attention to what he sees as the company’s failure to nurture young – especially black – backstage talent in the country.

The dispute dates back to at least the turn of the millennium, with a report in the 3 April 2000 issue of Pollstar reporting Sara – which provides young people with accredited training in ‘backstage’ skills including lighting, sound, staging, power, rigging, AV and production – had organised protests against the alleged “racist activities of Big Concerts”. “Big Concerts doesn’t want visiting personnel to conduct workshops for the disadvantaged,” said Nyathela at the time.

“They’re against technical and production skills development, and the sharing of information.”

Both Nyathela and Sara have spent the past two weeks furiously tweeting at Global Citizen, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and Big Concerts and its parent company, Live Nation, accusing them of, among other things, “systemic racism” and “Apartheid”-like conduct for their alleged support for “the development of the industry and youth empowerment in Europe/UK and [the] Americas but not in Africa”.

In a latter dated 23 August 2018, Big Concerts’ lawyers, George van Niekerk and Wim Steyn of Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENSafrica), accuse Nyathela and Sara of conducting an “extensive and malicious smear campaign against our clients” and Attie Van Wyk, Big Concerts’ founder and chairman, “with the view to extorting some undisclosed benefit, probably of a selfish financial nature.”

ENSafrica gave Nyathela and Sara until today (31 August) to withdraw their “defamatory” statements and publish an apology, or face “urgent legal action”.

According to Sara’s lawyer, Graeme Gilfillan of Nisa Global Entertainment, the association won’t be doing so, and is “obliged to defend” its case in a court of law.

Recalling Linkin Park’s visit to Sara in 2012, Gilfillan says Sara alleges Big Concerts has previously tried to block artists and organisations from working with it. “You may recall Linkin Park were out in South Africa and wanted to do a workshop for Sara,” he tells IQ. “Big Concerts, who were the promoters, refused to have the workshop at the venue – and tried their level best to block the workshop. Undeterred, Linkin Park left the venue and went to Sara House to conduct the workshop.”

“In the current instance,” he continues, “after Sara had initiated communication direct with Global Citizen, who indicated a keenness to include skills development, Global Citizen advised that they would be consulting their production partner in South Africa: Big Concerts. True to form, Big Concerts were having no Sara, no skills development or the like, and the impact was such that Global Citizen disappeared without a single response. Five unanswered emails later, and the penny dropped.”

“This allegation or insinuation is without merit”

Justin van Wyk, son of Attie and Big Concerts’ CEO, dismisses Sara’s allegations as baseless, pointing to Global Citizen’s training scheme for South Africa, the Global Citizen Skills Training Program, which includes an event management and production element – and which the promoter “intends to get behind in a big way”.

“Global Citizen published a request for proposals on 20 August,” van Wyk explains. “Mr Nyathela knows, or should know, that interested parties have until 3 September to submit their proposals, and that after a review of the proposals by a selection panel, shortlisted organisations will be asked to interview in mid-September, and the final selection will occur by the end of September.

“We’re not on the selection panel – and it’s obvious that it is not 3 September, nor the end of September, as yet – so this allegation or insinuation is without merit.”

Gilfillan says Sara disagrees, explaining that the Global Citizen Skills Training Program was not launched until 20 August – Sara has been speaking to Global Citizen since late July – and is therefore, in its opinion, “a Johnny-come-lately, knee-jerk reaction” to “Sara taking to social media”. “The Global Citizen Skills Training Program is not accredited under SAQA (the South African Qualification Authority) in respect of event, technical and production skills, and is viewed as a sloppy attempt, it is alleged, to parade a development agenda that is doomed to fail,” he adds.

Both parties have said they reserve the right to make representations to South Africa’s Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts

That’s far wide of the mark, counters Van Wyk, who says the programme is, “in our considered opinion as the market leader for the past 29 years, the most comprehensive skills transfer programme ever undertaken for the live music industry in South Africa, and they [Sara] should fully support it if their intentions are indeed skills development and transformation of the technical and production industry.

“That’s what we’re going to be doing, and have been doing long before the most recent round of vitriol from Mr Nyathela and the extensive and malicious smear campaign that he is engaged in.”

“We are very proud of our association with Gearhouse South Africa,” he adds, “and our ongoing support of the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy, which is an accredited training provider that offers a free-of-charge, in-house annual learnership and trains technica- and production industry entrants to globally recognised best practice. To date, the Gearhouse Kentse Mpahlwa Academy has produced more than 450 graduates who have participated in skills transfer opportunities and skills transfer situations with international production teams at many of the first-class productions presented by Big Concerts.”

With the dispute looking increasingly likely to head to court, both parties have also said they reserve the right to make representations to South Africa’s Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts.

Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, produced in partnership with Big Concerts, will take place on 2 December at FNB Stadium (94,736-cap.) in Johannesburg. Other performers include Usher, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Femi Kuti and Pharrell Williams with Chris Martin (Coldplay).


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CMA UK begins legal action against Viagogo

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has brought legal proceedings against Viagogo in the UK’s High Court for its continued failure to “overhaul the way [it does] business”, the competition watchdog announced this morning.

Following a nearly year-long investigation into the secondary ticketing sector, the CMA said last November it would take consider taking legal action against websites it suspected of breaking UK consumer law, giving the sites in question a deadline of spring 2018 to get their houses in order. Three of those four sites – StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave, the latter pair of which are in the process of being closed down – complied in April, agreeing to a set of new transparency measures, with Viagogo the last hold-out.

“Despite being warned a failure to do likewise would result in court action, Viagogo has not offered to make the changes the CMA considers necessary to bring it in line with the law,” reads a CMA statement. “Legal proceedings have therefore been brought in the High Court.”

Andrea Coscelli, the authority’s CEO, says: “People who buy tickets on websites like Viagogo must be given all the information they are entitled to. It’s imperative they know key facts, including what seat they will get and whether there is a risk they might not actually get into the event, before parting with their hard-earned money.

“While other businesses have agreed to overhaul their sites to ensure they respect the law, Viagogo has not”

“This applies to Viagogo as much as it does to any other secondary ticketing websites. Unfortunately, while other businesses have agreed to overhaul their sites to ensure they respect the law, Viagogo has not. We will now be pursuing action through the courts to ensure that they comply with the law.”

“Given the importance of ensuring its concerns are addressed promptly”, the CMA is also seeking an interim enforcement order from the court that, if successful, will come into force in the period leading up to the full trial.

A spokesperson for anti-ticket touting organisation comments: “FanFair Alliance warmly welcomes today’s announcement by the Competition and Markets Authority, as will the countless consumer victims of Viagogo. Hopefully it spells the endgame to this site’s misleading and abhorrent practices.”

Outside of the UK, Viagogo faces the prospect of legal action in GermanyFranceSpain and Switzerland, as well as New Zealand and Australia.


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IPRS goes digital to combat unlicensed events

For the first time, the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) is allowing event promoters to pay digitally for the use of its members’ repertoire, in a bid to increase copyright compliance in a country where as many of 90% of live events go ahead without an IPRS licence.

Javed Akhtar, chairman of the performance rights organisation, explains: “IPRS wants to ensure that purchasing of licences by the organiser for any event, big or small and anywhere in the country, can be done at the click of a mouse.

“This step will bring total transparency and [increase] ease of doing business with the society to the benefit of everybody concerned. On the other hand, events organisers should have no excuse any more for not obtaining the licence required under the law.”

According to Rakesh Nigam, IPRS CEO, the society is “committed to going all-digital”, mirroring the ongoing move away from paper money in India, especially since late 2016’s demonetisation crisis.

“Events organisers should [no longer] have an excuse for not obtaining the licence required under the law”

“It requires substantial investment by the society over the medium term,” he continues, “but our top priority is to take out the friction from the licensing process: removing negotiations and cash payments from the system will increase efficiency and transparency, and save time and costs for everyone.”

According to RNM, Rakesh, along with his counterpart at India’s Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), revealed recently that of the more than 80,000 events organised in India last year, just 10% had a valid licence.

IPRS, headquartered in Mumbai (Bombay), is India’s only government-authorised royalty collection society for music authors, composers and publishers.


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European PROs drum up support before second Article 13 vote

Global music rights bodies, including the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (Cisac), European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (Gesac) and International Council of Music Authors (CIAM), today launched Europe for Creators, a new venture aimed at securing a vote in favour of the controversial EU Copyright Directive on 12 September.

The second vote follows an earlier defeat for the bill, on 5 July, which was met with disappointment by much of the music industry. Music industry bodies, especially collection societies/performance rights organisations, and their counterparts in the tech sector are sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

Article 13, if passed, would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works.

Internet freedom activists claim this would effectively ban memes – the internet fads, often in the form of a humorous picture or video overlaid with text, that spread virally across the web – leading creators to repackage popular memes sans copyrighted material, to highlight what they see as the absurdity of the proposed legislation.

This, however, is not true, says Europe for Creators: memes and animated gifs are already protected under existing legislation, Directive 2001/29/EC, with companies such as Google – the owner of YouTube, a platform frequently targeted by those wishing to close the ‘value gap’ between the online use of music and payment of creators – simply wishing to “hide” from their responsibilities to fairly compensate authors.

“We have enriched the lives of Europeans, and now we are calling on Europe to act”

In a launch statement, Europe for Creators says it calls on “all citizens to preserve culture and democracy in Europe” in the face of what it calls a “massive lobbying campaign” by tech companies, who, it is alleged, are profiting from the use of music online without fairly remunerating creators.

“Digital economic powers continue to profit as working artists struggle to make ends meet,” says Véronique Desbrosses (pictured), Gesac’s general manager. “The balance between the revenues generated by internet platforms and the money they give to the creators who are responsible for their success is entirely distorted.”

In the coming days, the coalition will send an open letter to all members of the European parliament, “activat[ing] them in this fight”, as well as organising “strike events” to take place in several European cities in the run-up to the vote.

“The creative and cultural industry in the European Union represents €536 billion per year, more than the combined revenue of the automotive and telecoms sectors, and is responsible for 12 million jobs,” says Desbrosses. “We have enriched the lives of Europeans, and now we are calling on Europe to act.”


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Troxy becomes “world’s biggest mobile-only venue”

East London’s Troxy has agreed a ticketing deal with Dice, in a partnership the mobile ticket seller says makes it the “world’s biggest mobile-only venue”.

The 3,100-capacity venue, on Commercial Road in Stepney, follows Scala in King’s Cross and Islington Assembly in going mobile with Dice, whose app ties tickets to the mobile device from which they were bought, making unauthorised resale impossible.

Tom Sutton-Roberts, the Troxy’s GM, says: “We may be one of London’s oldest independent venues but we’re proud to say that we’re still standing strong. Teaming up with Dice showcases a new chapter for us.

“As the world’s biggest mobile-only venue, we’re embracing innovative technology that favours fans and artists to bring spectacular performances to our stage.”

Russ Tannen, UK managing director of Dice, adds: “We have to beat the touts. Troxy joining the Dice family is a big win for fans who won’t be seeing inflated prices at this iconic venue.”


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DEAG to issue bond after strong H1 2018

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has announced plans to issue a new corporate bond to finance further growth after a strong start to 2018.

According to provisional financial results, the Berlin-based promoter recorded a 34.2% increase in turnover in the first half (H1) of 2018, to €118 million – up from €87.9m the previous year –while earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) grew to €8.1m, from €2.2m in H1 2017.

The figures are adjusted to account for the recent acquisition of 49% of DEAG Classics and the sale of Raymond Gubbay Ltd, with a profit on deconsolidation of €5.3m.

According to the company, “a number of event highlights contributed to its positive development [in H1 2018]. For instance, DEAG had a successful first half year with open-air events, rock/pop tours, classical events, theatre productions and events for the entire family, as well as the ticketing business, in its core markets.

“With a well-filled pipeline of events and over 2m tickets already sold, DEAG has a solid basis for further development”

“DEAG’s operations are thus well on target for 2018 as a whole. Besides its positive development, measures were also taken to increase the earnings per share attributable to shareholders by reducing minority interests. For example, DEAG acquired 49% of DEAG Classics AG and now holds 100% of the shares. Furthermore, DEAG bought back 24.9% of the shares in MyTicket AG and now holds 75.1% of the company.

“DEAG also underscored the growth focus of its business in the UK by acquiring 100% of the shares of the Belladrum Festival in Scotland, which sold out for the ninth consecutive year in 2018.

“With a well-filled pipeline of events and over two million tickets already sold, DEAG has a solid basis for further development in the financial year. The executive board confirms the sales and earnings forecast for the full year 2018.”

DEAG has appointed IKB Deutsche Industriebank of Dusseldorf to handle the issuing of the bond, expected later in the year.

DEAG’s final H1 2018 results will be published in full tomorrow (31 August).


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AMG expands venue portfolio in Manchester

Academy Music Group, the UK’s leading venue operator, has entered into a lease agreement with Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse, adding the property to its 19-strong venue portfolio.

The 300,000sqft events and hospitality venue – of which AMG will lease a 90,000sqft music and conference space, including the 3,500-capacity auditorium – will be renamed O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester as of 1 September 2018.

Located in Stretford, the venue was originally home to two monumental warehouses, built by the Liverpool Warehousing Company in 1925 and 1936, which dominated Manchester’s canalside. It was renovated as a venue in 2009, with multiple rooms and various formats and configurations.

“Manchester’s warehouses are so important to the history of the city. They give Manchester its local distinctiveness, identity and character,” comments Graham Walters, CEO of Academy Music Group, whose shareholders include Live Nation (LN-Gaiety and Metropolis Music) and SJM Concerts.

“We are delighted to welcome this stunning venue in a prime city to our group”

“Iconic venues are the lifeblood of what we do, and we have significant expertise in running some of the most historically important entertainment venues in the world. We are delighted to welcome this stunning venue in a prime city to our group, especially as Manchester is such an integral part of the UK’s live music scene.”

Gareth Griffiths, head of sponsorship at O2, which recently renewed its naming-rights deal with AMG, adds: “The new O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester is a brilliant addition to our O2 Academy estate and further demonstrates O2 and Academy Music Group’s commitment to live music in Manchester. This expands Priority Tickets for O2 customers 48 hours before general release, and we can’t wait for more late nights in this fantastic city of musical heritage.”

Venue owner James Cohen, of VW Group, comments: “We are delighted to have entered into a lease agreement with Academy Music Group for our large music and conference space […]. It’s a fantastic move for our site to add both live music and club shows by partnering with AMG.

“The VW Group will continue to deliver all corporate event business and to place music shows at the venue, thus working hand-in-hand to drive profitability. This deal is testament to our vision to create one of the most iconic events and hire spaces in Manchester.”


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The Garage: grassroots venue launches campaign to safeguard future

In the last ten years, 35% of London’s grassroots music venues have shut down amid soaring rents and pressure from property development. Among those facing closure is the Garage, the Islington venue that sits on land earmarked for the redevelopment of Highbury & Islington tube station.

The threat first appeared back in February, Matthew Cook, appointed programmer for the venue last November, explains. An “ambiguous” letter was sent from Islington Council, suggesting the venue could be demolished to make way for redevelopment, though no timeline was given.

“It was basically a letter from the council saying, ‘We can do whatever we want, whenever we want,'” Cook says.

In the near half-year since the letter was sent, there has been no communication between the Garage, Islington Council or Transport for London (TfL). When locals got wind of the news, a campaign was started on behalf of the venue. Supporters created a petition with the intention of getting the venue recognised as an ‘asset of value’ to the local community, a status that would strengthen its case for remaining open.

“Having to jump through these hoops seems slightly ridiculous considering we have been an iconic Islington venue for the last 25 years,” Cook tells IQ. “But we are boosted by the amount of people who are behind us.”

It’s the “ghosts of past performers” that makes a venue what it is.

The community response prompted a vow from TfL and Islington Council, reported by the Islington Gazette, that the venue would be “protected or re-provided”. But, calling on the example of the Marquee Club, whose relocation away from Soho proved unsuccessful, Cook explains it’s the “ghosts of past performers” that makes a venue what it is.

The grassroots club, bought by DHP Family in 2016, has been a staple of Islington nightlife since it opened in 1993. World-renowned bands have played the 600-capacity venue, including Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Blur and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Tracing the footsteps of such bands is an important experience for emerging talent, says Cook. “People use the Garage as a way to get their career from A to Z.”

“We are encouraged to hear the positive news that they [Tfl and Islington Council] are considering the Garage now, but we would like some direct communication,” he adds. “We need these promises fleshed out and an assurance that the love we are putting into this place is worthwhile.”

Beyond the immediate threat from developers, Cook is keen to point out that grassroots venues like the Garage are just as threatened by the rising cost of operating as they are by redevelopment. “There’s various ways to skin a cat, and there’s various ways to get rid of businesses,” he says.

“Our business rates have gone up 70% since 2016. You don’t need bulldozers to demolish a venue”

“Our business rates have gone up 70% since 2016. You don’t need bulldozers to demolish a venue.

With constant pressure, the psychological effect on venue staff can be severe, Cook adds. “We [DHP Family] took on the Garage knowing the current hostile climate for grassroots venues. We knew it was a challenge, but we rebuilt and refurbished it completely.

“But with this threat constantly looming, it is hard to maintain the level on enthusiasm needed to operate a small venue. We don’t know if things will happen in a few months or a few years, or at all.”

In recent weeks, staff have upped the campaign to safeguard its future. The campaign seeks to keep local residents informed of the Garage’s fight against closure, and encourage registered voters to continue to sign the petition that will give the venue its ‘asset of value’ status. “We’ve helped to set up a Friends of the Garage Facebook group for the local residents to express their support of this iconic venue.

“We would urge anyone wanting to show their support to join the group where we will be posting regular updates.”

November will see the venue celebrate its 25th anniversary. To mark the milestone birthday, a series of shows have been planned in partnership with the charity WarChild UK.

Those wishing to keep up to date with developments in the campaign can visit the Friends of the Garage Facebook page.


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Report: International festival experiences growing in popularity

Online festival booking platform Festicket has released the details of a report that shows more and more UK festivalgoers making the trip abroad for their experiences in 2018.

According to the data, collected from Festicket’s 2.5 million users, the number of fans going abroad for their festival experiences this season rose by 29%. Hungary saw the biggest rise in popularity, with a 773% growth in visitors. Among Hungary’s biggest attractions is Sziget Festival, which this year welcomed 565,000 visitors across its week-long programme. Following behind Hungary were Spain, Portugal and Belgium, which all saw a surge in popularity across the season, with visitor numbers rising 132%, 127% and 120% respectively.

“The industry is now catering to a real variety of different travellers”

Also revealed in the report was the changing preferences of festivalgoers in regards to accommodation. Whilst 43% of festivalgoers remain loyal to the traditional tent, there is an increasing tendency towards hotels (31%) and apartments (16%). This is reflective of the wider trend of festivalgoers spending more money on their experiences than in previous years, with the average in 2018 being €167 per trip.

Commenting on the results, Zack Sabban, CEO and co-founder of Festicket, says, “We’re thrilled to see our customers become more adventurous: they are clearly happy to bounce across the continent to see their favourite artists live.

“The industry is now catering to a real variety of different travellers.”


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