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60 years of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion

When Karsten Jahnke registered the company name back in 1962, the enthusiastic music man had already been immersed in his favourite genre –jazz – since the decade before but admits that running a company that would allow him to indulge in his passion was never really a goal.

“The first jazz ball I promoted was 1959 for a band of a friend,” he recalls. “Afterwards, I remember receiving a letter from the authorities telling me that I needed a type of licence to put on such a show.”

At the time, Karsten was working in an export company in Hamburg, but with his evenings free, he would organise shows when he found the time and otherwise spent his waking hours listening to jazz records and trying to contact the representatives of the artists he liked best.

Finally, in 1962, his employer persuaded him it was maybe time to chase the dream, and with the registration of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK), he took possession of the licence that local government had been urging him to obtain for his concerts and events.

“When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things, so I made sure to have an expert for the technology,” he tells IQ. “I had a fantastic start because I was working with a German ‘nonsense’ group called Insterburg & Co. and every year we had between 80-150 sold-out shows with capacities of 1,000-2,000. So for ten solid years, we made money.”

““When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things”

The success of the boutique KJK operation also attracted the attention of Germany’s powerhouse promoters, and Karsten would often find himself working with Marcel Avram and Marek Lieberberg at Mama Concerts, as well as Fritz Rau, who dominated the German market from the 1950s right through to the 80s. Those collaborations saw Karsten working with the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Santana, and Neil Diamond, expanding his roster beyond its jazz routes.

Indeed, while losing money on the odd show was, of course, part of the reality of being a promoter, the first time Karsten experienced real difficulties was 20 years into his career. “It was 1983, and Marius Müller-Westernhagen cancelled a tour one day before it was scheduled to start,” says Karsten.

“I was insured by an English company who said they would pay, but all of a sudden it was six months later, so I employed an English lawyer, and after 18 months we got the money, which at that time was DM650,000. It was a lot of money [about €330,000 in today’s money], and if we had not got it back, the company would have been bankrupt.”

While a passion for the art lies at the heart of everything Karsten does, he is a realist when it comes to working in the industry. “I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money,” he states. “We had a lot of successful tours and, okay, sometimes you lose some artists – Depeche Mode we lost, Herbert Grönemeyer we lost. But some, like The Dubliners, we’ve booked for their entire 40 years. And we still have Peter Gabriel and we still have The Cure, so to be honest, I’m really happy.”

I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money”

Keeping it in the Family
Although Karsten was always keen to keep his eponymous company within the family, sons Torsten and Heiko found careers elsewhere, albeit Torsten still designs many of the company posters and artwork, while Heiko curates ÜBERJAZZ Festival and works with the company’s booking team on certain acts. Instead, the family business skipped a generation, with grandson Ben Mitha assuming the CEO role in 2014 alongside his grandfather and long-time chief Hauke Tedsen as the company’s three general managers. But it wasn’t always a certainty that Ben would take over the reins.

“During my school days, there was always this soft push and wish of Karsten to get somehow involved in the company,” he reveals. “But I kept my options open to do something different. So when I finished my A levels, it was a choice for me to either go into sports journalism or go Karsten’s way.”

The decision was made during an open house visit to Hamburg University. “Part of the programme was a journalism lecture,” says Ben. “There were, like, 2,000 people in there and about 2,000 more trying to get in. So I realised, no matter how good I think I am, pursuing a career as a journalist would be challenging. So I made the decision to go into music business and never regretted it.”

Keen to learn his trade, Ben found a role as an intern for Ted Kurland in Boston, while embarking on dual studies for both a bachelor degree and a merchant degree. “After three years, I had both degrees, and then I just started working my way through at KJK, starting as a booker and working my way up to managing director as I assumed more and more responsibilities.”

“We are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre”

“Of course, he started really when he was three years old in the StadtPark during the summer,” interjects Karsten. “Little Ben was always around, and he loved it.”

“It’s true,” says Ben. “My mom did the box office at Stadtpark, so I was always hanging around and playing in the bushes and stuff like that. So I suppose I got the experience from very early on.”

Karsten describes Ben’s path to the top as natural. “As a school pupil, he started to work at the company during his holidays. And after his A Levels, he started his own company, Digga Events, a full-service agency for security and stage personnel that now also handles concert production. So when he decided to join our company, it seemed like a very logical next step, and I was really happy to have a family member on board to have him leading the company into the future.”

And Ben’s impact on KJK’s activities over the past decade has been obvious. “When I started at the company, I started to open up the general roster in a more diverse and wider way,” he explains. “So we are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre except the classical market and German folklore (schlager) business, which we don’t cover.

“The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him”

“While Karsten loves jazz, I originally come from the hip-hop and urban world,” he adds. “There are a few names I’m working with now, like Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, J. Cole, who definitely are some heroes from my teenager years. It makes me proud to be a small, tiny part of their art.”

That passion for music is something passed down the generations, and Ben is in no doubt about the legacy his grandfather has created for the family.

“Karsten’s 70th birthday was a big party at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg with 1,200 guests,” recalls Ben. “It was remarkable how many domestic and international stars showed up – Paul Weller, The Dubliners, Nils Landgren, Til Brönner, Herman van Veen, Justin Nozuka – as well as loads of politicians and celebrities. It was really impressive to see how many people travelled to Hamburg just to honour this guy.”

And he says his first trips to the Royal Garden Hotel similarly underlined his grandfather’s status in his eyes. “The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him and wanted to speak to him. Seeing his standing on the international stage showed me how well respected Karsten is throughout the business.”

“[Karsten] taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes”

So with such a sage to learn from, what has the grandfather’s best advice been to the new company leader? “He taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes,” says Ben. “Besides that, I try to follow his style and manner of doing business. We have a saying in Germany that he is a typical Hanseatic businessman, which means he is always laid back, calm, loyal, trustworthy and respectful. That’s something he showed me from the very beginning, and I try to keep that spirit alive. Your word is your bond.”

Marking the company’s 60th anniversary while the German market is still trying to manoeuvre its way out of Covid restrictions will undoubtedly put a dampener on celebrations, but it hasn’t stopped the KJK staff from working tirelessly to prepare for their return to action.

“During the last two years, there was a strong focus on local and domestic artists because those were the only ones available and the only ones present in Germany,” Ben observes. However, he pours scorn on suggestions that emerging domestic talent has benefitted.

“Germany only had a few newcomers that came through, because the only thing they could do was streaming or some social media stuff. Otherwise, there was a huge lack of options and possibilities for the newcomers to come through,” notes Ben. “Obviously, the more popular and well-known domestic artists had a platform because all the attention was focused on them. But everything that comes after them struggled during the last two years. So I wouldn’t say that the domestic scene has experienced much growth.”

“Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place”

Examining the changes to the German market during the pandemic, Ben notes the arrival of both DreamHaus and All Artists Agency, but he believes the new sense of camaraderie within the country is also boosted by the very unique nature of the way in which the live music business operates in the nation.

“As it stands right now, we are all very cooperative and there’s a spirit of solidarity, but once you open the gates and the normal competition comes back in, this will be shifted to the side pretty quickly,” he laughs.

He continues, “Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place. Everywhere else is more centralised and the big players can easily take over a whole country by storm. It doesn’t work that way in Germany because of our historic background and also from the cultural differences within the country – the people from Bavaria are very different than we are in the north; the people in Eastern Germany are very different than the Western people, and stuff like that.”

Nonetheless, KJK is not immune from attracting suitors, and the pandemic has seen a number of approaches from corporations keen to add the Hamburg-based experts to their portfolio.
“We had some offers, but I was not interested,” Karsten tells IQ. “I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”

“I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”

Ben says, “Yes, a couple of bigger corporates approached us. Corona has been hard for all of us, but the company came through pretty well because we had good years before the pandemic, and we had lots of money saved that we could use to get us through this crisis.

“If we were to sell the company, it would be because the deal would bring us certain benefits: maybe access to another pool of artists that we couldn’t get access to without being part of a corporate, or maybe synergies in the label world. But so far, everybody who approached us just wanted to give us a ton of money for 50% of our annual revenues. And that’s not interesting for us at all because we don’t need to sell anything or to generate money.”

Talking through KJK’s Covid experience, both Karsten and Ben emphasise the strength in remaining independent, as they managed to retain all 46 staff and used government furlough schemes to keep staff on full pay when they were not otherwise working normal hours.

Detailing some of the company activity during 2020-21, Ben says, “We started with drive-in concerts, and then we took on seated shows at the Stadtpark with a very reduced audience – only playing one-quarter of the overall capacity. We also did a streaming series, and we came back in summer 21 with a whole bunch of open- air social distance concepts.

Loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career

“None of the shows made us any money, but they helped to keep us busy and to keep the whole infrastructure around us alive with all the suppliers, the crews, the bands, and the artists. This was one of our main concerns, as we saw it as our responsibility to keep our suppliers and the people we need open, ahead of things getting back to normal, otherwise we might have a huge lack of suppliers. So, that was our main intention for our pandemic shows.”

That loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career. “I started on first of April 1994, which makes it 28 years and counting,” says Frehn Hawel, the company’s head of communications, noting, “I’m not the only person clocking in around 30 years – there’s our third general manager, Hauke Tedsen, there’s Peter Gramsch head of our local department, and in my team I have Kai Friedrichsen who has also been here around 30 years. We have a long history of people who dedicate their lives to this company.”

And Hawel epitomises the family feel to KJK, having worked his way up through the ranks organically. “I was friends at school with Karsten’s youngest son, and when we moved into our first bachelor pad together, Karsten’s wife, Girlie, offered us some box office jobs to boost our income,” says Hawel. “My job during the day ended at five o’clock in the afternoon. So it was perfect to go to Karsten’s office, pick up everything and start in the box office at seven o’clock.”

Determined to find a full-time job with Karsten, Hawel even spent his holiday time doing an internship in the booking department at KJK. And it paid off when in 1994 a vacancy arose. “Unfortunately, it was not as a booker, but as a bookkeeper. But it got my foot in the door, and a couple of years later our press team left to join BMG’s record labels and, after a bit of persuasion, Karsten trusted me to step into the job. He just said ‘I think you’re my new press guy then.’ And that was that.”

“Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost”

With the company now around triple the size it was in the mid-90s, Hawel oversees a team of five people, all of whom are being moulded in the KJK tradition. “Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost,” states Hawel. “Ben is similar but he has a laser focus on the business side of things, too – they kind of feed off each other in terms of that Ben comes from an economic point of view. A company that’s only looking at figures will not have the connections to the artists that we have with our artists, so it works very well and the transition has been smooth.

“I know it was a relief for Karsten when Ben joined the company because Ben has a strong entrepreneurial side that allows him to see opportunities and then do the research to make sure they will be a success. The good thing from an employee’s point of view is we know the leaders will steer the ship, and we can trust them totally, and that’s been underlined by this pandemic – thanks to their leadership we’re emerging even more closely knit than we were before.”

Reeperbahn Festival
That concept of considering the needs of the industry is a Jahnke family trait. The company is a partner in the massively successful Reeperbahn Festival, with Karsten being one of the event’s founders.

“I met Karsten for the first time in 2004, when the company [had] already existed for more than 40 years,” Alex Schulz, managing director of Reeperbahn Festival, tells IQ. “I was searching for a professional promoter for my idea for Reeperbahn Festival because it was quite clear that we could not establish this event with only my company, which had absolutely no experience in artist booking, etc.

“It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music”

“The option to establish a platform for new talents and established acts that Karsten personally liked – no, loved – was definitely one of the driving forces. And from the first edition of Reeperbahn Festival in 2006 until now, Karsten is present at as many programme events as possible, from midday until midnight, four days in a row. Every year, about one week before the event starts, Karsten will call me in order to ask me to send a list of recommendations for both the conference sessions as well as concerts.”

Karsten states, “It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music. And now the conference is getting very big, alongside maybe the biggest showcase festival in Europe. The first idea was to present unknown bands, but now it’s an international festival and I think we’ve developed it well.”

Schulz believes that Inferno Events’ partnership with Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion has been crucial to the success of Reeperbahn, while the close relationship between the operations involves many of KJK’s staff working directly on the event. “Petra, Alina, Anja, Jessica, Frehn, Karen and Stefan are just a few of the people in the team that we share our daily business with,” he says.

“About ten years ago, Karsten introduced me to Ben, and I appreciate his point of view and advice very much, especially since we have been working closer together for the last two years.”

For his part, Ben comments, “At the beginning, we had the wrong strategy [for Reeperbahn], so we lost a ton of money because we just had too many venues and too many unknown bands involved. We thought about bringing bigger acts to smaller venues and charging specific venue tickets or day tickets to make up the finances, but that wasn’t the case, so we made big losses and that forced us to adapt the concept.”

“No matter how efficient and how successful we are, [Reeperbahn] would not be possible without the gov funding we receive”

Expanding the remit of the event to appeal to an international audience was part of the solution. “In the end, this is the success of Reeperbahn – it’s now a global brand,” says Ben. “People from abroad know that if you want to take your first steps in Europe, you can do it via Reeperbahn because you have everything in one place.

“But no matter how efficient and how successful we are, the festival and conference would not be possible without the government funding we receive, as the capacity is just too small to generate enough income to cover the costs on our own. But thankfully, this is recognised by the German government and the city of Hamburg who provide funding.”

The Future
While KJK’s principals carefully plot the company’s path out of the pandemic, its independent style already has it a step ahead of some of its peers in Germany. A number of promoters in Germany participated in the nation’s voucher scheme when the pandemic first hit the events calendar, but KJK opted out.

“I think it was mainly a tool for people who had cashflow problems,” says Ben. “So we decided not to participate, and I’m now hearing a lot of partners are facing huge problems because the scheme ran out at the end of last year but people now want refunds of their vouchers.”

“We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose”

Smooth Transition
The passing of the leadership baton to his grandson gives Karsten satisfaction on a number of levels. “Ben is now doing all the great shows that I promoted before. And that leaves me to do my favourite music: jazz,” says Karsten, who has created a genre-specific series called JazzNights. “In this series, I work with live venues like the Elbphilharmonie or the Old Opera in Frankfurt or the Philharmonic in Cologne, all the concert halls and so on. And musicians and audiences like these venues, so it’s been a great success.”

He adds, “When I was young, jazz was the most important music in Germany, in the 50s. Rock came in the early 60s, but the 50s was all about jazz. And for me, it’s the most interesting music. To be honest, it’s a privilege to promote music that you like, and even better if you don’t lose money.”

Not losing money is a bit of a family mantra. “Live Nation or AEG can easily say, ‘Okay, we might lose money in Germany, but that’s not a problem because we can cross-finance the tour with the UK leg or US or something like that,’” opines Ben.

“From our point of view, we only have this one market in which we can compete, so we have to be more thoughtful and careful about the offers because if we lose money, it’s not shareholder money, it’s our own money. And we don’t want to get in the situation where we can’t pay our wages or Karsten has to sell his house.”

But Ben also sees that process as an advantage. “We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose. So we put harder work into projects to make them a success.”

As for company expansion, Ben believes that “smart growth” is the way forward.

“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now”

“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now, and we also get a lot of trust and respect from our clients and the managers we work with because they like our hands-on approach.

“But at the same time, we look left and right. So, for example, we just took over the Baltic Soul Weekender, which is a huge soul-, r&b-, 60s-, Mo- town-related event, which perfectly fits our company’s strategy and our company brands. It’s a smart acquisition that totally makes sense.

“We also launched a new company called KJ Projects, which is currently running a 4,000-capacity tent venue in Hamburg because there’s a huge lack of venues of this size in the city. This is another smart approach for us to grow the brand. And we’re talking to a couple of venues and a couple of smaller boutique festivals that might fit our brands and be good add-ons.

“This is more or less our strategy: we’re always pretty niche with most of our core business, so we want to stay in that niche and look left and right to identify other niches that could make sense for us.”

And with Karsten able to devote more of his time to jazz, he’s more than happy to leave the future in Ben’s safe hands. “I happened to develop real friendships with many artists over the years, especially with Herbie Hancock, but also Branford Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Herman van Veen, and, of course, John Sheahan of The Dubliners,” says Karsten. “I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve always worked with artists whose music I really like – it can’t get much better than that in this business.”


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Production titans line up for IPM’s 15th anniversary

Phay Mac Mahon, Bonnie May, Okan Tombulca, Padraic Boran and Lina Ugrinovska are among the production titans slated for the 15th-anniversary edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Taking place the day before ILMC (International Live Music Conference), IPM will return to an in-person format in 2022 with its biggest and best programme yet.

This year’s edition will feature a series of key production group and trade association partnerships, as well as a second programming tranche by the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S).

“We are very excited to see our international delegates making time in their busy schedule to come back together in person,” says IPM & E3S producer Sytske Kamstra. “It’s an important day for everyone, filled with very relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms. We can’t wait.”

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business and the recipient of IQ Magazine’s 2022 Gaffer Award.

“It’s an important day for everyone, filled with relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms”

Since launching his career in the 70s, Phay has worked with household names including Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, Def Leppard, The Pretenders, Adam Ant, Paul Young, Moody Blues, Whitesnake, Aerosmith and many more. He was also a sought-after lighting designer until the 1990s, working with the likes of Shakira, West Life, Meat Loaf, Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj.

Also joining IPM is Bonnie May, CEO of Global Infusion Group, which delivers world-class events and brand logistic support to lavish private events, royal weddings, governmental summits, international automotive roadshows, world expos and major sporting events worldwide, including the Olympics since 2012.

She’ll be speaking with veteran show director and stage manager Asthie Wendra, about the industry’s response to the perfect storm created by Covid and Brexit in part one of this year’s Mega Panel.

Okan Tombulca is CEO of eps holding gmbh – a globally respected event infrastructure powerhouse, which now operates in 10 subsidiaries across Europe, Australia, and North and South America.

Tombulca will be joined by Phay Mac Mahon to continue the discussion around Covid and Brexit in part two of the Perfect Storm Mega Panel.

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business

Lina Ugrinovska is founder and CEO of Banana & Salt and one of the best-known booking agents in the Balkans. Considered among the new generation of highly influential people in the industry, she’ll be joined by NoNonsense Group director Liz Madden and Britannia Row Productions director Bryan Grant for a panel exploring the relationship between the live industry’s old guard and its young, up and coming executive talent.

MCD Productions’ Padraic Boran is well-known in the event industry, with over 30 years’ experience as a project manager, site co-ordinator and event controller for major entertainment, sporting and public events in both Ireland and abroad.

He’ll be hosting a panel on The Power Of Energy, which will consider what energy will look like in the future and how it will affect events. It will look at renewable power and immediate problems around availability, practicality and expense.

Meanwhile, E3S sessions will run throughout the day, including a Crowd Management Tabletop created and delivered by the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) & Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM), a ‘Crowd Communication and Behaviours’ panel, and a discussion around ‘Rethinking Risk And Building Resilience in Event Operations’ – both in association with EAA, UKCMA and the Global Crowd Management Alliance.

This year’s E3S programme will bring together leaders in the sector from all over the world such as Žalgirio Arena event manager Mantas Vedrickas, select security & stewarding at UKCMA & GCMA Anne Marie Chebib and head of arena experience at The SSE Arena, Belfast, Claire Cosgrave.

Also joining is chief inspector & specialist tactical firearms commander at MOM, Pete Dalton at head of production festivals at Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG Andy Mestka and venue manager at Forest National, Coralie Berael.

More information can be found at https://ipm.live/.


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Kharkiv Music Fest takes place in bomb shelter

A string quintet performed to hundreds of residents taking shelter in an underground train station to mark what would have been the first day of Kharkiv Music Fest.

Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the organisers of the annual international classical music festival were determined to bring a slice of the festival to Ukraine’s second-largest city.

The five musicians delivered a ‘concert between explosions’ – as it was dubbed on social media – opening with the Ukrainian national anthem, then playing works by Bach and Dvořák, alongside arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs.

The conductor and artistic director of the Kharkiv festival, Vitali Alekseenok, explained that the chosen music was programmed to highlight the connections between Ukrainian and Western European culture.

“Music can unite,” Alekseenok told The Washington Post. “It’s important now for those who stay in Kharkiv to be united.”

“Music can unite”

Music teacher and violinist Olha Pyshchyta said that performing in the subway sparked a range of emotions, after a month of war.

She said she was angry and tired “but at the concert … we felt unity”. “I, like all Ukrainians, are waiting for victory,” Pyshchyta said.

Fellow violinist Stanislav Kucherenko told The Post that the concert was unlike any other he’d played: “There was at no stage the excitement that usually happens when performing for people but I knew that I was where I should be.”

Kucherenko said music can have a “strong influence on the psycho-emotional state of a person and in the conditions of war it can inspire faith and optimism”.

Kharkiv Music Fest would’ve taken place in the grand hall of the Kharkiv Philharmonic on Saturday 26 March.


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Moscow’s Park Live festival decimated by cancellations

Moscow’s Park Live festival has been called off following a raft of cancellations from international acts.

Placebo, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, Biffy Clyro, Iggy Pop, Deftones, Royal Blood and The Killers have all pulled out of the festival in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

With only a handful of acts left on the bill, the annual international music festival will no longer take place at Luzhniki Olympic Complex in June and July.

“Y’all already understood that Park Live festival won’t be happening this year,” reads a statement from the organisers, posted on Facebook. “The picture of current circumstances does not provide the opportunity to fit our [festival] into it for legal, logistic, or for simple human reasons.”

“The picture of current circumstances does not provide the opportunity to fit our [festival] into it”

Park Live was launched in 2013 by Moscow-headquartered promoter Melnitsa Concert Agency, with the aim of bringing international artists to Russia.

The promoter, which also has offices in Kyiv, Minsk and Tbilisi, is considered one of the leading live music organisers of international and domestic acts in the ex-USSR territory.

Alongside Park Live, the company’s stable of festivals includes UPark in Kyiv, Ukraine, which has also been called off due to the conflict.

As more events are called off in Russia, the country’s live music association is proposing a moratorium on ticket refunds to prevent “the collapse of the industry”.

Other acts that have cancelled performances in Russia include Green Day, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson, Yungblud, Franz Ferdinand, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Bring Me the Horizon.


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Russians Against War concert raises £50k

A benefit concert spearheaded by Russia’s most popular rapper has raised £50,000 for Ukrainian refugees impacted by the war.

The Russians Against War show, led by Oxxxymiron, took place last Thursday (24 March) at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London with a sold-out crowd.

The concert saw the Paradigm-repped artist deliver his first London show in six years, as well as a surprise appearance from Russian rock icon Boris Grebenshikov.

Oxxxymiron’s rare UK performance comes after he cancelled six sold-out arena shows in Moscow in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The rapper initially launched the Russians Against War concert in Istanbul, Turkey, in mid-March. Both charity shows were livestreamed on Twitch, YouTube and Instagram in the hope that people in Russia would watch and donate.

“It is times like these that remind me why I and many of us got into music and the power it holds”

Mike Malak, Oxxxymiron’s agent at Paradigm Talent, says: “It was vital to both myself and [Live Nation promoter James Ponnusamy] to put this show on and unify people against war and allow an incredible artist to use his platform. It is times like these that remind me why I and many of us got into music and the power it holds.

“To see so many people of different ages and backgrounds come together and raise an incredible amount of money for an important cause makes it all worth it. Combining the live experience with livestreaming meant we could not only raise money but also an awareness that this is a war nobody wants to see nor supports.”

Ponnusamy adds: “Nights like last Thursday are an incredible reminder of the strength of music and how it brings people together for the greater good. Thank you to ticket holders and the livestream audience who helped raise awareness and show their generosity and support. All donations received will help those in Ukraine impacted by the war.”


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OVG plans $3bn ents district in Las Vegas

Oak View Group (OVG) is planning a 25-acre entertainment district in Las Vegas, costing an estimated US$3 billion.

According to the global sports and entertainment company, the district will feature a 20,000-seat arena for live music and sports, a casino, a hotel, and an additional entertainment venue amphitheatre.

The 25 acres is located on 66.5 acres of land near the intersection of two major freeways, I-15 and I-215, adjacent to the planned Brightline high-speed rail station.

The site will boast direct and easy access to and from I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard and streets such as Blue Diamond, Warm Springs, and Dean Martin. The Las Vegas Strip resorts and the airport are a 10-minute drive.

With a focus on the prioritisation of technology, sustainability, and green initiative, the groundbreaking and construction for the district and arena will commence in 2023.

“South of the Las Vegas strip represents one of the few areas of potential future growth of the gaming and entertainment corridor,” says Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group.

“We will usher in the evolution of Las Vegas as the new entertainment and sports capital of the world”

“This unprecedented project is an industry game-changer, and we will usher in the evolution of Las Vegas as the new entertainment and sports capital of the world. As the largest arena developer in the world, we look forward to driving good paying job creation to Clark County as well as creating the most innovative and environmentally sustainable live entertainment point of destination in the world.”

Irving Azoff, co-founder of OVG, adds: “It doesn’t get much bigger or better than Las Vegas. From the world-class Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle to UBS Arena in New York, and Moody Center in Austin, Las Vegas will be the next jewel in the OVG crown.”

Veteran sports industry executive and former president of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, Marc Badain, has partnered with OVG to spearhead and consult on the new project along with the president of business development, Francesca Bodie, who will oversee business transactions and operations.

Badain comments: “In the time I have spent in Las Vegas, I have been overwhelmed by both the entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness of its residents and leaders to embrace the innovation and vision that guides its future. This project represents the next step in that exciting evolution. It is an honour to be a part of it and to help deliver on the vision provided by Oak View Group.”

Designed by global industry-leading architecture firms Gensler and Populous, the state-of-the-art privately financed sports and entertainment arena will set a new global standard for events in Las Vegas and represent OVG’s biggest project to date. In addition to Gensler and Populous, the project development will be led by Steve Collins, OVG’s president of global venue development and special projects.

OVG oversees the operations of Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center and UBS Arena in Belmont Park, NY. The company’s arena development projects include Moody Center in Austin (Texas), Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs (California) and Co-op Live in Manchester (UK) among others.


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Love Supreme team details new UK festival

The team behind Love Supreme, the biggest outdoor jazz festival in Europe, has detailed the inaugural edition of its festival, Kite.

The three-day live music and ideas event is scheduled to take place on the grounds of a stately home near Oxford, UK, this summer.

Grace Jones, Tom Misch, TLC, Mavis Staples, Self Esteem, and Black Country, New Road are slated to headline the music programme.

The idea programme features the likes of Ai Weiwei, Russell Tovey, Jon Ronson, David Miliband, Bimini, Armando Iannucci, David Olusoga, Delia Smith and Jarvis Cocker.

The festival will host a combination of live music, comedy and educational talks and workshops, with a main stage featuring headline artists and a second stage showcasing more experimental acts. The Big Top Tent and the Bookshop stages will see pop-up performances, with emerging artists performing on the Bandstand. The ThinkIn Village area will provide a space for discussion.

Grace Jones, Tom Misch, TLC, Mavis Staples, Self Esteem and Black Country, New Road are slated to headline

Kite is a joint venture between U-Live – in which Chinese entertainment giant recently acquired a stake – and Neapolitan Music, who together promote Love Supreme, as well as Tortoise Media, the brainchild of former BBC new director James Jarding and ex-Wall Street Journal and Down Jones president Katie Vanneck-Smith.

The festival is launching off the back of a 2020 Kickstarter campaign, which saw 238 backers pledge a total of £38,386 to bring the event to life.

The backers (aka ‘festival founders’) will gain access to the best ticket prices for all future Kite festivals, as well as special experiences and exclusive goodies.

The inaugural festival was due to launch last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Kite Festival is taking place from 10 to 12 June in Kirtlington Park, Oxford, in the south east of the UK. More information can be found on the festival website.


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Pukkelpop launches new festival for indie lovers

Pukkelpop, one of Belgium’s marquee festivals, has planned a new one-day event for fans of indie and alternative music.

Hear Hear! festival will take place in the Kiewit festival arena in Hasselt, Belgium, on Sunday 14 August.

Editors, Pixies, Liam Gallagher, Future Islands, Wolf Alice and Anna Calvi are among the acts booked for the inaugural event.

“Pukkelpop focuses on what is going on among young people, and in recent years that has mainly been hip-hop,” says spokesperson, Frederik Luyten. “As a result, rock and indie have faded into the background. We’ve been thinking about giving those genres a little more attention for a few years now. Now is the perfect time for that, especially because you see young bands reviving the guitar.”

Squid, Porridge Radio, Balthazar, Battles and Bill Nomates are also due to perform on one of the festival’s four stages.

“We’ve been thinking about giving those genres a little more attention for a few years now”

Hear Hear! is scheduled for the week before Pukkelpop, which also takes place in the Kiewit festival arena.

The 66,000-cap. flagship festival is due to take place for the first time in two years due to pandemic-related cancellations.

Arctic Monkeys, Tame Impala, Slipknot and Bring Me The Horizon are slated to perform across the four-day event, running between 18–21 August.

In the past, Pukkelpop has tried several times to start an extra festival in addition to its flagship event.

Previous events run by Pukkelpop include Polsslag, Rimpelrock and the Summer Swing family festival.

Since 2018, Pukkelpop has also been organising techno and house festival Garnizoen.


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The new wave of marketing innovation

As a new wave of privacy regulations makes consumer targeting much less efficient than before, here, Berlin-based events and digital services solution Future Demand explains why interest-centric marketing is the future – and promoters can take full advantage…

The last 10 years in digital marketing were driven by ever-improving targeting options. Lookalike audiences and retargeting enabled a super-fast, convenient, and easy way of making sure ads were seen by the right people. On the other hand, the data-driven ad-tech industry did very little to help marketeers create better copy and content.

Driven by a new wave of privacy regulations (from GDPR to Apple’s ATT) promoters now see a substantial decrease in the effectiveness of their targeting options. Now, they’re starting to regret spending 10 years improving only 50% of what drives campaign efficacy (user targeting) and ignoring the other 50% (content).

It’s time to have a look at why content is more important than ever before.

Content is the future
Marketing used to be essentially people-focused. The ad-tech industry measured and tracked individuals and tried to understand them. For many industries this worked great, much better than anything before. It worked so well, in fact, that whole industries were built on it. The D2C trend around companies like Dollar Shave Club or Casper was fuelled by direct response ads on Facebook through lookalike audiences and retargeting campaigns.

Against the backdrop of expanding privacy regulations, the future now points to the centralisation of a few big platforms. Platforms big enough to own enough in-platform user data (think Amazon, or gaming giants like Epic Games) will be able to serve ads and convert users directly within their platforms. Eric Seufert summarised the development by the term “content fortresses”.

However, the way the industry is currently set up, this isn’t a tenable solution for promoters (and many other companies) as they lack the content usage of users to gain enough insights into people’s interests and serve targeted ads.

So, what about promoters?
For promoters, targeting has always been more difficult because taste in music is much harder to grasp and describe. A concert is in most cases a one-time happening, making it near impossible to have enough time, iteration cycles and budget to get into the sweet spot of the advertising feedback loop. Promoters, therefore, reverted to traditional segmentation methods, relying on socio-demographic data to cluster audiences and fans. Unfortunately, this works even less.

Note the famous example of Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne. Both are born in the same year, have a comparable income, can be located to London, and have the same gender. But their music tastes may be completely different indeed. Traditional segmentation features like age, gender, postcode etc. do little to help you decide who to target for a specific show or event.

What’s next?
Netflix was one of the first to focus only on people’s interests to better describe the diversity in their user base. Like Netflix users, concert-goers can be interested in a symphony concert with a famous French female violinist but also in the next upcoming metal wunderkind playing his or her first gig in the small club next door. The obvious answer for promoters is to design systems that only focus on interest and to cluster based on fans’ interests. The powerful ad networks of today enable targeting those interests.

Knowing why people buy tickets gives promoters an edge over big platforms. As they get more independent from ticketing and ad platforms, switching between them becomes easier. If you know why people are interested and what message they need to see to purchase a ticket or subscribe to an offer, you can decide on which platform to focus on.

What to do about it?

Marketeers must shift their focus towards understanding interests. It enables better targeting and the possibility to match creative content to targeting criteria – all automatically. It increases independence and enhances the speed at which promoters can adopt new and upcoming platforms.

Interest centric marketing will be one of the most important strategic levers for marketeers who do not own a content fortress. Many industries need to speed up their efforts to catch up and rework their whole ad-tech stack. Promoters can now finally leverage their past disadvantage (very, very diverse content) into a powerful advantage. The more diverse the content, the better the understanding of fans tastes and interests.

Learn more about interest-centric marketing here.


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Concert for Ukraine raises £12m+ for war relief

Last night’s (29 March) Concert For Ukraine fundraiser in Birmingham raised £12.2 million for the humanitarian relief effort in the country.

Stars including Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello and Emeli Sande took to the stage at Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena for the televised event.

Anne Marie, Snow Patrol, Manic Street Preachers, Nile Rodgers and Chic and Gregory Porter also performed and, elsewhere, Ukrainian singer Jamala delivered a rendition of her Eurovision-winning track, 1944.

The two-hour show, held to raise money for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, was expected to raise over £3m.

However, according to ITV, which broadcast the show, over £12m has been raised so far, with the number expected to increase.

As well as millions of pounds of public donations, the broadcasters donated an estimated £3m of advertising revenue

As well as millions of pounds of public donations, the broadcasters donated an estimated £3m of advertising revenue. Another £250,000 was generated by ticket sales.

Alongside ITV, Concert for Ukraine was organised by STV, Livewire Pictures, DEC and media and entertainment group Global.

Elsewhere, a spate of benefit concerts held in Europe over the past week together raised around €20 million for related causes. Sound of Peace, a televised live concert that took place on 20 March in Berlin and raised more than €12m, according to the organisers.

Together with Ukraine, a televised live concert held at the Atlas Arena (cap. 13,000) in Łódź, Poland, organised by promoter Follow the Step, reportedly raised more than €6m.

A pair of events spearheaded by Dutch promoter Alda also raised upwards of €1m for the Romanian Red Cross. We Are One took place at the National Arena in Bucharest, Romania, while Dance For Ukraine was staged at Poland’s Tauron Arena.


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