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Arena Market: France

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Still basking in a post-Covid boom, the French live music sector is thriving. With the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024 set to take place in Paris, the next 12-18 months look extremely busy. The eyes of the world will be on the French capital, but that means many arenas will be occupied by sports events for months next year. This has the effect of seeing the potential for more acts performing as they’re booked for Olympics-related entertainment but also less availability at some.

Paris is the most popular stop for international tours, and frequently, that means the 20,300-capacity Accor Arena. It is owned by Paris Entertainment Company, which also runs the 1,500-capacity Bataclan club and the forthcoming AdidasArena, due to open in time for the Olympics next year.

“The French market is very dynamic – the majority of our events are sold out, and they sell very quickly. Moreover, international artists are 100% back this season.”

Paris Entertainment Company CEO Nicolas Dupeux says: “The French market is very dynamic – the majority of our events are sold out, and they sell very quickly. Moreover, international artists are 100% back this season.”

The Accor Arena has completed its transformation into being a “venue destination,” meaning it aims to provide a“unique offer” to the market. As well as the arena, it now offers club Phantom for after-show events, a colourful, free-access basketball playground, summer open-air screenings, ice rink, and more. The aim is to attract people all the time and not just for shows.

Like many others, the venue is recruiting rapidly. It ran a“talent day” in June in order to find and attract new staff.

Dupeux remains tight-lipped about the plans for the forthcoming Adidas Arena, saying: “The launch of this arena is a big event in the French industry, so let’s make it full of surprises.”

“The launch of this arena is a big event in the French industry, so let’s make it full of surprises.”

Acts performing at the Accor Arena include Rosalía, Kendrick Lamar, NBA, UFC, and Elton John. Also in the starting block for the 2024 sports extravaganza is Paris La Défense Arena. The flexible multifunction space can be configured for between 10,00-43,000 people, thanks to a recent capacity increase of 3,000.

Booking director Raphaëlle Plasse says the next 18 months at the arena are very busy, with a broad variety of events including concerts by Bruce Springsteen, Pink, Guns N’ Roses, and Imagine Dragons. She says it has seen twice as many events during the 2022-2023 season than the opening 2018-2019 season.

“This next season is going to be crucial in our development and [in] establishing us as a leading venue for live entertainment by hosting the Olympics and Paralympic swimming events (which will occupy the venue for five months) while increasing our number of shows by 20%,” says Plasse.

“Having an aggressive booking strategy (our goal is to increase our bookings to over 50 shows per season in the next three years), our main challenges are adapting our organisation to that evolution and at the same time trying to adapt to different audience types and ensuring that we welcome spectators in the best way possible.

“So, we are working closely with the promoters to understand the attendees and their expectations. This allows us to foresee any change in how we host people.”

“So, we are working closely with the promoters to understand the attendees and their expectations. This allows us to foresee any change in how we host people.”

Plasse says the country is still experiencing a post-pandemic boom. Plus, with the 2024 Olympics occupying most Parisian venues, it means promoters and artists will have limited options during that period. “As a result, booking demands pre- and post-Olympics are booming. Thanks to the modularity of our venue, we are able to propose various configurations ranging from 10,000 to 43,000. We now understand and can manage the various costs associated to the different configurations. Therefore, we can offer competitive prices to promoters.”

Following the latest capacity increase, the venue team is hopeful of continuing this growth to reach 50,000 in the long term. “Our recent increase allowed us to expand all the floor capacities of our different configurations. Also, we are working to invest in an in-house production kit in order to propose attractive options to promoters.”

“We are working to invest in an in-house production kit in order to propose attractive options to promoters.”

The Zénith network of venues operates across the country, with the most famous being the original venue in Paris, from where director Lily Fisher says business is exceeding pre-Covid levels. “The live performance market for large-capacity venues like the Zénith is doing well in France. We feel that young audiences are eager to meet and experience an artist together.”

Le Zénith Paris will be 40 years old in 2024, and Fisher says the last five years have seen significant upgrades across the building, including improving the sound and heat insulation; making it more accessible for people with disabilities; improving the capacity of the technical grid; and improving the spectator experience.

The forthcoming Olympics provides an opportunity for the venue to run events associated with the global festival of sport.

For a long time, Le Zénith was the only venue in Paris with a capacity of 4,000-7,000. Now, new competing venues are being built, which presents a challenge for the incumbent stalwart.

“Everyone has to find their niche. The Zénith is a mythical venue and has become a brand for the artists who perform there,” says Fisher. “We attract a lot of urban, electro, rock, and K-pop artists and mainly young audiences (between 15 and 35). The quality and diversity of the artists we welcome ensure that the Zenith remains a must-see venue in an artist’s career.”

“The Zénith is a mythical venue and has become a brand for the artists who perform there”

She says the team is targeting more e-sport and sports events, such as boxing and MMA. “This is not the original DNA of the Zénith, but the venue is well laid-out for this type of project. We also hope to be able to programme French and international artists before and after the Olympics, since the large Parisian venues will be dedicated to the Olympic Games during this period. It would be a shame if artists turned away from Paris when we have the possibility and the desire to welcome them.”

Current renovation projects include updating all the spaces around the dressing rooms and sustainability measures, including a major audit of the environmental impact of the building. Recent and forthcoming acts include Central Cee, Lil Nas X, Jackson Wang, Avril Lavigne, Macklemore, The Black Keys, and Wiz Khalifa.

Recent and forthcoming acts include Central Cee, Lil Nas X, Jackson Wang, Avril Lavigne, Macklemore, The Black Keys, and Wiz Khalifa.

Outside the capital, other venues in the Zénith franchise include Zénith de Strasbourg (12,709) in the east of France, which can be configured for as few as 1,483, while in the west, the 9,000-capacity Zénith Nantes Métropole has acts such as Ghost, Stromae, Black M, and 50 Cent & Busta Rhymes on the calendar.

As well as offering an indoor capacity of 8,000, Zénith de Nancy has an outdoor amphitheatre for 25,000 people, meaning it can host a festival-style set-up with indoor and outdoor spaces in use. Forthcoming shows include Muse, Måneskin, Slimane, and The World of Queen.

The Sud de France Arena in Montpellier is the second largest new-generation multifunction room in France, with a maximum capacity of 13,500. The venue recently launched a new click-and-collect service for food and drinks, meaning audiences can scan a barcode, order and pay online, and choose a ten-minute time slot to pick-up their items.

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