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Germany: Red tape and fierce competition

Volker May, chair of the IMMF and managing partner of Dortmund venue FZW, outlines the struggles being faced by promoters in Germany

11 Sep 2018

Volker May, IMMF

It is not an easy time for promoters in Germany at the moment.

There are too many offers per genre/ audience, limitations on decibels, changing security requirements and, of course, secondary ticketing and its impacts, including personalised ticketing. Add to that noise pollution claims in venues’ local neighbourhoods, and crowd management, including the local impact of visitors’ arrivals and departures.

Then there’s the new EU GDPR regulation that must be kept in mind when promoting shows to regular customers. And the social security and tax regulations with regional and local differences within a fragmented German market… and these are just a few of the issues that have to be considered when drafting a reliable event costing and turnover estimates.

So, when it comes to delivering successful shows, each region in Germany has specific challenges. Venue owners have been dealing with these issues on a daily basis for years, while also trying hard to provide emerging talent with opportunities to showcase and build a following.

Thanks to some European Commission-funded activities like Liveurope and Europavox, emerging artists have an opportunity to cross borders.A healthy culture market needs, and audiences want, plurality and diversity; it’s where the next trend comes from, so one of the major challenges club owners and local promoters are facing nowadays is how to support local talent in a globalised playlist and festival environment. If they do not succeed, it is just a question of time until Europe loses its cultural richness, and we will see a monoculture-dominated live market – which, to some degree, we already have.

In some music genres, we definitely have a saturated market, but most of the venues that have invested in technology and facilities still maintain a thriving business. The newly opened Warsteiner Music Hall in Dortmund reflects the up-to-date philosophy of venue management.

Alex Richter, managing director of Four Artists Booking GmbH, says: “Particularly in the last five years, the German live market has become more dynamic, and more diverse, but also more fragmented. The fee offer and, in particular, admission prices, have almost doubled, so that I already have the feeling that we are close to the bubble bursting. Especially in the open-air/festival area in Germany, we have reached a saturation limit.

“There’s room in the market for niches, with German-language and regional acts for example”

“On the other hand, there is a lot of interest in high-quality shows. In addition to the artist/show, the venue is a key part of the concert experience: a great venue contributes significantly to the success of a production.

“This was our approach at the Warsteiner Music Hall, which has a capacity of 3,600 visitors. In my opinion, it is the best venue of this size in Germany. It is located in the centre of the Ruhr area with a total population of 5.1 million, so it’s good not just for artists but also for a large audience. With a lot of experience and thought we created a modern venue with the charm of an old industrial hall built in 1903.”

For many years, the company Südpolmusic has worked together with German-language acts, and experienced significant growth doing business in a niche market. According to MD Patrick Oginski, “The German live music market is increasingly divided into nationally active, large-scale marketers and small- to medium-sized tour organisers.

“Fortunately, while the big-players’ tours are about the major cities and often just about market share, there’s room in the market for niches, with German-language and regional acts, for example. This is also a great opportunity for small- and medium-sized companies, who are able to look after live acts more intensively, and with a longer service life and thus establish themselves in the long-term in the live market.”

Juicy Beats Festival booker Uli Künneke warns of an unhealthy business perspective due to the significantly increasing fees and production requirements. “The requirements of the stage directions are getting bigger and bigger,” he reports. “This does not truly reflect if an act is a successful ticket-seller or not. The status of the act is nowadays sometimes linked to the number of trucks and coaches, and stage sizes and roadies. Together with the increasing artist fees for festival performances, this pursuit of scale can drive the presale ticket price into an unhealthy region.”

 


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