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Global Promoters Report 2023: Germany

Promoters discuss a market characterised by rising costs, extreme saturation, and unpredictable demand for all but the most star-powered events

By IQ on 15 Dec 2023

CTS Eventim's Rock am Ring, Germany

In the memorable assessment he provided to IQ last year, Rammstein and Robbie Williams promoter Scumeck Sabottka of MCT Agentur gave the German market short shrift.

“It’s shit,” he said. “The really big and hot things still sell, but the middle bit is really struggling. And that is the important bit, because we don’t just live on cake, we live on bread. And all the bread is gone.”

This year, Sabottka hasn’t drastically revised his view. “It seems that major stadium and arena tours are selling well, while club and mid-size-venue acts are not performing as well as before the pandemic – but that’s just my personal observation,” he says. “Overall, I would say business is stalling and not healthy. Let’s hope for 2024 to do better.”

Other promoters have reported similar challenges in a market characterised by rising costs, extreme saturation, and unpredictable demand for all but the most star-powered events. While more Germans are attending shows than ever before, the sheer quantity of those shows has led to weak sales in many instances. So, while plenty of blockbuster events have managed to buck that trend, the general sense is of a packed market that can’t quite be trusted.

“Compared to pre-pandemic, I think it’s busier,” says Sina Hall, head of the international booking department at Semmel Concerts. “And it’s gotten a little bit rougher because everybody is back out now.

“It’s a little bit more mystifying and harder to tell what are going to be the hard ticket sales for an act”

“Because their markets reopened much earlier, the US acts are now willing and ready to put focus on Europe again, so there’s a lot of content going through, and the markets are tricky now. We are all coming to terms with the fact that everything has got so much more expensive, and it’s a little bit more mystifying and harder to tell what are going to be the hard ticket sales for an act. You can’t necessarily compare it to pre-pandemic conditions.”

But though all is not entirely well, Germany remains the largest live music market in Europe and the third biggest in the world. In addition to heavy gig-going cities such as Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt, it has a further 35 cities with populations of around 200,000-plus and plenty of shows and local events in most of them.

Local giant CTS Eventim has significant strength in the German market, with stakes in promoters FKP Scorpio, Semmel, DreamHaus, Peter Rieger Konzertagentur and a number of regional promoters, as well as venues such as Cologne’s Lanxess Arena and the Waldbühne Berlin. The group reported a milestone €1.02bn in revenues for the first half of this year, and noted that Germany, along with Italy and Austria, was among the major drivers.

FKP Scorpio makes its home in Hamburg and presides over more than 25 festivals across Europe. The company has tours this year with acts including The National and Queens of the Stone Age and will also promote Taylor Swift’s Eras stadium dates in Germany next year.

FKP’s German festival portfolio is a strong one. This year’s twin Southside and Hurricane events – respectively in the southern town of Neuhausen ob Eck and at the Eichenring motorcycle speedway in Scheeßel in the north – came close to selling out this year, with 78,000 attendees at Hurricane and 60,000 at Southside, and Muse, Die Ärzte, Placebo, Queens of the Stone Age, The 1975, and Loyle Carner at the top of the bills.

“Rising costs for virtually everything continue to take their toll”

To hammer home their ongoing health, the festivals promptly sold 50,000 tickets for the 2024 editions on the first day of presale. “As we have not yet released any acts for the coming year, this result is also an enormous vote of confidence, which is perhaps even more valuable than any economic success,” said FKP founder and CEO Folkert Koopmans.

Other German festivals for FKP include Highfield, M’era Luna, Rolling Stone Beach, Metal Hammer Paradise, A Summer’s Tale, Plage Noire, and Deichbrand. Berlin’s open-air festival Tempelhof Sounds, produced with DreamHaus and Loft Concerts, took a break this year after its 2022 debut, as its Tempelhof Airport site is home to a growing number of refugee shelters.

“Rising costs for virtually everything continue to take their toll,” FKP MD Stephan Thanscheidt told IQ in July. “Because of this, less demand, and purchasing power, a lot of festivals are struggling, and we suspect their number to further decrease in the future.”

M’era Luna, took place before 25,000 fans in Hildesheim in August, featuring artists including Within Temptation and Ville Valo. The Highfield Festival, organised with Semmel Concerts, attracted 35,000 fans in August, while the 60,000-cap Deichbrand Festival, in Cuxhaven on Germany’s North Sea coast, sold out in July.

Semmel is another German titan, regularly ranking among the leading promoters worldwide. It handles a heavy schedule of major shows and exhibitions, adding up to more than 1,500 events a year for over 5m visitors, with Hans Zimmer, Schlager great Roland Kaiser and Elton John arena blockbuster Rocketman In Concert among the stars, to add to many big shows and a booming exhibitions business.

“We need to take care of the acts now that will make our life and our industry possible tomorrow”

But alongside the larger shows, Sina Hall is passionate about the notion of developing newer talent, and she notes that while many bigger artists and productions are keen to make up for lost time, younger ones are seeking to tour for different reasons.
“There’s a lot of different models for going out there,” she says. “Some artists understandably just want to play again, and then there are artists that really need it as a crucial part of their career development.”

In that spirit, for the first time, Semmel launched a Reeperbahn showcase this year, with eight acts on the bill, including German and US acts across a range of genres. “I think that’s showing how important we find this development of younger artists,” says Hall. “We need to take care of the acts now that will make our life and our industry possible tomorrow.”

Of the other Eventim-affiliated promoters, DreamHaus, founded by Matt Schwarz, former MD and COO of Live Nation GSA, handles the Eventim-owned twin Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals – which bring a combined attendance of 150,000 to Nuremberg in June, this year with Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, and Die Toten Hosen as headliners – in addition to numerous artist shows.

Live Nation has been big news in Germany for eight years, since its acquisition of the powerful MLK operation. The ensuing years have been predictably muscular ones, and Live Nation GSA staged more than 50 open-air events for over 3m visitors in summer 2023.

A first edition of Rolling Loud Germany drew 60,000 to Munich’s Messe München fairgrounds in July for a hip-hop extravaganza spearheaded by Wizkid, Kendrick Lamar, and Travis Scott. Superbloom, staged in Munich in early September by Live Nation-owned Goodlive for the second time, sold 50,000 tickets on each of its two days, and Superbloom director Fruzsina Szép pronounced the event “almost perfect.”

“There’s a lot of different models for going out there”

“It was an absolutely beautiful and calm atmosphere throughout those two days,” she told IQ days after the festival. “I’ve never experienced a festival like this, that I’ve been involved with.”

Live Nation’s Lollapalooza Berlin in April became the first festival in Germany to be awarded the DIN ISO 20121 sustainability accreditation. However, its 111,000-cap Download Germany at the Hockenheimring was cancelled due to production issues resulting from this year’s busy summer season.

Among its many artist shows, Live Nation GSA also sold out eight stadium concerts for honorary Germans Depeche Mode this summer – two in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Düsseldorf; one each in Munich and Leipzig – and the band return for eight arena shows early in 2024.

Careful but prosperous and acquisitive throughout the post-Covid period, German-headquartered live entertainment group DEAG in August laid bare its expansion plans for 2023, with a revenue goal of more than €300m, ticket sales of 10m – up from 9m in 2022 – and an expectation of 6,000 events across its key European markets. The company also revealed in its H1 financial results that it has “several acquisitions in advanced stages of negotiation.”

The company had a strong festival summer, welcoming more than 800,000 visitors to its festivals between late June and early September. A new acquisition, German electronic dance festival Airbeat One, attracted 70,000 people to its 20th anniversary. Other major acquisitions in 2022 included the summer psytrance Indian Spirit event in Eldena, and Classic Open Air in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt – to add to a portfolio that includes the Ruhr-in-Love, Nature One and Kessel festivals.

“If you look at their audience, they have almost four generations there now”

DEAG-owned Wizard Promotions has plenty of success stories to throw into the pot, including Scorpions, the KISS farewell tour, and a notably storming Iron Maiden arena run. “They know what they are doing, and they can go to market very well,” says Wizard managing director Oliver Hoppe of the British heavy metal heroes. “Every show was a sell-out – one of the best Maiden tours I have ever seen. If you look at their audience, they have almost four generations there now. For a lot of the younger kids, 18 or even less, that whole metal and rock thing is starting to come back a little now.”

All the same, Hoppe echoes the sense of a market still trying to regain its feeling for what works. “Pre-Covid, there was a certain formula and understanding of things: if you do this, then that will happen,” he says. “Post-Covid, a lot has changed. Anything that has a brand name does well, to a certain degree, and often regardless of the ticket price. When people know what they are getting for their money, they don’t really care how much they spend on it. But if they are paying €100 for a big show, maybe they don’t go to the smaller shows, the bands they haven’t seen before – they save up for a couple of months for the bigger ticket.”

Among Germany’s other notable national promoters, Hamburg-based Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion organises about 1,300 concerts a year – 900 of them its own tours in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and around 400 as a local partner in Hamburg for other promoters. Forthcoming shows include a stake in two Hamburg dates on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour with AEG Presents and a wealth of other events from Björk to BABYMETAL.

On the festival side, its events include the Stadtpark Open Air concert series in Hamburg’s City Park, launched by Jahnke in 1975, as well as JazzNights, Elbjazz, and Überjazz festivals, plus Way Back When and Campus Spring Break in the Ruhr region.

Other independents in the German market include Berlin-based booker and national promoter Z|ART, whose shows currently include Boy & Bear, Jockstrap, and Johnny Jewel; Hamburg’s a.s.s. concerts & promotion, which promotes and books up to 1,200 concerts a year for German and international artists, with branch offices in Berlin, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf; Hamburg-based indie Neuland Concerts, whose shows for next year include Jason Derulo; and another Hamburg native, Music Minds Productions, which this year has been involved with shows by both Till Lindemann and – in person at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena but not singing – former president Barack Obama.

“When people know what they are getting for their money, they don’t really care how much they spend on it”

Of the market’s other key festival promoters, Cosmopop is responsible for the 29-year-old Time Warp electronic festival in Mannheim and further afield; Opus produces the renowned Jazzopen Stuttgart; while ICS (International Concert Service) controls the legendary Wacken Open Air in Schleswig- Holstein, one of the world’s biggest rock festivals.

From a geographical and promoting point of view, Germany is a huge market and a highly regionalised one, in which the 16 states have significant local differences. Traditionally, national promoters have partnered with local promoters for shows in specific cities, though these days the boundaries are often less defined.

National promoters often run their own shows in cities where they have a presence and some cultivate local specialists in-house. For instance, Wizard Promotions and sister company Handwerker Promotion formed a local joint venture in 2018 called Rhein-Main Concerts in Frankfurt to produce events in the south-west region of the country.

Nonetheless, the old system remains broadly in place, with powerful local promoters including Eventim’s Dirk Becker Entertainment, which operates in the Rhine-Ruhr region of western Germany encompassing Cologne; DEAG’s Munich- based Global Concerts; Hannover Concerts in the northern city of the same name; and Undercover, based in Braunschweig and operating in northern Germany and beyond.

German recording giant BMG acquired Undercover in 2020. It has booked Berlin’s 1,600-seat Theater des Westens until the end of 2024 for a series of residencies by domestic and international recording artists, as well as stage musical productions, and curated the live programme of the Hessentag, Germany’s largest state festival, in Pfungstadt, Hesse.

Global Promoters Report 2023 is out now.


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