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UK festivals plot comebacks as optimism grows

A growing number of UK festival operators are confident their events should take place in some capacity this summer, bolstered by plans to allow full-capacity outdoor shows in England from June (as well as a viral tweet from Reading and Leeds Festivals).

British prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday (22 February) that all lockdown measures should be lifted in England from 21 June, theoretically allowing large outdoor events such as festivals to take place with no restrictions. Industry response to the announcement was largely positive, though live music businesses and associations are seeking more clarity as to what will be possible.

Speaking after the announcement, Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals, said he is “optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and Covid certification.”

Also optimistic about this summer is Festival Republic, which tweeted yesterday that, “following the government’s recent announcement”, its Reading (105,000-cap.) and Leeds Festivals (75,000-cap.) “can’t wait to [welcome] fans back to the fields” this summer:


The sister festivals are scheduled for Friday 27 to Sunday 29 August and boast a largely British line-up, though there are several international artists – including Americans Madison Beer, Fever 333, Ashnikko and, notably, headliner Post Malone – booked to perform.

“We cannot wait to open our gates and welcome both fans and artists”

Speaking to the NME last month, Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn said that while the festival sector is relying on “the vaccine first and testing second”, his ‘Full-Capacity Plan’ would allow for major events to go ahead even before the UK achieves herd immunity to the virus. “It could be a mix of both,” he explained. “I feel that we can get away with shows purely on testing. It’s immensely hard work, but operationally doable and hopefully unnecessary. The Full Capacity Plan was always based on verification of being clear of Covid, or clear of being in danger of Covid.

“The vaccination, and verification that you’ve had it, would give you that safety of knowing that you’re not going to get super ill. It will work, providing that they can get the majority of the people in the country vaccinated, and as long as there are enough people at the event who have been vaccinated.”

Among the other UK festivals that have indicated they will take place this summer – all after the key date of 21 June – are pop-punk event Slam Dunk, Americana weekender Black Deer, drum’n’bass festival Hospitality Weekend in the Woods and a new one-day London event, Wide Awake.

Slam Dunk said on Tuesday (23 February) that both Slam Dunk North in Leeds and Slam Dunk South in Hatfield (both 22,000-cap.) would be pushed back to September from their original dates in May.

In a statement, the independent festival said it had already predicated that the original dates would not be feasible and had, “of course, been working hard on rescheduled dates”.

Slam Dunk has yet to announce its 2021 line-up although organisers say it should “remain very similar” to 2020’s cancelled event, which would have featured Sum 41, Don Broco, NOFX, Billy Talent, the Used and more.

“Following the government’s recent announcement, we can’t wait to get back to the fields this summer”

Black Deer, meanwhile, is taking place just a week after originally planned, returning to its 20,000-capacity Eridge Park site in Kent on 25–27 June.

The 2021 festival is headlined by Van Morrison, Wilco, the Waterboys and Robert Plant’s band Saving Grace, with other performers including Lucinda Williams, the Dead South, Imelda May and Drive-By Truckers.

Speaking to Access All Areas, Black Deer promoter Gill Tee said the festival is “planning for a full-capacity event” in June, and that “ticket sales are moving towards that number”.

Wide Awake, a new festival of “leftfield indie, post-punk, electronic, techno and jazz” which was originally due to debut in 2020, takes place on 3 September at Brockwell Park in south London (formerly home to Field Day) with artists including Black Midi, Songhoy Blues, Tinariwen, A Certain Ratio and Erol Alkan.

Organiser Marcus Weedon, who co-founded Field Day in 2007, comments: “We’re incredibly excited to finally be able to bring this very special show to London this September. It’s been a tough year for everyone, not least the festival and event industry, and we have been working very hard to ensure Wide Awake is brilliantly curated with the safety of everyone at the forefront.

“We cannot wait to open our gates and welcome both fans and artists in what is going to be an incredibly special event this year.”


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Roqu CEO details health passport innovation

In summer 2020, Ireland-based Roqu Group launched Health Passport Worldwide (HPW), a secure platform that combines mobile technologies with official Covid-19 tests and vaccinations.

The technology has been engineered specifically to ‘help curtail the spread of Covid-19’ and is enabling the safe reopening of events, travel and sports in nine countries worldwide.

Now, Robert Quirke, president and CEO at Roqu, tells IQ how HPW is now working alongside leading international events producers, live music organisations and ticketing companies to create solutions that will reopen events this summer.


IQ: Who is able to use HPW?
RQ: The app is free to be used by the public and also by official healthcare providers. The system is multilingual. Depending on the model of the smartphone, font sizes can be increased and text-to-speech can be enabled. The overall technology platform is being used by event producers, the travel industry, pharmacies and many more. The dependents feature means that people with disabilities can make full use of the tech if they wish.

In which countries has HPW established a presence?
The technology is actively being used in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, Canada, Bulgaria, Kenya, Nigeria and Ibiza.

Where has it been trialled so far?
Extensive system trials have already been performed in Ireland, the UK and South Africa at healthcare centres, pharmacies, nursing homes for staff vaccinations, schools (staff), offices and more. In December of last year, the system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster, the city and local production companies.

“The system was successfully used at the trial live music event in Cape Town called Recharge2020, working alongside Ticketmaster”

Has HPW received the stamp of approval from any governments?
The organisation focuses on successful industry adoption across various sectors. Our approach is to not wait, but rather to immediately support industries that urgently need solutions. The technology is being closely observed by many governments with a view to supporting their vaccines deployment initiatives.

The digital passport market is becoming increasingly saturated. How does your product stand out?
This is not a concept, it is a living breathing solution, and has been since last summer. There is currently no other health passport solution that has achieved the level of support and adoption compared to HPW. Our solution is already being used by some of the world’s leading organisations. Every minute, someone somewhere in the world receives their Covid-19 test result safely via our technology.

How does the app keep users’ data secure and private?
The founders of the technology have put user privacy as a priority because unlike some other mobile technologies, the HPW app does not track people’s location, does not use Bluetooth, does not use GPS and does not monitor people’s usage of the system. Data is not shared with any third parties. This function does not even exist within the technology.

“The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms”

Does the app work in harmony with existing healthcare and tech systems?
Yes, the system can integrate where necessary with labs, hospitals and existing public health platforms. A special function is included to support various doses of vaccinations. You can also book a test directly within the app, making everything as easy as possible for the user.

The technology also integrates with public health systems, festivals, airports, test centres, event ticketing platforms and more.

For what purposes do you see HPW being used?
Enabling efficiencies at testing and vaccination centres, international travel, major sporting and music events with very large crowds. This platform will absolutely not be used for everyday life, such as going out for dinner or to the pub!

How could HPW facilitate the return of live music?
The technology enables event producers to scan high volumes of people in a very short period of time, the same as scanning your event ticket at entry. The system gives guests and producers the reassurance that people entering the venue are at a very low or zero risk of transmitting Covid-19. The HPW team has extensive experience in testing and can support events not just with the technology, but also with the end-to-end efficient and safe process.

“The solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe”

Can HPW integrate with event ticketing platforms?
Yes, for example, an anonymous code could be shared. But the system will not share medical information or personal details.

Festivals admit tens of thousands of people over a relatively short amount of time. Is HPW capable of processing a high volume of testing onsite?
Yes, the solution to safely test 65,000 people within eight hours is already being deployed into Europe.

Will venues and festivals have to implement any kind of hardware in order to use HPW?


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ILMC 33: One week to go

There is just one week to go until the global concert industry comes together again for the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), which returns as virtual event from 3 to 5 March 2021.

Hundreds of leading figures from across the global live music business are contributing to ILMC’s digital debut, as well as this year’s ILMC Production Meeting and Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI), which take place on 2 March. The ILMC conference schedule now features the largest line-up of guest speakers at any live music conference ever, with more than 250 speakers in attendance.

Over 1,000 delegates will attend ILMC 33, including executives including Irving Azoff (Azoff Music), Klaus-Peter Schulenberg (CTS Eventim), industry commentator Bob Lefsetz, Emma Banks (CAA), Tim Leiweke (Oak View Group), Jason Danter (Lady Gaga/Madonna), Lucy Dickins (WME), Pandora founder Tim Westergren, Sam Kirby Yoh (UTA) and Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett.

The 33rd edition of the top global platform for concert and festival professionals features 60+ meetings, workshops and keynotes across three days, alongside 50 showcases from new artists, presented by top booking agencies and export offices. Within the ILMC schedule, new event brand PULSE is a day of discussion around the intersection of technology and live music, and the Experience Economy Meeting (TEEM) focuses on non-music content.

“This is a crucial moment to bring the global live music business together”

The Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s Oscar equivalents, will stream live from the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as the iconic venue celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Companies supporting ILMC 33 include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, CTS Eventim, ASM Global, Showsec, Tysers, Hearby & Semmel Concerts.

ILMC head Greg Parmley says: “This edition of ILMC will mark one year since the live music business began to shut due to Covid-19, and it takes place just as markets around the world are pushing forward with plans to reopen.

“This is a crucial moment to bring the global live music business together to define its restart.”

The full schedule and details of all sessions and speakers are available at 33.ilmc.com. If you haven’t already, there is still time to secure your ILMC 33 pass at the discounted spring rate of £139/£159 until 18.00 GMT this Friday (26 February).


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Primavera Sound to hold in-person concert series

Primavera Sound has announced an in-person concert series, set to launch at the Coliseum Theatre in Barcelona, this April.

Organisers of the Spanish festival say that the concerts – which are co-produced with the venue’s owners, Grup Balañá – will take place “in the closest possible format” to a traditional seated show, whilst complying with current sanitary measures.

The series, dubbed ‘Coliseum Nights’, will see performances from Swedish singer-songwriter José González, Seville collective Califato ¾ and Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba.

Coliseum Nights will take place between 26 April and 2 May. Tickets cost between €18-30.

“When the sad first anniversary approaches since live music stopped sounding the way we were used to, we need to reconnect with the artists in an environment as similar as possible to before. With the majority of the concert halls still closed and at serious risk of disappearance, Primavera Sound will be installed for a whole week at the Coliseum Theatre in Barcelona for the Coliseum’s Nits,” reads a press release from the organisers.

“We need to reconnect with the artists in an environment as similar as possible to before”

Primavera Sound was forced to cancel its 2020 festival, despite rescheduling from June to August, but organisers reported that this year’s edition of Primavera Sound Barcelona sold out of all full festival tickets and day tickets in just ten days.

Even in the absence of its flagship event, Primavera has been busy hosting one-off concert series and test events in Spain.

Last year, the Spanish promoter hosted an outdoor concert series at the Parc del Fòrum outdoor amphitheatre in Barcelona, where the flagship festival would typically take place.

The 70-show series was specifically designed to comply with all social distancing regulations, capacity and hygiene rules.

Dubbed ‘Fòrum Nights’, the event launched at the end of June and featured performances from the likes of Hinds, Mala Rodríguez and Dorian.

A few months after wrapping the series, Primavera teamed up with Hospital Germans Trias in Barcelona and the Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation to organise a concert at Barcelona’s Sala Apolo to show whether rapid testing could hold the key to staging concerts without social distancing.

The clinical trial found that a live music concert performed under a series of safety measures, including a negative antigen test, is ‘not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections’.

Primavera Sound’s Marta Pallarès will be discussing how the festival continually achieves a gender-balanced line-up at this year’s ILMC session Gender Equality: The Next Level. Register for the conference here.


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UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap

Indoor performances are expected to return to music venues across England towards the end of May, provided the country’s Covid-19 response is going as planned, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (22 February).

Johnson has set out a “cautious” four-step roadmap for the reopening of society, with at least five weeks between each step. The first step commences on 8 March when children will return to schools, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from no earlier than 29 March.

Step two, which will commence no earlier than 12 April, will see non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open without curfew.

Step three, expected to launch no earlier than 17 May, will see music venues, sports stadiums cinemas, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses welcome people indoors subject to social distancing and capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.

Indoor performances will be restricted to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor performances limited to the lower of either 4,000 people or 50% capacity, and seated outdoor performances, to either 10,000 people or 25% of capacity.

The final step, which will start no earlier than 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and large events to take place “above the limits of step three”.

The final step, estimated to start around 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions

Larger events in step four will be influenced by the results of a new research programme which is detailed in new supplementary guidance that states: ‘Over the spring the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes.

‘The pilots will start in April. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.’

However, the PM has stipulated that to move from one stage to the next, four conditions will need to be met: first, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully. Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.

Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And fourth, that the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.

While the UK live industry has welcomed some clarity from the prime minister, it has also expressed disappointment at being the last to reopen and is calling for extended financial support to sustain the sector throughout the next four months.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support”

A statement issued by recently-launched umbrella trade organisation LIVE says, “The Chancellor now has a choice to make as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible at least 21 June, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the Government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.”

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, says: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”

“Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support”

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, says: “While the prime minister’s statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter-intuitive for the industry’s long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.

“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year’s slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK’s economic recovery.”

“It is logical that the government will choose to address [our] specific status with sector-specific financial support”

Mark Dayvd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, says: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.

“We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.

“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support. We warmly welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”

“The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse”

David Keighley, chair, PSA, says: “Whilst we fully understand the risk-averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”

Paul Reed, CEO, AIF, says: “We welcome the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the house of commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification.

“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.

“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”

The NHS has so far vaccinated more than 17.5 million people across the UK and the PM hopes to have every adult vaccinated by the end of July.


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French industry reacts to new festival restrictions

France is the first major European market to deliver a framework for this summer’s festival season.

French festivals – both indoor and outdoor – are permitted to take place this summer but attendance will be restricted to 5,000 spectators, who must be seated and socially distanced.

The minister for culture, Roselyne Bachelot, announced the framework yesterday (18 February) along with a €30 million fund which will compensate organisers – both for losses incurred due to the implementation of alternative formats, and in the event that festivals are cancelled due to an increasing Covid-19 infection rate.

Bachelot has committed to a monthly consultation meeting with festivals to adapt the framework according to the development of France’s health situation but France’s live sector already has many questions that have gone unanswered.

“Most (if not all) large scale events will not be able to function within these parameters”

AEG Presents France GM and VP, Arnaud Meerseeman, tells IQ:  “I feel it’s essentially an act of political communication to gain some time with the sector. The framework is very loose. There is no detail on the timeline of this decision: ie when does “summer” start and end, from what point does this apply? Does this cover festivals in August/September?

“There is also no detail on the protocol to welcome audiences and therefore the impossibility to cost the extra measures needed to welcome the audience. And finally, there is a big sore point of no food and beverage, which is quite problematic for an outdoor event!

“On top of that, all of this is submitted to a monthly revision in link with the evolution of the sanitary situation. All of these issues tend to point to another empty season. Most (if not all) large scale events will not be able to function within these parameters. Smaller events, or different aesthetics (ie jazz/classical) or other disciplines (cinema/theatre) might be able to go forward. The positive issue is the financial mechanisms to support events that cancel or that want to adapt has been maintained and boosted,” adds Meerseeman.

“A seated event bringing together 5,000 people, perhaps without access to the bar or the restaurant, cannot be called a festival”

France’s trade union, the SMA (Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles), echoes Meersseman’s concerns, saying: “At the present time and under the conditions announced by [Bachelot], we cannot say that festivals will be held this summer because, for a major part of our audiences, our artists and our teams, a seated event bringing together 5,000 maximum people, perhaps without access to the bar or the restaurant, cannot be called a festival.”

“We are particularly awaiting validation of the authorisation to serve drinks and meals to festival-goers, an essential condition for welcoming our audiences in good conditions. This answer is crucial both from an economic point of view and in terms of user-friendliness. The issue of non-distancing between festival-goers, essential in organisational projections, must also be clarified.”

SMA has also expressed concerns that the €30m financial package will “insufficient” to support 6,000 French festivals of all disciplines.

“[Hellfest] makes the hard choice not to accept these overly restrictive rules. It would go against our DNA”

French metal festival Hellfest Open Air (cap. 60,000) broke the news to IQ that this year’s event is cancelled due to the uncertainty around the health situation and the government regulations.

Hellfest organiser Ben Barbaud tells IQ: “Unlike other festivals, we make the hard choice not to accept these overly restrictive rules. It would go against the very DNA of the festival. We owe our festival-goers consistency in the project we want to offer them and for which they have agreed to pay a high price.

“Hellfest was born out of a desire to gather all the “extreme” music lovers together in communion and a spirit of celebration. Living with the virus shouldn’t be giving up what makes us happy. The future of Hellfest is compromised and once again it is your trust and solidarity that will get us through this storm.”

The 15th anniversary of Hellfest was due to take place across three days in June, in Clisson, Pays de la Loire, with performances from artists including Deftones, Faith No More and System of a Down. Barbaud says the festival will return in 2022.

While France may be the first major market in the northern hemisphere to make a decision on this summer’s festival season, it doesn’t necessarily mean other countries will follow its lead.

France’s vaccination rate is significantly lower than other markets inside and outside of Europe such as the UK, Denmark, Italy and other EU countries, and the government has been continuously criticised for slowing the pace.


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CTS Eventim acquires new Berlin-based promoter DreamHaus

German ticketing and promotion giant CTS Eventim has acquired a majority stake in new Berlin-based promoter DreamHaus.

DreamHaus will be led by Matt Schwarz as CEO and managing partner, following his departure from Live Nation GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) as COO and MD in February 2020.

From 1 April, Schwarz will be joined by former Live Nation GSA executive Ioannis ‘Pana’ Panagopoulos, who joins the management team alongside Marc Seemann, Claudia Schulte and Tobias Habla.

Schwarz joined forces with CTS Eventim as head of eventimpresents in January this year, tasked with “acquiring attractive national and international tours and shows,” on behalf of Eventim Live, CTS Eventim’s promoter network.

Under the Eventim Live umbrella, DreamHaus will be responsible for organising and programming the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals, starting from the 2022 editions, along with eventimpresents.

The CTS-owned festivals have been co-promoted with Marek Lieberberg, now CEO of Live Nation GSA, since 2016.

“Even in the face of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Eventim Live continues to grow its network and strengthen both its market position and potential,” says Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of CTS Eventim. “We have always claimed that CTS Eventim will emerge stronger from this crisis.”

“I am grateful to CTS Eventim for the confidence the company has shown in jointly implementing our visions within this partnership”

Matt Schwarz added: “I’m very pleased about the partnership between CTS Eventim and DreamHaus, which offers our team all manner of opportunities for a successful future. I am also grateful to CTS Eventim for the confidence the company has shown in jointly implementing our visions within this partnership and thus offering artists the best possible service and the ability to reach the greatest possible audience.”

With a combined attendance of 150,000, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park take place concurrently from 11 to 13 June at Nürburgring race track and Zeppelin Field in Nüremberg respectively.

Rock am Ring was founded by Marcel Avram and Marek Lieberberg’s Mama Concerts in 1985, while Rock im Park took place for the first time in 1995 under Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK).

Schwarz was formerly VP of touring and festivals at MLK, before becoming MD and COO of Live Nation GSA when Lieberberg sold MLK to Eventim’s live music subsidiary Medusa Group in 2015. Schwarz resigned his position at Live Nation GSA in February this year.

The acquisition of DreamHaus expands Eventim Live’s pan-European network to 35 promoters in 15 countries.


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Bergen Live, Øya tasked with saving Norway’s summer

Live Nation-owned concert and festival promoter Bergen Live, and Superstruct-backed Øya Festival will be partially responsible for determining how the upcoming festival season can take place.

The two organisations will bring their live music expertise to the Norwegian government’s newly formed working group, which is completed by festival organisations spanning literature, sports, arts and agriculture.

With the input of Norway’s health authorities, the group has been tasked with the safe reopening of large outdoor events this summer, compliant with the infection rate at the time.

Minister of culture, Abid Raja, has entrusted the group with two tasks. The first is to look at alternative practical solutions that make it possible to carry out the events within the current infection control rules.

“The working group must solidify its understanding of what can be realistic when it comes to planning summer events within an optimistic scenario, an intermediate scenario and a pessimistic scenario,” the brief reads.

“The working group must solidify what can be realistic within optimistic, intermediate and pessimistic scenarios”

The second task is for the members of the group to provide professional input and suggestions for solutions that make it possible to open to a larger audience than previously allowed during the pandemic.

“The input must include plans for handling the public both to and from and during the events themselves with a view to reducing the risk of the spread of infection,” the brief outlines.

The working group will be required to submit their input on the three aforementioned scenarios by 5 March.

Norway’s government this month took an important step towards ensuring this year’s summer season can go ahead, with the announcement of a NOK 350m cancellation insurance fund for festivals.

While this week the government paid out another NOK 120m to compensate organisations including Live Nation, All Things Live and Tons of Rock for last year’s festival season wipeout.


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UK’s first live music biz body launches

LIVE, the new body serving as the collective voice of the UK live music business, officially launches today (18 February), comprising 13 industry associations representing more than 3,000 businesses.

LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) is a federation spanning the UK’s live music ecosystem, including artists, managers, venues, festivals, promoters, agents and production and ticketing companies. Membership is made up of the principal associations, representing 3,150 companies, over 4,000 artists and 2,000 backstage workers.

Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith (pictured), who was instrumental in the formation of LIVE alongside Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery and the association heads, says: “LIVE is focused on securing the long-term support for our industry that we vitally need and protecting the jobs and livelihoods from the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit.

“We are a £4.5 billion, world-leading industry, and by bringing together all of the unique voices within it and working collaboratively, we are in a far better position to protect and support our ecosystem as a result.”

As one of the first sectors to close at the outbreak of the pandemic, and one of the last to reopen, live music has suffered enormously throughout the coronavirus crisis. LIVE was initially formed in response to the pandemic and quickly began coordinating and supporting the industry’s response.

“By … working collaboratively, we are in a far better position to protect and support our ecosystem”

Having soft-launched last year, LIVE has already become the voice of the industry to government and the media, with successes including the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign, which helped secure millions of pounds’ worth of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund.

The organisation is currently campaigning for a three-year extension to the reduced cultural VAT rate on tickets; a government-backed insurance scheme to allow events to go ahead when it is safe to do so; and further targeted financial support for the sector to protect jobs and infrastructure, while its LIVE Touring group is working with the British government to find a solutions to the difficulties posed by Brexit.

Elsewhere, the LIVE Sustainability group convenes the environmental experts to work in tandem with industry leaders to develop a sector-wide charter and resource.

“It’s long overdue that the UK’s live music industry has a properly representative body, and LIVE will be that unified voice as the industry comes out of lockdown and beyond,” says LIVE CEO Greg Parmley. “The unprecedented challenges we face might paint a bleak picture, and this is a critical time, but together we can help protect jobs and the future of live music as we move toward restoring the UK industry to its world-leading best.

“LIVE is an opportunity to represent the whole of the live industry, from the smallest show to the biggest festival. We are delighted that the founding associations include organisations at the very top of our industry and those with deep connections into the foundations on which that industry is built.”


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Bluesfest 2021 to go ahead after safety plan approved

Byron Bay Bluesfest is set to go ahead at around half its capacity after the government of New South Wales (NSW) approved its Covid-19 safety plan.

The festival was called off last year with three weeks to go as the coronavirus spread in Australia. By approving the safety plan for Bluesfest 2021, the state government “has indicated that, if the current Covid-19 situation continues in NSW, Bluesfest would be permitted to proceed”, says festival director Peter Noble OAM.

“This is a great day, not only for Bluesfest but also for the Australian live music industry and our unrelenting efforts to get back to presenting live music safely. While our capacity, stages and campgrounds will be approximately 50% of the numbers we have had in the past, it is great to know there is a future for our industry, and that we have been given the opportunity to present Bluesfest 2021 at a level not seen at festivals in Australia since the summer of 2019/20.”

Noble thanks NSW ministers including tourism minister Stuart Ayres and deputy premier John Barilaro for “working closely with us on a weekly basis to achieve this milestone result for the music-loving people of Australia”.

Bluesfest 2021 is scheduled for 1–5 April in Tyagarah, Byron Bay, with performers including Tash Sultana, Kev Carmody, Ocean Alley, the Church, John Williamson, Tex Perkins, Jimmy Barnes, Cat Empire, Kasey Chambers and Jeff Lang.

At 50% capacity, the festival will welcome around 15,000 festivalgoers, and 80% of tickets have already been sold.

“We are looking forward to seeing your smiling faces as you experience the best in Australian music”

Noble says he will make a further announcement about “how Bluesfest will be presented in a safe manner next week. What we can say is that the plan is created in a way where we can adapt to the requirements of the NSW health department should there be a need to create higher levels of safety for the public on site, and, of course, we are also hopeful that conditions will be further relaxed should there be no further community transmissions.”

“The good news is you won’t need to wear a mask currently while attending,” he continues. “We are looking forward to seeing your smiling faces as you experience the best in Australian music at an outdoor fully seated event.”

Noble concludes: “There are so many people to thank who took part in working with us in getting to this point. The artists and their agents and managers, the media for their ongoing support, our suppliers and, of course, the Bluesfest team, who never wavered – well, only sometimes – in their conviction to produce Bluesfest at Easter this year.

“But number one is our gratitude to the music fans, who purchased the tickets from the moment we went on sale and who will join us in making history as major live music events return in Australia.”

Five-day Bluesfest 2021 tickets are priced from A$585 (US$450) + fees.

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