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Ukraine: Neighbour markets assess touring fallout

Promoters have voiced fears the crisis could persuade international acts to steer clear of Eastern Europe this year

By James Hanley on 03 Mar 2022

Poland's Fest Festival


Concerns have been raised over the viability of touring neighbouring markets in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bring Me The Horizon, Imagine Dragons, Louis Tomlinson and Jethro Tull all pulled concerts in Ukraine following the escalation of the conflict earlier this week, while artists such as Green Day, The Killers, AJR and Louis Tomlinson have cancelled shows in Russia.

And with Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova all bordering Ukraine, the crisis has led to concerns that international acts will now be unable or unwilling to visit the eastern Europe region this year.

Dragos Chiscoci, who handles artist booking and programming for Bucharest-based Emagic tells IQ the knock-on effects have already extended to the Romanian live industry.

“Obviously, the existing events were hit first, with the already affected ticket sales dropping to 30% for events in the near future and even to 10% for the ones in summer,” he says. “Afterwards, we started getting messages from some agents, saying that with what is happening in Ukraine right now, they really need to sit down and see how things will move forward before discussing any events in our part of Europe.”

The promoter has a catalogue of huge gigs slated for later this year with acts such as Morcheeba, Passenger, Thievery Corporation, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox and Sting, with a rescheduled Celine Dion show rescheduled for 2023.

“If the situation in Ukraine does not defuse soon, we might be facing a third crippling year for the local live music industry”

“The Romanian concert market has already been heavily hit by the pandemic, mainly due to irrational and uncoordinated government imposed restrictions,” adds Chiscosi. “The lack of market predictability led to repeated postponements or cancellations – which in turn led to a serious lack of trust amongst ticket buyers – and there was no government financial aid for the live sector.

“On top of this, when we were expecting a final lift of restrictions sometime in the next couple of months, we woke up to news about the war in Ukraine.

“I do hope that we won’t have to look at another series of cancelled and rescheduled shows. In just a matter of days, the Romanian live music market went from bad to worse, and unfortunately, if the situation in Ukraine does not defuse soon, we might be facing a third crippling year for the local live music industry.”

Kinga Chodkowska of Warsaw’s Follow the Step, whose Fest Festival welcomed 35,000 attendees to Chorzów over four days last August, says the promoter has moved to offer agents additional shows in Poland for their artists to make up for the cancelled Russian dates.

“We’re all extremely saddened looking at the war happening just across our border and the cruelty targeting our friends and neighbours,” says Chodkowska.

“We’re trying to help the agents replace the gaps with extra Polish dates”

“When it comes to the music industry here, it’s not an easy situation as we’ve just started recovering from pandemic. For now, we are going ahead with most of our shows. There were a few that dropped out but it was because of Covid-related issues.

“Seeing all the shows in Russia getting cancelled and the tours being rerouted, we’re trying to help the agents to replace the gaps with extra Polish dates. We are all focusing on how we can help out and that’s why we’re in the process of organising the biggest show in Poland together with television and local artists to raise money for the victims of this war.”

Top international agents Tom Schroeder of Paradigm and Solo Agency’s John Giddings yesterday told IQ that repercussions for the touring markets in nearby countries, such as Poland and Romania, were likely.

“This is a point of considerable concern – how much bleed there is into other countries,” said 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 added 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,” he said.

“This situation is not just about touring being stopped, there are lives at stake”

Meanwhile, Eszter Décsy, founder and artist manager at NOW Books & Music and PR and communication manager for Music Hungary Association, spoke of her devastation at the situation.

“This situation is not just about touring being stopped, there are lives at stake,” she says. “Currently we are receiving a high number of refugees, artists and musicians too and we are trying to do the best we can both by supporting and donating organisations and both by self-organising initiatives.”

Russia has been banned from competing in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest by the European Broadcasting Union, while New York’s Carnegie Hall has cancelled performances by Putin supporter Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gergiev has also been forced to resign from his post as honorary president of the Edinburgh International Festival.  However, Décsy is keen to stress that not all Russian musicians should be tarred with the same brush.

“The Hungarian music scene is shocked by the Russian government’s attack and we all stand for Ukraine, but I’d like to point out that banning Russian musicians just based on their nationality or lumping them together with the person who decided to attack will not be the solution for this conflict, but even more fuel,” she says. “I really hope that a peaceful end will come as soon as possible. Until then, we keep being open for anyone who needs shelter in Hungary.”

 


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