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Dutch demand for live entertainment has never been higher, but ticket prices, stage availability, and burnt-out personnel are issues
By Adam Woods on 16 Jan 2019
The big birthday in the Netherlands this year is, of course, that of Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts: 50 years old and still thoroughly on top. But there’s another birthday, too, of a slightly more approximate kind, and that’s the tenth-ish anniversary of modest but concerted independent competition in the Netherlands.
Almost entirely lacking for many years, as Mojo pioneered the market single-handed through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the opening years of the new millennium, the Netherlands’ indie contingent has gradually ascended over the past decade as outfits including Friendly Fire, Greenhouse Talent and Agents After All have staked their claim.
Michael Rapino probably isn’t waking up in a cold sweat about his Dutch business, but there is, at least, more than one game in town these days.
Economically strong, outward-looking and positioned dead in the centre of Western Europe, the Netherlands is a market to be reckoned with. Not only does it have 17.2m people of its own, it also draws crowds from everywhere within hopping distance.
“There are plenty of events here that have more foreign visitors than Dutch,” says Eventim Nederland managing director Henk Schuit. “There is a lot of traffic into Amsterdam and the Netherlands for partying.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Netherlands funds its live business well at state-level, creates plenty of its own talent – multiple- Ziggo-headliners Kensington, psych-rockers DeWolff, funk outfit My Baby; DJs such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, and Afrojack; solo performers such as Dotan and Alain Clark; urban names like Lil’ Kleine and Ali B – and is a more or less inevitable stop for most international tours.
“There is a lot of traffic into Amsterdam and the Netherlands for partying”
“It’s very vibrant,” says Mojo vice head promoter Kim Bloem, who notes that Mojo itself is on course for a record year under CEOs John Mulder and Ruben Brouwer. “There is so much happening, and so many things are going well. Even competition is getting stronger, and [Mojo’s rivals] are getting more shows. It’s not eating into our share, really – at least, not yet – because we are still doing very, very well. But we can’t sit back.”
Local venues and festivals association VNPF reported 15,426 events in 2017 among its member venues – which don’t include busy Live Nation arenas Ziggo Dome and AFAS Live (formerly the Heineken Music Hall) in Amsterdam. All the same, the VNPF sample took in nearly 5m punters for a collective turnover of €147.3million.
The VNPF’s 45 festival members, which does include major Mojo properties such as North Sea Jazz, Lowlands and Pinkpop, amassed 1.8m visitors. Across the entire market, IQ’s International Ticketing Yearbook estimates that 40m tickets were sold for live entertainment events in 2017.
Ticketing is certainly an area of fierce competition in the Netherlands, with numerous local players and plenty of international ones. In fact, since Vivendi’s acquisition of Paylogic in April, to add to Eventbrite’s purchase of Ticketscript in early 2017, the four major international ticketing platforms are all active in the market, with second- placed Eventim pushing hard at market leader Ticketmaster.
“There is growth in every segment, some a little bit more than others, but I think overall everyone is doing quite well,” says Schuit.
In some sectors of the market, such as festivals and large-scale dance events, Schuit reports that overall attendance is relatively static, in spite of a rising number of events, pointing to a degree of saturation. “Then again, if you look at rock and pop, it is still growing,” he says. “If you look at the amount of shows at the Ziggo Dome and AFAS Live, that is only growing.”
“Everyone is working crazy hours. Maybe it is a luxury problem, but it is a problem and it really needs our attention”
It’s hard to find anyone, in fact, who doesn’t believe the Dutch live business is broadly in the prime of its life, and consequently, most of the Dutch industry’s problems are typically of the type that tends to befall thriving markets.
Ticket prices are hard to keep down though, even as they rise, says Bloem, there is no real sign of weakening demand. In fact, the strain is more on the supply side, as the business bulges at the edges of its capacity, she notes.
“You can hardly get a stage next June or July,” she says. “Everyone is working crazy hours, and everything and everybody gets exhausted. Maybe it is a luxury problem, but it is a problem and it really needs our attention.”
Meanwhile, performers including Guus Meeuwis and Blaudzun, and rock acts De Staat and Kensington recently wrote to culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, backed by the opposition Socialist Party, to demand an end to high ticket prices on the secondary market.
Dutch competition authority ACM previously dropped an investigation into secondary ticketing fraud in 2016, having concluded that, while the market might be infuriating to fans, it was essentially a natural by-product of a booming market.
Just as they are doing elsewhere, Dutch performers are looking for alternatives. Dutch comedian Jochem Myjer, for instance, has sold 50,000 tickets for a 36-night run at Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré next year via blockchain ticketing platform GUTS Tickets, in what is said to be the largest ticket sale on the blockchain to date.
And local talent keeps pushing outwards, says Ruud Berends, lynchpin of the local music export community and co-founder of IFF and Eurosonic Noorderslag.
“It’s not easy to conquer the world – you need a strong base,” he says. “It’s a tough one for small acts. It’s quite hard to break through if you don’t have a big machine behind you. But things are moving nicely and we have a lot of interesting talent coming out of the Netherlands.”
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