Cheetham, who has served as booking director of Berlin’s Verti Music Hall since its inauguration in 2018, is stepping down from his role
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Dirk Dreyer tells IQ how the mid-sized venue has established its place in the competitive German market
By Lisa Henderson on 13 Nov 2023
Verti Music Hall GM Dirk Dreyer has told IQ how the mid-sized venue has established its place in the German market and achieved its best year yet.
The 4,350-capacity venue, which is nominated for an Arthur Award, opened in 2018 at AEG’s Mercedes Platz, a mixed-use entertainment district neighbouring the Mercedes-Benz Arena (cap. 17,000) in Berlin.
“We needed a lot of arguments to enter the market because there are already plenty of music venues in Berlin – and plenty our size,” says Dreyer, listing off its closest competitors, Tempodrom and Columbiahalle (both 3,500), “We needed to differentiate and find unique points.”
“Our strongest USP is our production capabilities and acoustics – and artists and promoters are recognising this,” he continues. “Often, mid-sized venues are former theatres or cinemas or gyms, or they are used as sports venues. Verti Music Hall is more or less the only mid-sized venue in Germany that is built for music.
“The ceiling is 16 metres high, which is why we get a lot of arena-sized productions here. Dermot Kennedy played the O2 in London and Macklemore played the Lanxess Arena in Cologne and they both played with us. Hans Zimmer rehearsed here with his full orchestra, a week before his arena show, and was able to squeeze the whole production into the venue. The rigging load is 200 tonnes, which is more than the Mercedes-Benz Arena. In terms of the acoustics, the venue is all sound panels so there’s no delay and echo. Sound people love it and so do the artists.”
“Our strongest USP is our production capabilities and acoustics”
Another aspect of Verti Music Hall that’s favoured by promoters, Dreyer says, is the arena-level expertise offered to acts playing the mid-sized venue.
“I can rely on a great team of experts in booking, event management, production management, hospitality and facility management but also the whole overhead structure [of AEG Germany] is shared. The experience of the team is something that is really well greeted by the promoters because the treatment is top notch.”
The synergy between AEG’s mid-sized venue and arena has also proved useful for agents when planning a trajectory for their artists.
“We see Verti Music Hall as a stepping stone for the artists,” explains Dreyer. “If you’re unsure where to position your artist and you place them at Verti Music Hall, there’s the opportunity to upgrade which is a huge benefit. So for example, George Ezra, who was one of the first artists to play the music hall in 2018, sold out the arena this year. Lewis Capaldi, same story.
“The downside of this is the upgrades. We’ve already lost The 1975 next spring to the arena because they sold out so quickly. For me and Verti Music Hall, it’s bad news but for the artist and AEG, it’s great news,” he laughs.
While the GM says Verti Music Hall is still in “the ramp-up” phase of creating awareness among promoters and agents, its nomination for The Venue Award (The First Venue To Come Into Your Head) says otherwise – as does the venue’s record year in 2023.
“The demand in general is higher and the demand for Verti Music Hall is higher than last year”
“We have been in full effect now for more or less than 18 months [since restrictions relaxed],” he says. “Since April last year, we’ve had 170 utilisation days including special events and corporate events, plus spend-per-head has increased.”
A questionnaire to visitors found that 75% of respondents had attended the venue before while, some artists, including Jack White, Architects, War On Drugs and the Lumineers have already returned to the stage for a second time. “So you get in this rhythm that other established venues have had for decades where the band returns every two years,” says Dreyer.
Concerts for 2024 are already stacking up, according to the GM, with scheduled concerts from the likes of Jason Derulo, Zara Larsson, Dave Matthews Band and Róisín Murphy. “I am also very much looking forward to Black Pumas and Slash returning to Verti Music Hall next year, as well as and the country festival C2C,” says Dreyer.
“We were used to a booking window of three to six months and this has definitely extended to six to 12 months,” he says. “So obviously the demand in general is higher and the demand for Verti Music Hall is higher than last year.”
While the venue seems to be successfully overcoming teething problems, there’s still a laundry list of issues in the wider market that are lingering, according to Dreyer.
“It’s not only the post-Covid situation, it’s the energy crisis, inflation, challenges in staffing and the availability of experts and materials,” he explains. “Getting a truck driver these days seems to be a difficult challenge. Also, the habits of concertgoers have slightly changed; everyone seems to be on a budget right now, so they might spend their money more wisely. Plus we have a new generation of concertgoers, as well as artists that are on stage for the very first time. We’re not really back to normal but it’s the new normal – I think it will never be like it was – but on the whole, I must say everything more or less has changed for the better.”
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