Sign up for IQ Index
The latest industry news to your inbox.
Click the interactive map below to explore 60+ market reports
An online directory of 530+ arenas is here
Germany, compared with other major arena markets in Europe, only relatively recently opened up from Covid restrictions. Working to a federal system, its regions operated differing pandemic rules and opened up at staggered times, while national lockdown restrictions were lifted in March 2022, and mask requirements were only dropped in February of this year.
“We’re still rather new to the freedom time,” says Dirk Dreyer, GM of the 4,350-capacity Verti Music Hall in Berlin.
“Plus, the German government was thinking just six months ago to increase restrictions for winter. We’re still seeing a lot of shows being cancelled for ticketing or production issues, and this creates a certain insecurity and uncertainty in the ticket buyers as well – ‘Will the show happen or might it be cancelled?’”
“We’re still seeing a lot of shows being cancelled for ticketing or production issues, and this creates a certain insecurity and uncertainty in the ticket buyers as well – ‘Will the show happen or might it be cancelled?’”
The effect, midway through 2023, is an optimistic, overwhelmed but slightly askew market, still somewhat finding its feet. As international touring has resumed, often in a wild scramble to get major acts on the road and earning again,arena-level acts have been forced to scale down in oversubscribed cities, while lesser-visited territories get overlooked.
“Speaking for Germany,” Dreyer says, “Berlin is the number-one destination to play, followed by Cologne, and then it might be Hamburg or Munich. So, of course all international tours want to play Berlin and maybe Cologne, and the diaries are full at the big venues…If you see what’s on the road this summer, it’s everybody.” Hence, Dreyer believes, Germany currently finds itself at “a peak of quite an up-and-down curve.”
“Berlin is the number-one destination to play, followed by Cologne, and then it might be Hamburg or Munich. So, of course all international tours want to play Berlin and maybe Cologne, and the diaries are full at the big venues…If you see what’s on the road this summer, it’s everybody.”
Another knock-on effect has been a new trend of last-minute ticket purchase in Germany. “If shows don’t sell out immediately then people are buying tickets rather late, and that has changed a bit since the pandemic,” says Ole Hertel, MD of Berlin’s 17,000-seater Mercedes-Benz Arena.
“People are probably looking at their monthly budgets, and once they find out they’ve got a little bit more money to spend, they’re going to buy a ticket and it might be within the last week or so.”
Audiences in the major cities are certainly spoilt for choice.“In 2022, we had 171 events in our building, which was a record,”says Hertel, whose venue has recently hosted Robbie Williams, Chris Brown, and Måneskin. “The most we ever had [previously]was 156 in 2018. That is really remarkable. 2023 is almost going to be like that.
“In 2022, we had 171 events in our building, which was a record”
Many other arenas are now seeing bookings return to 2019 levels. “The booking for 2023, as well as the prospect of 2024,is very good,” says René Otterbein, GM of the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle in Stuttgart, which scales from 5,000 capacity to 15,500 and is soon to welcome shows by The Hollywood Vampires and Hans Zimmer.
“We are nearly back to the bookings of the year 2019 before Corona”, says Steve Schwenkglenks, vice president and managing director of Hamburg’s 15,000-cap Barclays Arena, where Robbie Williams and Cirque du Soleil have recently stopped off. “We are getting close to the years before in event numbers. We’re not quite there yet, but I would say at the latest, in ’24, it will be on the same level that we were in 2019.
“The backlog from the days of Covid has almost been cleared,” agrees Sabine Loos, MD of the 15,380-cap Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, where Iron Maiden and Scorpionsrecently performed. “Accordingly, at the Westfalenhalle, we’re now once again able to concentrate primarily on new bookings that are coming in thanks to the current good booking situation. Apart from that, after these turbulent years, the industry really just wants a period of calm and normality as we return to the daily routine.”
“We are very well and variously booked”
“We are very well and variously booked,” says Dieter Otto, coordinator at Festhalle Messe in Frankfurt, which offers a wider range of configurations to cater for audiences between 3,000 and 15,000 and hosts Peter Gabriel and Iron Maiden tours in 2023. “Many international acts are in the playing calendar of the Festhalle. In the future, we see ourselves well positioned, we have continuously improved internal structures, have very strong partners directly on-site, and the desire for good live entertainment is unbroken among the audience.”
As international acts prioritise big event shows in major cities, the boom is only gradually filtering down to smaller towns. Mirco Markfort, GM of the Rudolf Weber-Arena in Oberhausen, reports strong ticket sales – “90-95% of shows are meeting or exceeding their expectations, which is really encouraging to see,” he says of a venue capable of configuring its capacity between 3,000 and 12,850 and that will play host to Sting, Arctic Monkeys, and five sold-out nights of Helene Fischer in 2023.
But he also attests to a shortage of international tours hitting secondary markets. “For one thing, major international artists are currently increasingly focusing on stadium bookings in Germany,” he says. “Secondly, international tours often require longer lead times. In our opinion, this has led to a slight delay in booking international artists since the end of the pandemic.”
“There is a lack of international artists”
“There is a lack of international artists,” Otterbein agrees.
“Since the end of corona, we have seen a steady decline. We are registering a large increase in national artists, especially in the comedy sector. Shows which normally have a television format are going on tour with shows like Let ́s Dance, The Masked Singer, or live cooking shows. Also, there is a return of multiday events in the musical sector. But international sports events, as well as major US artists, tend to decline.”
“Currently, the market is still different than before Covid,”says Stephan Lemke, managing director of the Volkswagen Halle in Braunschweig, “For the coming period of 12 to 18 months, we see a clear normalisation of the booking situation,[but] the year 2023 is a year of consolidation.
As a ‘B’ location in Germany, international business is not decisive for us, but it is clear that these acts in particular tend to play fewer shows in Germany.” As a result, this venue, which can be arranged into3,400-, 6,600- and 8,000-capacity configurations and has recently held gigs by Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, and Bryan Adams, is focussing more on German acts in 2023, some of whom rose quickly to arena level during the pandemic, often by blowing up online.
“Despite the current crises, international top artists are selling very well”
Meanwhile, inflation is hitting the spending capacity of audiences. “Despite the current crises, international top artists are selling very well,” says Stefan Löcher, CEO of the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany’s largest multipurpose arena, which can scale between 3,000 and 20,000 capacity and has hosted shows by Elton John and Post Malone in 2023, with Madonna and Sting shows forthcoming. “For smaller- and medium-sized artists, we unfortunately notice the lack of purchasing power due to the ongoing inflation.”
Widespread price rises for energy and supplies are also forcing arenas to raise their operating costs. “Price increases, inflation, the energy bill, this makes the people a little slower on buying luxury goods and entertainment, leisure things,” Dreyer argues. “[But] we have faced an increase of supplier costs of up to 30% since last autumn, and we have costs on the venue side as well – security staff, medics, fire marshals, cleaning. Also, we face a massive increase in energy prices, which we sadly have to forward to the promoter, as an energy flat fee or an increase in the building rent.”
“We are in a difficult market environment with the consequences of the pandemic, a shortage of skilled workers, wages, price spirals, falling consumer demand and, in some cases, oversupply,” says Ralf Weber, CEO and tournament director at OWL Arena in Halle, which can be set to 3,300, 7,500 and 11,600 capacities as required. OWL is looking to consolidate its post-pandemic return with more corporate and family events while its bookings return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We are in a difficult market environment with the consequences of the pandemic, a shortage of skilled workers, wages, price spirals, falling consumer demand and, in some cases, oversupply”
“The live entertainment industry is currently being impacted by different crises and a shortage of personnel,“ says Sebastian Ruess, general manager of several major arenas in Berlin; the Velomax, which ranges from around 5,500 standard seating capacity up to almost 12,000, and the Max-Schmeling-Halle, with a 9,000- to almost 12,000-capacity range.
“However, these challenges can also provide opportunities for the industry to evolve and address sustainability concerns. The travel of international acts is affected by these challenges, as larger acts may be able to return to worldwide stages more easily, while smaller acts may face more difficulties touring. Additionally, the current parity of the dollar and the euro makes touring in Europe less attractive for American artists,” he says.
One genre that’s been able to steamroller through any such issues and continue its rocketing pre-pandemic trajectory is K-pop. “Even before the pandemic, they were suddenly on the landscape, and there were bands everywhere,” says Hertel of the worldwide explosion in Korean pop acts in major cities (although less so in secondary market arenas where K-pop tours rarely visit).
“That is continuing. It’s interesting to see what the new generation is looking at and what type of music they’re looking for and that is obviously K-pop. There’s so much talent in the market, and the bigger ones play the arena. There’s obviously a lot of content, and they’re fortunate to be able to go on sale at short notice. It could be the next two or three months that the shows are happening, they could go on sale tomorrow, and they’re going to have huge sales numbers.”
“That is continuing. It’s interesting to see what the new generation is looking at and what type of music they’re looking for and that is obviously K-pop.”
The promise of good times returning has encouraged venues to renovate and upgrade their infrastructure of late. Struggling to accommodate some modern productions, The Schleyer-Hallehopes to gain permission to open a new arena in 2028. “We hope we will get a final decision this summer,” says Otterbein
“Regardless of this, we are constantly trying to modernise our rooms and bring them up to a modern level. We also upgraded the visitor areas with special food and drink offers.”
By popular demand, The Rudolf Weber-Arena has expanded its vegan food options in association with the Meatless Farm company. At the OWL Arena, there are improvements underway at all levels of visitor services, from seat-specific booking to contactless admission control, VIP area enlargement and renovating their energy usage in areas such as LED lighting.
And as the Velomax and Max-Schmeling-Halle prepare to expand further into e-sports, the arenas have recently had their lighting replaced with LED, its digital signage updated, and its food and drink menu expanded.
The Volkswagen Halle is constantly being updated, with a renewal of its sound system, WLAN, and a photovoltaic system all in the works. The Westfalenhalle is updating extensively, improving its shopping row; entrances; backstage and business areas; sound;energy-saving LED lighting; and video offerings, including the installation of a video cube. And as the Velomax and Max-Schmeling-Halle prepare to expand further into e-sports, the arenas have recently had their lighting replaced with LED, its digital signage updated, and its food and drink menu expanded.
At the Lanxess Arena, as with many large-scale venues, sustainability is increasingly being prioritised. While they work on renovating their backstage rooms and renewing the seating in the arena, they’ve also been instigating a returnable cup system, eliminating plastic from their packaging materials, converting lighting to LED, and working with the Too Good ToGo app and Kölner Tafel institution to reduce food waste. Willkommen to a brighter post-pandemic future.