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Top agents discuss the war’s impact on touring

John Giddings, Tom Schroeder and Alex Hardee comment on the future of international touring in Russia and repercussions for neighbouring markets

By Lisa Henderson on 02 Mar 2022

John Giddings, Tom Schroeder, Alex Hardee

John Giddings, Tom Schroeder, Alex Hardee


Top agents from the western world have discussed how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may impact the future of international touring.

Following Russia’s all-out assault of its Eastern European neighbours, live music behemoths such as Live Nation and OVG have severed ties with Putin’s nation.

Meanwhile, a growing number of artists are cancelling concerts in Russia including Green Day, Oxxxymiron, AJR, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson, Yungblud, Franz Ferdinand, Health, Roisin Murphy, Iggy Pop, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Bring Me the Horizon.

Paradigm’s Tom Schroeder tells IQ that the outlook for future international shows in Russia is “pretty bleak”.

“Unless there is a really significant change to the situation, I think Russia could be pushed out in the cold as a touring market for some time. It’s important to say, I have been talking to our Russian promoter friends this week, making it clear we know this is Putin’s war, not Russia’s war, and we support them fully.

“I think Russia could be pushed out in the cold as a touring market for some time”

“Sadly that doesn’t mean it is viable as a touring market, and they are very aware. After the last two years we have all faced, for these promoters to now have this – is mind-blowing, and heartbreaking,” he adds.

Solo’s John Giddings echoes Schroeder’s sentiment: “I can’t see any shows being booked there in the foreseeable future. We have cancelled Iggy Pop and we’re in the process of cancelling all of our shows there. We were negotiating other tours but never got to confirmation because of the uncertainty.

“I don’t think Putin is going to care much about having no concerts but the population will and hopefully put pressure on him to stop. The music business has to act as one – alongside all of the other sanctions”

Paradigm’s Alex Hardee, who represents Louis Tomlinson, added: “I cant see that acts would be willing to tour Russia until the Putin regime ends. Unfortunately, acts won’t be able to tour Ukraine until the same regime ends for entirely different reasons.”

But how will Russia’s isolation from the international touring industry affect artists whose income is partly made up from the private gig economy?

“This is a point of considerable concern – how much bleed there is into other countries”

For years, western artists – such as George Michael and Amy Winehouse – have been able to secure lucrative deals playing at private and corporate parties in Russia.

“[The private gig economy] is a significant market for us,” admits Schroeder, “but in reality, everyone can still rebuild post-Covid without it. I just hope we quickly get to the point where art can heal – like it has done so much in the past.”

Sadly, it’s not just Russia’s live music industry that will suffer as a result of Putin’s all-out assault on Ukraine. Both Schroeder and Giddings anticipate repercussions for neighbouring markets, such as Poland and Romania, too.

“This is a point of considerable concern – how much bleed there is into other countries,” says Schroeder. “I expect there will be concern and caution from US-based acts – we really need to see what happens with the conflict and how contained it is. It is very early days, and the priority is the safety and protection of Ukraine, not our desire to put on gigs.”

Giddings believes there will be a “heavy impact” on the aforementioned eastern European nations: “With fuel prices rising, among other costs, and probably currency fluctuations, it will be hard to make offers that are sustainable.”

“I don’t see us having to cancel dates in neighbouring countries for the time being”

He also thinks that fewer international artists, in particular those from the US, will want to tour eastern Europe because of the conflict.

“We book tours well in advance and no one knows whether the war will expand or not, so until there is some certainty, artists will not want to take the risk – financially, or for their own safety.”

But for now, Hardee says, tours previously scheduled to visit eastern Europe will remain intact.

“I don’t see us having to cancel dates in neighbouring countries for the time being,” he says. “Most tours don’t depend on Russia or Ukraine to work so I haven’t seen any tours yet fall down, due to the forced cancellation of individual dates in these territories.

“Everyone seems to be strong in their resolve against Putin and let’s be clear this is a war against Putin and not the Russian people.”

“Let’s be clear this is a war against Putin and not the Russian people”

Meanwhile, sanctions implemented by the EU, the UK and the US could have an effect on live music markets around the world – not just the neighbours of Ukraine and Russia.

UK artists are prohibited from playing at Finland’s largest arena, the Hartwall arena (cap. 13,349) in Helsinki, after two of the three owners were added to the UK’s sanctions list.

Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, who founded Arena Events Oy in 2013 and bought 100% of the arena, are among the 120 oligarchs and businesses that have wound up on the list.

Timchenko is Russia’s sixth richest oligarch and close friend of Russian president Putin. He also owns the private investment firm Volga Group, which has holdings in energy, transport, infrastructure and financial services.

Rotenberg is a co-owner of SMP Bank, which is linked to the energy firm Gazprom. Rotenberg is described as having “close personal ties” to Putin, a friend since childhood when they trained in judo together.

Arena Events Oy co-founder and brother of Boris, Arkady Rotenberg, is not on the sanctions list.

 


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