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AO Arena to show World Cup clash ahead of concert

Manchester’s AO Arena is to screen England’s World Cup quarter-final clash with France live prior to Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott’s concert at the venue tomorrow evening (10 December).

Support act Billy Bragg has agreed to perform earlier than planned at 6.15pm GMT to enable the match to be shown on the 21,000-cap arena’s big screens from 7pm. Heaton & Abbott will then take to the stage for their headline set at 9pm.

“Following some lengthy thought and discussion, we have decided that we will now be showing the England v France match on the screens at AO Arena Manchester,” says a statement on the venue’s website.

“We are mindful that there will be people that won’t be keen on watching the match (we did, unsuccessfully, look at alternative entertainment within the arena itself) and also worried about transport home, but we assure you that Paul & Jacqui will still take to the stage by 9pm, meaning the show will finish around 10:40/45pm.

“With the right result this could be a great night!”

“This does mean we won’t be showing any extra time if that occurs, but if it does Paul and Jacqui will be very keen to keep you updated from the stage. With the right result this could be a great night!”

London’s The O2 previously streamed England’s 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia before a Justin Timberlake concert, while BST Hyde Park showed the game to 30,000 attendees on the Great Oak Stage, preceded by a performance by the Lightning Seeds.

Heaton, a renowned football supporter, and Abbott have capped tickets for their current UK arena tour at just £30 in a bid to help fans weather the cost of living crisis.

“I’m against greed in the industry,” Heaton told BBC Breakfast. “It’s incredibly important that through the coming months and possibly years, that we tell the fans that we’re getting paid enough and we want to keep it low for you.”

 


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US arenas: ‘The pandemic taught us to be nimble’

US arena bosses have told IQ the sector is recovering well following a slow start to 2022, with a stellar next 12 months expected.

Bryan Crowe, VP and general manager of ASM Global’s 19,000-cap BOK Center and Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reports that the venue flew out of the blocks, with a run of sold-out shows in the spring setting the record for busiest two weeks in its history.

The Eagles set a new  record for highest-grossing single night concert in the venue’s history, while a Bruce Springsteen show scheduled for March 2023 sold out in a matter of hours.

“It’s safe to say the US entertainment market is healthy,” says Crowe. “The next 12 to 18 months at the BOK Center look strong, with record pacing content numbers. There is a substantial amount of touring content in the next year and we are seeing the result of that with a busy calendar slated for the end of this year.”

“We are seeing early purchase success with the must-see A-list artists but a shift to late purchases for the casual concert fan”

Noteable concerts have included Michael Buble, Iron Maiden, Thomas Rhett, Post Malone, and Carrie Underwood.

“We are seeing early purchase success with the must-see A-list artists but a shift to late purchases for the casual concert fan,” observes Crowe.

Jay Cooper, general manager of ASM’s T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, says the 19,800-cap venue has experienced growing demand for live events throughout the year as the industry has emerged from the pandemic.

“People want to get out of their homes, be social and have fun again,” says Cooper. “Throughout 2022 we have seen increasing demand for live events and ticket sales back that up. We started 2022 with a collection of constantly changing Covid health guidelines. As Covid-related mandates have subsided, people are more willing to venture out and attend an event. I believe the live entertainment industry, both for domestic and international artists, is coming back stronger than ever.”

“We anticipate a strong year in terms of the concert business with growth across the board”

With upcoming shows at the Missouri arena include Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Rhett and Blake Shelton, Cooper says the signs for 2023 are encouraging.

“We anticipate a strong year in terms of the concert business with growth across the board from major country, rock and pop artists touring in 2023,” he says. “T-Mobile Center is preparing for a very busy 12 months and to put the challenges of the past two years behind us.”

Cooper and Crowe were speaking as part of the Global Arena Guide, a definitive reference on arenas featuring in-depth overviews of over 60 touring markets, a directory containing key contact information, and unique comment and insight.

“One thing the pandemic taught us is to be nimble when it comes to doing things differently,” adds Cooper. “At T-Mobile Center, we are investing heavily in new technology to improve the guest and artist experience. We upgraded our point-of-sale system in late 2022 allowing us to go fully cashless at our events. Replacement of all of our interior and exterior LED products will improve the experience for our guests and partners.”

“The backstage experience for the artists and the travelling crew has always been a signature element”

He continues: “At the arena, we are also focused on new technology to accelerate guests through the concessions so they spend less time in line and more time watching their favourite artist on stage. In addition, we continue to improve our food and beverage offerings to meet the tastes of our guests. T-Mobile Center offers a much broader choice of beverages than a year ago.

“The backstage experience for the artists and the travelling crew has always been a signature element at T-Mobile Center. We continually strive to make the experience for the artists and their crew a positive one. T-Mobile Center is in the process of updating our dining areas and offering new amenities backstage. We even offer mental health referral resources in the event a member of the crew needs a helping hand.”

Crowe, meanwhile, notes that the BOK Center has been working on renovating and improving its event-level production offices and other tour-used spaces. Shows slated for next year include Lizzo, Shania Twain, Journey and Paramore.

“Another renovation is also taking place back of house in the artist dressing room hallway which is an homage to an Oklahoma country star that is near and dear to our hearts,” he adds.

“We are also focused on the guest experience by adding food and beverage options with a new point of sale system and the implementation of more self-service (grab-and-go) locations. The newly implemented grab-and-go locations give customers fast, self-service access to food and drinks and canned cocktails just like they would at a convenience store. We are also planning improvements to our premium areas that will provide more amenities for our premium guests and also refresh spaces to enhance the overall guest experience.”

View a preview of the Global Arena Guide 2022 here. Subscribe now to read the full publication

 


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AEG brings in reusable cup system at German venues

AEG has announced it is introducing a self-operated reusable cup system with in-house cup washing lines in its German venues.

Visitors to the Barclays Arena in Hamburg and the Mercedes-Benz Arena and Verti Music Hall in Berlin will consume their drinks at events from recycled cups of the Ökocup (eco-cup) brand, which will be washed directly on site.

The company says that cleaning the reusable cups at the arenas will allow it to achieve greater sustainability, avoiding the emissions that would normally be generated during transport to an external cup washing line.

“Regardless of how environmentally friendly the disposal of our cups has been up to now, it is simply better not to produce any waste in the first place”

“For us, the introduction of the reusable cup system with an in-house cup rinsing line is a decisive step in our efforts to achieve greater sustainability in the operation of our venues,” says Uwe Frommhold, VP & COO AEG Germany. “After all, regardless of how environmentally friendly the disposal of our cups has been up to now, it is simply better not to produce any waste in the first place.

“By acquiring an in-house rinsing line, we avoid transport-related emissions and solve the logistical challenges that previously prevented us from using a reusable system with external cup rinsing.”

The reusable system replaces the biodegradable PLA disposable cups previously used in AEG’s German venues for beer and soft drinks, as well as the paper cups for all hot drinks. In the future, the switch will eliminate a total of 90 tons of waste per year across all three venues.

AEG has commissioned rinsing technology specialist Meiko to install the rinsing systems in the Barclays Arena and the Mercedes-Benz Arena. The system in the Mercedes-Benz Arena will then also be used to clean the cups of the neighbouring Verti Music Hall. According to AEG, the systems in the German AEG arenas will be able to clean up to 5,300 cups per hour and meet the highest hygiene standards.

 


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The O2’s Steve Sayer on the K-pop boom

The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer has spoken to IQ about the global K-pop boom after the London venue was lit up pink in honour of Blackpink’s two headline shows.

The 21,000-cap venue’s iconic white tent, and entrance sign were transformed to bright pink for the South Korean girl group’s AEG-promoted concerts on 30 November and 1 December.

The O2 was an early adopter of the K-pop craze, having welcomed BTS in October 2019, who smashed a merchandise sales record previously held by the Rolling Stones. The seven-piece band went on to make history the following year by playing to 120,000 people over two nights at Wembley Stadium, promoted by Live Nation.

“We hosted BTS before most people in the UK mainstream even knew who they were,” Sayer tells IQ. “They had this phenomenal fan base, but it was still relatively cult, and when we had those two shows I remember walking into the venue that morning – it was midweek and it wasn’t a school holiday – and there was this huge queue on the square outside The O2.

“We’ve had a lot of smaller K-pop artists and Asian artists play The O2 over the last 10 years, but that event really set the standard. You now have major artists – Blackpink’s a great example – that have the capability of selling out huge venues.”

“It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow”

Europe’s largest K-pop festival, Kpop.Flex, sold more than 70,000 tickets in 84 countries for its inaugural edition at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany, in May.

Staged by K-Pop Europa in partnership with PK Events, K.Flex was due to make its UK debut at The O2 last month with acts including Winner, Pentagon and AB6IX, alongside the first-ever Kpop.Flex Awards For Emerging Artists. But the event was cancelled following the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul that killed 158 people. The festival, which returns to Germany from 17-18 June, will now launch in the UK from 22-24 September 2023.

“It was sad that we had to cancel the event recently, but I think everybody understood why,” notes Sayer. “But next year’s K. Flex is going to be brilliant, because there will be big headliners but it will also be an event that breaks some of the up-and-coming K-pop artists.

“In addition to K.Flex, we’ve have a number of other pencils for K-pop artists next year. It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow and our partners on that event are very much connected with the Korean equivalent of our DCMS, which is actively using it as a way to promote Korean culture globally.”

“To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour”

Blackpink recently became the first girl group to gross US$3 million (€2.9m) from a single arena concert in North America, generating $3.297m per night from their two 23,928-cap sellout shows at the Prudential Center in Newark from 14-15 November. The quartet will return to London in 2023 for their UK festival debut at BST Hyde Park on Sunday 2 July.

“We were very excited and proud to start Blackpink’s European arena tour with two historic nights at The O2 – a mere sneak peek into what they have planned for their colossal BST Hyde Park show in July 2023,” adds Simon Jones, SVP of International Touring at AEG Presents. “To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour. Iconic!”

Meanwhile, Billboard‘s newly published Year in Touring places BTS as the 27th highest-grossing tour of 2022, generating US$75,489,240 from 458,144 ticket sales for just 11 shows.

BTS’ record label Big Hit Music announced in October that the K-pop superstars were moving forward with plans to fulfil their mandatory military service, ending a long-running debate in Korea over whether they should receive an exemption due to their artistic accomplishments.

 


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ASM Global grows commercial partnership division

ASM Global has expanded its commercial partnerships division with three new executive hires.

The venue giant has announced the appointments of Bryce G. Townsend as SVP, commercial partnerships; Kevin Dent as VP sponsorship sales and business development; and Emily Wilson, director of marketing solutions.

Jason Oberlander, ASM’s chief commercial officer, says the hirings will help provide “the most scaled, diverse and impactful opportunities the industry has seen to date”.

“We have even more scale, consumer touchpoints and the ability to integrate brands into music, sports, business, tech and more”

“We have even more scale, consumer touchpoints and the ability to integrate brands into music, sports, business, tech and more –that will drive unmatched value for the brands, content providers, venue partners and guests,” he says.

Townsend brings more than 20 years’ experience of strategic consulting, brand marketing and commercial strategy experience with a diverse background including executive leadership roles at GroupM, Momentum Worldwide and the Drone Racing League.

Dent has spent over 25 years in various sports and lifestyle corporate sponsorship roles including AT&T, NBA, MLS, the Summer Olympics and Host Communications. Wilson, meanwhile, joins from Dotdash Meredith, America’s largest digital and print publisher; following stints at Time Inc. and Universal McCann.

ASM Global has created the world’s largest live-event marketing platform, and its commercial partnerships department has forged new multi-venue partnerships this year including ChargeFUZE, Clorox, DoorDash, Infor, Kingdom of Sweets, Three and Wicked Kitchen, as well as new naming rights partners including Rudolf Weber-ArenaA in Oberhausen, Germany, and Desert Diamond Casino in Arizona.

 


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MVT fund distributes £40k to UK grassroots venues

The first recipients have been announced of the Music Venue Trust’s major new funding initiative, which provides grants for UK grassroots music venues.

The Pipeline Investment Fund was established with the support of members of the Music Venues Alliance and was primarily funded by donations from ticket sales of MVT’s recent Revive Live programme of gigs around the UK in partnership with The National Lottery.

Grant applications for up to £5,000 were invited from UK-based grassroots music venues to support small scale capital projects, including lights, sound, access, ventilation and minor building alterations, as well as staff and training; workforce diversification, succession planning, skills development and strengthening local community ties.

A total of £40,000 was distributed to 11 venues: Alexander’s Live (Chester), Venue38 (Ayr), The Louisiana (Bristol), The Grayston Unity (Halifax), Retro (Manchester), Chats Palace (London), Backstage At The Green (Kinross), Dorothy Pax (Sheffield), Servant Jazz Quarters (London), Snug (Atherton) and Three Wise Monkeys (Colchester).

“We’d like to see every stadium and arena show in the country making a small contribution to this fund”

“The Pipeline Investment Fund is proof of what a huge difference relatively small amounts of money can make to local Grassroots Music Venues,” says Mark Dayvd, MVT founder and CEO. “Music Venue Trust is investing this money directly into facilities for artists and for local music communities improving venues for everyone.

“We’d like to see every stadium and arena show in the country making a small contribution to this fund. Every headline artist should be able to know with confidence that when they reach the top of our industry the impact of their success ripples back to directly support the venues and communities where the launched their career. MVT has created the mechanism to make that possible, we need the music industry to come together and make it happen.”

The fund prioritised support for organisations who may have been excluded from other available funding and was open to all venue operators and organisations that meet any of the three definitions of a grassroots music space.

The MVT is actively seeking further donations, particularly from the wider music industry, to maintain and expand the fund and make it a permanent source of support for grassroots music venues. Contact [email protected] for details of how this work can be supported.

 


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Federal reserve: Germany market report

As the biggest live music market in Europe, Germany suffered more than most when it came to two years without international tours. But while the return to business has been welcomed, the post-Covid ‘new normal’ is delivering a new set of challenges, making an already cautious market even more wary. Adam Woods reports.

Every year for more than three decades, German insurance company R+V Versicherung has been asking Germans about their worries. And this year’s survey, published in October, revealed that they have a lot of them, from the rising cost of living to unaffordable housing to the fear of rising taxes and the worsening economic situation.

“Overall,” said study leader Grischa Brower-Rabinowitsch, “people are significantly more worried than they were a year ago.”

None of this will surprise German promoters, who, even in this jam-packed catch-up year, have been well aware that something was up.

Scarred by Covid, hammered by inflation, and gloomy about the imminent future, Germans are increasingly inclined to stay at home and keep their money in their pockets – maybe coming out for a big show or a festival but otherwise seemingly directing their leisure budgets towards Netflix and heating bills.

The business is therefore feeling discomfort on several fronts. Jens Michow, president of the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry (BDKV), recently called for more government aid to cover increased energy costs, as venues reported huge increases in their own bills.

“We don’t just live on cake, we live on bread. And all the bread is gone”

Saddled with galloping costs, supply shortages, perilously variable demand and the persistent spectre of fresh winter Covid restrictions, many promoters are beginning to wonder whether the business is sustainable at this level for long.

“It’s shit,” says MCT Agentur’s Scumeck Sabottka. “I mean, in the pandemic, we couldn’t work, and of course there was no business. But speaking for myself, we would never have thought the market would be so disastrous when we returned. And that goes equally for small clubs that should sell out but don’t, to venues that ought to sell 4,000 and end up selling 1,200. My guesstimate is that we are running at lower than 50%.

“The really big and hot things still sell,” adds the Rammstein and Robbie Williams promoter, “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.”

The pattern is one familiar to many markets: big shows guzzle consumer spending, giving a very tangible impression of a market in rude health, but the greater mass of shows – those that form the fabric of the business, not to mention the pipeline of future stars – are often troublingly hard to make a success of.

“It’s weird because, on the one hand, if you only look at all the sold-out shows, it feels like everything is okay”

“All the stadiums in Germany are super-busy in all the available windows. Everything is booked up,” says Ben Mitha, managing director at veteran Hamburg-based indie Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion. “It’s weird because, on the one hand, if you only look at all the sold-out shows, it feels like everything is okay. But then, for every big sell-out, you might have ten or 20 smaller shows that are not doing very well.”

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.

To some extent, the post-pandemic months have been a success. The bigger domestic and international shows have broadly performed well, and most of the larger festivals have made a fairly safe landing in the new era. Groups such as CTS Eventim and DEAG, meanwhile, have reported H1 2022 revenues higher than those of the same period in 2019. But in the short- to medium-term, the overall pot seems likely to shrink even as the cost of staging shows increases and profitability declines.

Under such challenging circumstances, says Sina Hall, Semmel Concerts senior project manager, entertainment, it is critical that the international industry adopts a policy of honesty and understanding when deals are being done.

“We all need each other in the future, and it is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to understand the position everyone else is in”

“I think it is about being transparent and aligning our expectations with everyone involved,” says Hall. “It can’t be that domestic promoters are taking on the increased costs of touring on top of everything. And I feel like a lot of conversations with agents have changed in that way. We all need each other in the future, and it is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to understand the position everyone else is in.”

Already, the shape of next year’s calendar appears to be shifting. “It used to be you did a regular indoor tour in the spring, then a strong festival summer and then maybe a second tour in the autumn,” says Mitha. “Now a lot of artists are skipping the indoor touring and just trying to squeeze as much as they can into the summer because it’s the safest period in terms of infections.”

There is no doubt that aspects of the German industry will still draw a crowd in 2023. The question is what proportion of shows will struggle and whether there will be much of a profit to be made in even the successful ones.

“Will it be a fantastic year?” ponders FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt. “I have my doubts. It surely won’t kill us, but it won’t be the best year. And then again, maybe the war ends, everything normalises and the people’s pur- chasing power rises again. It’s all just completely out of our control.”

Promoters
International operators including CTS Eventim, FKP Scorpio, and DEAG all call Germany home. And at the top of the market, concern for the immediate future mixes with bullishness, as big players make the most of the demand unleashed by the unrestricted reopening of the market in May while acknowledging that treacherous times lie ahead.

“I think Germany might be one of the weaker European markets because the energy crisis is particularly severe here,” says DEAG COO/CDO Christian Diekmann. “But we are in a good mood because we are in the middle of a very strong year. In the first half of 2022, we increased our revenues by 110%, from €63.9m to €133.4m. And that’s not compared to ’21 or ’20 but compared to the last regular year of 2019.”

After Germany’s May restart, DEAG sold more than 3m tickets between June and August 2022, while Diekmann attributes a successful Christmas last year to DEAG’s Christmas Garden series of events, which sold 1.9m tickets as 2021 drew to an end.

“That was a very good start to ’22,” he says. “Like all of our competitors, we have the problem of the lack of material, the lack of staff, the increasing costs. But the strength of our group structure means all of our subsidiaries can combine purchases in every segment, and we have been in a position to get everything we need for every concert and every open-air this year.”

“What we are seeing is that artists are already going on sale as early as they can”

DEAG, which includes promoters including Frankfurt’s Wizard Promotions and the UK’s Kilimanjaro Live among its stable, isn’t pretending to be immune from market turbulence.

“For 2023, we are very, very careful,” says Diekmann. “Of course, we have exploding expenditure in every field of the business. We have the energy crisis, we have the inflation, and the majority of economic forecasters expect a very strong economic dip. That is the situation. What we are seeing is that artists are already going on sale as early as they can.”

CTS Eventim experienced a group-wide bounce of its own, with revenues of €734.4m from January to June 2022 – up from €696.6m in the first half of 2019. Those are international numbers, but Eventim’s strength in the German market is profound, with stakes in FKP Scorpio, Semmel Concerts, new Matt Schwarz-helmed, Berlin-based promoter DreamHaus, Peter Rieger Konzertagentur and a number of regional promoters, as well as venues such as Cologne’s Lanxess Arena and the Waldbühne Berlin.

DreamHaus has made an auspicious start, launching in early 2021 and assuming responsibility for Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, as well as building its own touring and festival business.

“2022 has been difficult, challenging and felt long, when I was hoping for it to be a transition year”

“The beauty of being a startup during Covid times is that we didn’t have to deal with any aftermath of cancelled or multiple-postponed events,” says Schwarz. “We could focus on Rock am Ring and Rock im Park and had enough lead time to set these up.

“We also have multiple domestic and international arena and stadium tours cooking right now,” he adds, listing Muse, Måneskin, Sam Smith, Lewis Capaldi, Yungblud, and domestic arena star Apache 207, among others.

“2022 has been difficult, challenging and felt long, when I was hoping for it to be a transition year,” says Schwarz. “But I am proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Live Nation GSA is also powerful, having built on the acquisition of local giant MLK since 2015. As well as a heavy schedule of international tours, in September the corporate brought Berlin-based festivals, booking, and services agency Goodlive into the fold.

Across the wider market, while there is little doubt that many shows that once would have delivered guaranteed returns are now falling well short of expectations, there are those who point to encouraging signs at grassroots level and suggest that the market simply needs refreshing.

“If all you’re doing is putting up posters for shows the market has seen many times before, things aren’t going to sell”

“Young, exciting talent is absolutely selling tickets and selling out,” says Max Wentzler at Berlin-based national promoter Z|ART Agency, citing recent German shows by Jockstrap, Pip Millett, Lola Young, and Jordan Rakei. “We had Remi Wolf over and people were hyped. Rachel Sermanni, too – she has never been to Germany, she has had a couple of releases, and she deserves that attention.”

Market pressures aside, Wentzler has a mischievous but serious theory that many established promoters and artists have been caught napping by the changing expectations of the market.

“I think established artists need to bring something new to their show, and not just rely on their ‘established-ness,’ for want of a better word,” he says. “Also, the traditional mechanism of how to get fans to buy tickets has completely shifted.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are all having to work hard. But it is about being present and engaged with your audience and bringing more value to a show. We are experiencing a shift in the live industry. If all you’re doing is putting up posters for shows the market has seen many times before, things aren’t going to sell.”

“People are possibly going to spend less money next year, and we as an industry influence what they spend their money on”

If there is a recurrent characterisation of the German market, however, it is an aversion to risk and an attraction to proven formulas.

“It is a very slow-moving market in the way that things progress,” says Jack Summers of London-based promoter The Culture Collective, which promotes UK dance acts in Germany. “That is true of the music industry as a whole, but the German attitude, where live music is concerned, is if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Whether something is truly broken or not, it is clear the market needs support if today’s developing and mid-level artists are to survive the current crisis and become viable in the longer term – and some promoters recognise the urgency.

“People are possibly going to spend less money next year, and we as an industry influence what they spend their money on,” says Hall. “So I think it is really important that we don’t just focus on the big shows but that we keep supporting new artists, who have already had it tough during the pandemic.”

Local promoters
From a geographical and promoting point of view, Germany is clearly a huge market and a federated 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, DEAG’s Wizard Promotions and sister company, handwerker promotion, formed a Frankfurt-based joint venture in 2018 called Rhein Main Concerts to produce events in the south-west region of the country.

Some local promoters have expanded well beyond their original regions: Semmel Concerts, these days a major national player, initially focused on Bavaria and Eastern Germany, before broadening its network across the country and into Austria.

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 German city of the same name; and Undercover, based in Braunschweig and operating in northern Germany and beyond.

German recording giant BMG has lately taken decisive steps into the market through this channel, acquiring Undercover in 2020 in order to lay the foundations for a new live music and events unit. In September, BMG announced that it had 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.

Festivals
Germany boasts a giant festival scene that encompasses rock monoliths such as Wacken Open Air, Rock am Ring, and Rock im Park; electronic institutions such as Time Warp, Mayday, Love Family Park, and Nature One; and indie all-rounders including the Berlin Lollapalooza and twin FKP festivals Hurricane and Southside; not to mention vigorous newcomers such as Berlin’s Tempelhof Sounds and Munich’s Superbloom.

When Live Nation snapped up seasoned indie Goodlive in September, it took ownership of Superbloom, as well as festivals including Melt! and Splash! in Ferropolis; metal and punk festival Full Force in Löbnitz; and hip-hop event Heroes in Geiselwind.

The two-day Superbloom launched in Munich’s Olympic Park on 3–4 September after two Covid-related postponements in 2020 and 2021, with Calvin Harris, Macklemore, Megan Thee Stallion, Rita Ora, Skepta, and David Guetta among the acts that performed, alongside 12 ‘experience areas’ focusing on themes from fashion to science to sustainability.

“This is my craziness, that I want to do things like this, because I’m a strong believer that festivals can give young people examples that can change their views and their lives for good,” says Superbloom managing director Fruzsina Szép, who has previously worked on Lollapalooza Berlin and Sziget.

“There were so many festivals, even very well-established ones, that were not sold out”

It drew 50,000 visitors and ultimately sold out, for which Szép is grateful, if not entirely surprised. “There were so many festivals, even very well-established ones, that were not sold out,” she adds. “But I had this good feeling that we were doing it right, and we worked so hard to create this brand and this concept.”

She echoes the prevailing view that the biggest challenge in German festivals this year was human resources and suggests the weakening of vital functions such as security could yet be the most serious consequence of Covid.

“Everybody is keen to have a great line-up and booking and programming, but security is so essential, and we have such a responsibility to the fans and artists to get it right.”

FKP Scorpio toughed out a busy summer, reintroducing its Hurricane and Southside festivals, which brought 80,000 and 70,000 a day over three days, as well as drawing 25,000 to M’era Luna in Hildesheim and 40,000 to Highfield in Großpösna, while launching a new Berlin festival, Tempelhof Sounds, with local Berlin promoter Loft Concerts and Eventim stable-mate DreamHaus.

“All our festivals in Germany, besides Deichbrand, were sold out this summer, and this was not the case for a lot of other festivals in this market”

“It was a challenge this year, but in the end we had fantastic festivals, with no Covid-related cancellations on the artist side,” says Thanscheidt. “And we had Ed Sheeran and Rolling Stones stadium shows and our Tempelhof Sounds, which we announced four weeks before Omicron kicked in, but still we had 40,000 a day, so we can’t complain.

“That doesn’t mean we made a lot of money on festivals, because the margins were not really there with ticket prices from 2019 and exploding costs. But all our festivals in Germany, besides Deichbrand, were sold out this summer, and this was not the case for a lot of other festivals in this market.”

Elsewhere, eventimpresents/DreamHaus’s Rock am Ring sold a record 90,000 weekend tickets for its 2022 edition, which took place at the Nürburgring racetrack in June. The concurrent Rock im Park, at Zeppelin Field in Nüremberg, like-wise put in a strong year.

“Rock am Ring and Rock im Park underlined their position as Germany’s leading festivals,” says Schwarz.

“We had record-breaking attendance as well as streaming numbers, with the full festival being broadcast live in its entirety for the first time, so that felt great. We are currently finalising the programming for next year’s edition of the Rocks where we just announced approximately 50 acts.”

“We have been able to improve our sponsorship income by about 20%, which is remarkable because sponsorship is not getting easier these days”

Karsten Jahnke’s successes this year include shows by The Cure and 170,000 tickets sold for 49 shows in its Stadtpark Open Air series, in Hamburg’s park of the same name. “That was a really good season for us,” says Mitha. “Lots of legends – Deep Purple, Sting, Joe Jackson – and some really interesting up-and-coming artists like Michael Kiwanuka and Olivia Rodrigo.”

In October, DEAG acquired a majority stake in the renowned Psytrance/Goa Festival Indian Spirit, which has been held in Eldena, near Ludwigslust in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, since 1999.

Among its portfolio of more than 30 European multiday and one-day festivals, the group already owns German electronic events Nature One, Mayday, Ruhr-in-Love and Airbeat One. The last of these – the largest electronic music festival in Northern Germany, with 60,000 visitors – DEAG acquired in July.

In a different corner of the market, Opus’s Stuttgart Jazzopen, which fits 58 shows into 11 days in July, sold 44,000 tickets this year for acts including Sting, Van Morrison, and John Legend – some of whom had been booked for the cancelled 2020 event.
Next year, says festival head Jürgen Schlensog, the aim is 50,000, and there is reason to be optimistic on the commercial front.

“We have been able to improve our sponsorship income by about 20%, which is remarkable because sponsorship is not getting easier these days,” he says.

The Jazzopen, which is both cashless and carbon-neutral, ploughs its own furrow in the German market. “In Germany, we are quite lonely because the format we run is quite unique – we run an 11- day festival, which is obviously very different from weekend festivals.”

Venues
The upside of Germany’s top-heavy market is that bigger venues played out of their skin this summer. The Waldstadion, currently known as the Deutsche Bank Park, home of German football club Eintracht Frankfurt, had its best summer ever with 18 concerts – more than any other stadium in Europe, and including shows by Coldplay (two), Ed Sheeran (three), Iron Maiden, and Elton John – drawing combined crowds of 800,000.

“Summer 2022 benefited from postponed shows from 2020 and 2021, which finally happened this year,” explains Eintracht Frankfurt Stadion managing director Patrik Meyer. “We were able to add quite a lot of new shows as well, and we are very proud that we were part of the development of the first KPOP.FLEX Festival in a European stadium.”

Looking ahead, Meyer adds, “2023 looks even better than 2022. The bookings for next year are very good, and we will continue projects like KPOP, World Club Dome and Monster Jam. In 2023, we will also act as promoter for three shows, and we will be hosting an NFL game in November – a project we won through a tough tender process and are very delighted about.”

Germany’s busiest arenas include Munich’s Olympiahalle, the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Hamburg’s Barclays Arena, Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, and Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin.

“There’s a lot of really interesting concepts and new open-air venues that came out of the pandemic”

Bavaria-based developer SWMunich Real Estate continues to plan the 20,000-cap, €300m MUCcc Arena in Munich – optionally Germany’s first climate-neutral arena – which is expected to open within the next five years.

“In the Munich region, there is neither an arena specially designed for concerts and live shows, nor an indoor location with a capacity of up to 20,000 guests,” SWMunich managing director Lorenz Schmid told IQ in the summer. “We are closing this gap… at a time of increasing demand.”

There is movement elsewhere in the market, too. Berlin’s 4,350-cap Verti Music Hall, which launched in AEG’s mixed-use entertainment district Mercedes Platz barely a year before the pandemic kicked in, is once again up and running, with shows this summer from Jack White, Deftones, Lukas Graham, Franz Ferdinand, and Bastille.

Meanwhile, another modest silver lining of the pandemic has been the emergence of a new generation of outdoor venues, some of which live on in (more or less) post-pandemic times.

“There’s a lot of really interesting concepts and new open-air venues that came out of the pandemic,” says Hall. “I like the Seebühne in Bremen. It’s a lovely setting right by the harbour, and when you look at the stage, you have the sunset and the water in the background.”

 


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Live Nation teams with RAH to launch Highways fest

Live Nation and the Royal Albert Hall have teamed up to launch new Country and Americana festival, Highways.

The London venue has confirmed acts such as Kip Moore, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean and Stephen Wilson Jr for the inaugural festival on Saturday 20 May 2023.

Performances will be held in the main auditorium in addition to curated showcases speckled across adorning rooms.

“I am thrilled to bring to life this incredible festival alongside our partners at the Royal Albert Hall,” says Live Nation’s VP touring, Anna Sophie-Mertens. “It is every artist’s dream to play this legendary venue; and delivering such an unforgettable occasion for the Country and Americana community has been a longstanding dream of mine.”

Tickets go on sale this Friday (9 December), with further musical performances and offerings at Highways to be announced soon.

“We’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK”

“We’re delighted to be building a completely new Country and Americana event with our long-standing partners at Live Nation,” adds Matthew Todd, head of programming and engagement at the Royal Albert Hall. “Our 152-year old auditorium will provide a backdrop unlike anywhere else for some brilliant acts, and we’re particularly pleased to be able to build on the long-running history of country music at the Hall in this way – as these genres continue to grow from strength to strength in the UK.”

The Hall has a long history of promoting country music and Americana in the UK, including shows by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Kacey Musgraves and the UK debut of Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970.

Other notable moments of American history at the venue have included addresses by five Presidents from Taft to Clinton, UK v US basketball tournaments during the war, The Beatles attending a Bob Dylan concert, Pink Floyd opening for Jimi Hendrix, and appearances by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Jay Z, and Diana Ross.

Elsewhere, the Country to Country (C2C) festival has added Morgan Evans to its main stage lineup for 2023. The Australian singer/songwriter joins previously announced headliners Zac Brown Band, Thomas Rhett and Lady A on the bill.

C2C’s 10-year celebration will take place at The O2 in London, Dublin’s 3Arena and Glasgow’s OVO Hydro from 10-12 March.

 


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Sweden’s Friends Arena marks first decade

Friends’ Arena’s Andreas Sand has spoken to IQ about the venue’s transformative impact on the Stockholm music scene as it celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

Sweden’s national stadium has attracted global megastars such as Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Eminem, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga to the country since its launch a decade ago.

“It makes you nostalgic to think back over those 10 years,” says Sand, CEO Stockholm Live, ASM Global Sweden. “On one hand, it feels like ages ago since some of those events, milestones and fantastic moments in the venue and on the other hand, it feels like yesterday. It’s almost like when you celebrate your kids’ birthdays: you’re being nostalgic and you reflect on the past, and you’re also thinking about the years to come.

“Stockholm, to this day, doesn’t have another stadium with this type of capacity. We now also have Tele2 Arena, which is a stadium with lower capacity, but the big stadium tours wouldn’t have played in Stockholm if it wasn’t for a venue like Friends Arena.”

“This is a strong music market and the appetite for live entertainment here is huge”

Earlier this week, ASM Global announced the city’s Kägelbanan venue will be reopening under the operation of Stockholm Live after a three-year closure, further boosting the Swedish capital’s live music network.

“Stockholm is one of the music capitals of the world. It has venues that start at 200 capacity going up close to 60,000 capacity,” says Sand. “We are starting to see more local acts play bigger and bigger venues, and that has probably been helped by the pandemic. It used to be only the top international content that could sell out the big venues, but we have started to see that change and that would be a fantastic addition to our possible headliners.

“This is a strong music market and the appetite for live entertainment here is huge. We’re much more than a summer festival stop; we have really good venues of different sizes – with Friends Arena being the jewel in the crown.”

Homegrown heroes including Agnes Carlsson, The Hives, Icona Pop, Loreen, First Aid Kit and Roxette performed during the stadium’s opening ceremony in October 2012, with Swedish House Mafia playing three sold-out gig the following month. However, arguably the most memorable show was the Avicii Tribute Concert on 5 December 2019, which featured the likes of David Guetta, Kygo and Rita Ora and drew the venue’s record attendance of 58,163.

“The stadium has a retractable roof, which means we can use it 365 days a year”

“It was a special night and to this day it’s probably my favourite moment in the venue and maybe going to a concert overall,” reflects Sand. “The atmosphere was spectacular. You felt this love: there was definitely joy and happiness – people were dancing and celebrating Avicii – but of course there were a lot of tears as well, so emotions were at a maximum.”

Friends Arena, which is the home ground of football club AIK and the Swedish men’s national team, has concerts confirmed for 2023 by Ozzy Osbourne (5 May), Depeche Mode (23 May) and Celine Dion (30 September), while it also hosts the final of the annual Melodifestivalen song contest, which determines Sweden’s Eurovision representative.

“The stadium has a retractable roof, which means we can use it 365 days a year,” explains Sand. “That is the only way to have such a stadium in a country like Sweden where we’re so far up north that it’s tough up here with the weather gods. If you want to build a modern world class venue like Friends Arena, you need to be able to use it 12 months of the year and you can’t be that dependent on the weather.

“We are able to bring in and out events with quick turnarounds. It is a football stadium and we’re proud of that. But it is a football stadium that can be used for so much more. On average, 27% of our attendance comes by car. Some US venues hit the high 90%, so it is quite unique that people walk here or take a bike and so on.”

“I’d love to see festivals at the arena, using the main bowl, but also other areas that we have adjacent to the venue”

The venue has a sponsorship deal with banking group Swedbank, which donated the naming rights to Friends, a not-for-profit anti-bullying organisation.

“That is something that we’re proud of,” adds Sand. “We take our responsibility seriously to do what we can to make this society a better place. We see that the awareness of these types of matters have increased over these 10 years and that is an aspect of the venue that is part of our history and our legacy and it gives us a deeper sense of purpose.”

And switching his focus to the decade ahead, Sand feels the stadium is well placed to maintain its status, despite the many challenges facing the venue sector.

“There’s always some crisis that we need to fight and the energy one is a tough one,” he notes. “We’re in a fairly good spot with this stadium, as is Sweden overall, energy-wise. We’re not dependent on gas, as an example, and in the long run, this energy crisis too shall pass.

“Looking forward, we have this fantastic hybrid of sports and music in our venue. We want to continue to attract the big tours and complement that with some other types of shows and entertainment, like Monster Jam, which we have coming back to the venue in ’23. I’d love to see festivals at the arena, using the main bowl, but also other areas that we have adjacent to the venue. I think it would be a good spot to host a festival type of content. So we’re excited for the next 10 years.”

 


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AEG Europe adds five new leaders to UK business

AEG Europe has announced a handful of new appointments within AEG Presents UK as part of its growth and development plans across the venues and touring business.

The company has promoted Jacqui Harris to the role of VP and general manager, responsible for all operational functions for the events, touring, marketing and ticketing teams.

In addition, Lucky Thompson is named senior director, events and operations, assuming overall leadership responsibility for the company’s cornerstone events division, which includes Summer Series, C2C, Eden Sessions and Just for Laughs, among others.

Elsewhere, Connie Shao becomes VP and general manager for international touring, tasked with managing the international touring division and operations of its tours and events.

“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans”

Plus, Leonie Wakeman is appointed director of commercial operations, with a focus on identifying, developing and implementing new revenue opportunities, while Stuart Dorn is installed as group venue operations director, responsible for AEG Presents venues, such as Indigo at The O2, The Halls Wolverhampton, Eventim Apollo and Olympia London.

“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans,” says AEG Presents UK CEO Steve Homer. “From our recently announced appointment of Lucy Noble as our inaugural artistic director, or our expanded footprint into the world of comedy, to our continued investment in venues like The Halls Wolverhampton or Olympia London… We’re heading into 2023 with strong momentum and I look forward to what’s to come.”

The company says the expansion will bring further opportunities across AEG Europe, with a number of open roles due to open in 2023.

PHOTO L-R: Jacqui Harris, Lucky Thompson, Connie Shao, Leonie Wakeman, Stuart Dorn

 


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