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“There’s room for everybody”: Matt Schwarz talks LN GSA success

Live Nation GSA COO Schwarz spoke about the company's first four years during a keynote interview at Reeperbahn Festival last week

By IQ on 24 Sep 2019

Matt Schwarz, COO, Live Nation GSA

image © Live Nation GSA

Matt Schwarz, COO of Live Nation Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA), was the keynote interviewee at Reeperbahn Festival on Friday 20 September, giving a wide-ranging interview to ILMC MD Greg Parmley on the company’s journey to date.

Schwarz, 38, joked that he is the “black sheep” in a family of teachers and doctors, starting his career working for a music magazine before joining Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK), leaving to join the newly formed Live Nation GSA in 2015. “My birthday was on 31 August, and I joined Live Nation on 1 September 2015,” he explained. “We started out with 800 shows [annually] and now we’re on nearly double that, with a quarter of a million-euro turnover…”

Schwarz (pictured) told Parmley it was only a matter of time before the German market, long a stronghold of independent promoters, fell in line with the consolidation sweeping the rest of the global live music industry. “There’s a German idiom which translates to ‘change or die’,” he said. “The business and the world is changing, and you have to have awareness of that. The promoter business is the last to consolidate, after the record labels and the booking agencies.”

Why now? The ever-smaller margins on shows have played a key part, he continued: “When I started in the early 2000s I still remember 80/20 deals, and the generation before had 70/30, 60/40 and even 50/50 deals scrawled on the back of napkins…

“There’s room for everybody, and there always will be”

“But the pie isn’t getting any bigger, so there isn’t much space in the food chain to involve third parties. The music ecosystem is changing, and an oftentimes low-margin, high-risk business does not leave any room for third-party promoters, especially when you have your own boots on the ground. We have own offices in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Zurich as of now, and are able to fully self-promote our content.”

Schwarz said the biggest advantage to being part of a larger multinational group is the ability to combine US-directed global touring with local expertise.

“The importance of personal relationships is decreasing”, he explained. “It’s becoming a corporate business with some decisions and global plans made by the artists overseas: Live Nation, for example, can just buy a global tour.”

“But the artists need local operators on the ground that get the job done in the best possible way. Local expertise is important – one size doesn’t fit all. We are an artist-serving company that want to secure the highest possible standard to serve our clients and audience… local flavour is still very important in Germany, which is a very decentralised market, as well as in Switzerland, where they speak four languages.”

Schwarz also talked his involved with the Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, which raised over US$650 million for charity, and his meditation practice (twice a day for 20 minutes apiece), to which he attributes his ability to easily switch between the “different worlds” of being both a senior exec and a father.

“Local expertise is important – one size doesn’t fit all”

He additionally touched on the recent warming of relations between the live and recorded music sectors, the latter of which is returning to growth as streaming grows in popularity.

“I think it’s got better. There were times before when it was tough for the labels, pre-streaming success,” he said. “Everyone looked at the live business as they saw there was money to be had – many labels even opened own in-house promoting shops – they just wanted to be involved. That’s changed as their business has become healthy again.”

Despite the squeezing of margins in live, Schwarz said there is still “definitely room for independent promoters” in the GSA countries. “There’s room for everybody,” he said, “and there always will be. It doesn’t even need to be a niche product.”

“And,” he concluded, “if they decide they don’t want to be independent, we are always happy to have a conversation!”

 


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