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Arena Market: Germany

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Europe’s leading live music market is booming – with record numbers of events taking place since lockdowns (which ended at various times due to the country’s federal government system). But nervousness over a possible return to restrictions, inflation, and the war in Ukraine are on everyone’s minds.

In Cologne, the Lanxess Arena is regularly among the top-selling arenas in the world. CEO Stefan Löcher says it was only in March 2022 that full-capacity shows were permitted, and as a result, staffing levels across sectors are a challenge. “But since it’s no use mourning the past, we want to look ahead,” he reflects. “We still have so many top-class events coming up in the near future, like Alicia Keys, 50 Cent, Harry Styles, and Justin Bieber, that we will handle perfectly.

“Looking ahead, our event calendar is at its limit, as we have to catch up on shows from more than two years ago.

While this is good news, it is a challenge. Another crucial point will be at the end of this year: we urgently need politicians to reassure us we won’t have to close again. That’s the only way to plan reliably, and the only way for the still moderate demand for tickets to return to normal.” However, he says he’s very optimistic about the future.

“Looking ahead, our event calendar is at its limit, as we have to catch up on shows from more than two years ago.”

Löcher says the pandemic closure was an opportunity to make some improvements to the venue. After upgrading the fascia board – a 360-degree LED circle – in 2019, over the last few years it has upgraded the roof load at the arena and carried out renovations to the premium and hospitality areas.

“We also introduced a new digital-entry control system, which helps improve customer capture and registers a fully digital customer journey. Sustainability measures continued, including a reusable cup and packaging system, minimising food waste initiatives, and exploring climate-friendly event approaches.”

The venue can be configured from a theatre set-up for 4,000 to a max capacity of 20,000.

Another of the country’s leading venues is AEG-owned Barclays Arena (formerly the Barclaycard Arena) in Hamburg, which can be configured from 1,500-15,000 capacity. It recently welcomed KISS, Status Quo, and Dua Lipa. Managing director Steve Schwenkglenks says business is looking very healthy at the venue. However, people are now buying tickets much closer to the event date.

“We urgently need politicians to reassure us we won’t have to close again.”

In an effort to protect the venue against rising energy prices, Barclays Arena is exploring the use of alternative sources, such as wind power and solar energy.

“Since its construction in 2009, the Barclays Arena has a greywater recycling system on the roof that collects rainwater for the sanitary system,” says Schwenkglenks, adding the venue is reducing waste and increasing recycling across its food and beverage offers.

“We have stopped ‘all you can eat’ offers in our premium boxes because a lot of food had to be thrown away. This doesn’t mean that every one of our lodge partners won’t get enough to eat, it’s just that we are trying to dispose of as little food as possible. At the end of 2022, we will introduce a deposit cup system in the arena.”

The venue has invested in smaller stages and various curtain options, which gives it flexible configurations for smaller tours or local newcomers to the arena.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin is set for a record number of events in H2 2022 and H1 2023. “While some events have sold slightly slower than others, ticket sales have generally been very strong, and Justin Bieber, for example, sold out as quickly as before Covid-19,” says general manager Ole Hertel.

During the lockdowns Hertel says the Mercedes-Benz Arena did a good job of retaining staff through packages of financial support. As a result, while some people left to pursue other challenges, the venue has replaced most of them and has a good staffing level at a time when many venues worldwide are struggling to fill roles.

“While some events have sold slightly slower than others, ticket sales have generally been very strong”

A programme of maintenance has seen refurbished artist dressing rooms including special virus-removing air- conditioning and improved customer facilities such as toilets. Upgraded tech included a new sports lighting system for TV broadcasts.

“We’re also looking at measures to reduce our energy consumption, plus we’ve bought a cup washer, so from January 2023, all the reusable cups can be washed and reused without needing to be transported off-site, saving a lot of carbon dioxide emissions.”

While there is a surfeit of concerts at Berlin’s 3,000-10,000-capacity Max-Schmeling-Halle and Velodrom, general manager Sybil Franke says audience behaviour can be hard to predict, and that across Germany the no-show rate is “quite high” at the moment.

“We are almost fully booked when it comes to the number of shows and sports events. But facing autumn and winter, we aren’t sure what might happen in terms of pandemic restrictions which, if they do happen, would be awful to deal with.

“Also, we are still seeing a high number of cancellations and postponements for a variety of reasons such as tickets not selling well, people are worried about restrictions, and so on. Massive shows, such as stadium events, seem to sell well, but the mid segment is rather tough.”

Franke says the team used the “pandemic break” to make general improvements and modernisations to the venues, such as installing LED bulbs, investing in digitisation, updated seating, and improvements in sustainable venue operations.

Artists performing at the venues include Sam Fender, Bonobo, Parcels, Parkway Drive, and Sum 41.

“We are almost fully booked when it comes to the number of shows and sports events.”

With a large portfolio of venues, D-Live in Dusseldorf says it can cover every event capacity. The Mitsubishi Electric Halle is for up to 7,500 guests, the PSD Bank Dome can hold up to 15,151. Merkur Spiel-Arena is a stadium capable of hosting 66,500 people, while it also has other smaller venues.

D-Live managing director Michael Brill says his venues also had a great start since lockdown. “This year is very strong. However, we are finding that there’s some caution in bookings for the future. Shows of between 7,500-15,000 capacity are where the most uncertainty is.

“A year ago, I said we need to accept that things will not be as they used to be. I personally believe we should not look back on how life was pre-pandemic. It’s all going to be different. The way the consumer behaves now is very different to before the pandemic – we will see a different pattern in sales and they cannot be predicted in the way we did in the past. Whatever we’ve learned over the last 20 years, we can’t apply that any longer.”

Over the last two years, the company has spent over €15m renovating and remodelling the buildings, including improved backstage facilities at 50-year-old Mitsubishi Electric Hall and added VIP spaces. “We’re also making sure all the production spaces are bigger and more flexible and more technologically advanced. We invested in equipment because we believe that we do need to offer more equipment in-house.”

“I personally believe we should not look back on how life was pre-pandemic.”

Dieter Otto from the Festhalle Messe Frankfurt, notes that Germany’s central European location and Frankfurt’s situation in the well-populated, wealthy Rhine Main area makes the city an important hotspot for the international concert, show, and event business.

“We keep the arena constantly on a high technical level, especially to meet the safety needs of visitors, artists, and crews in all areas. For example, we have examined the air quality of our locations and have been able to prove that, thanks to our technical measures, a visit to our locations comes close to the air quality outdoors.”

Otto adds: “We have a state-of-the-art security centre directly on the grounds and networked with all relevant security authorities. International crews appreciate the overall offer of the historic Festhalle with a special atmosphere, most modern standards, highest security, great expertise, and an enthusiastic audience.”

The Festhalle, which can be configured for between 3,000 and 15,000 people, has recently hosted Billie Eilish, KISS, and Pearl Jam, and has forthcoming shows with Swedish House Mafia, Rise Against, and The Cure.

“New bookings aren’t showing strong ticket sales at the moment.”

In.Stuttgart runs the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle (5,000-15,5000 capacity) and Porsche-Arena (3,000-7,500 capacity). Spokesman René Otterbein says the venues have just a handful of dates available in [the] diary until the end of the first half of 2023.

“Nevertheless, we are not relaxed about the future,” he adds. “New bookings aren’t showing strong ticket sales at the moment. There [is] hardly any working crew, costs for energy, working crew, and equipment are going to explode and can no longer be calculated. What will happen if the gas supply is cut off due to the war in Ukraine? What will happen with Covid-19 this autumn?

“It’s hard to plan at the moment. Events for young audiences – particularly teenagers – are selling tickets very well at the moment, while the programme for older visitors is the opposite – everyone else prefers to wait and buy at short notice.”

The Porsche-Arena now has new LED lighting plus a new PA system with a delay option for productions to use. The Schleyer-Halle has also been converted to LED, and there’s now space for 50 trucks or Nightliners to park directly next to the hall. “For the Porsche-Arena, we are installing a mobile pre rig and a new LED banner.”

“It’s hard to plan at the moment. Events for young audiences – particularly teenagers – are selling tickets very well.”

Artists performing at the venues include James Blunt, Eric Clapton, Pet Shop Boys, KISS, and Simply Red.

The ASM Global-owned 12,800-capacity Rudolf Weber Arena in Oberhausen is also looking ahead to a very positive 12-18 months. General manager Mirco Markfort says, “There is currently a large number of postponed events, which are leading to a short-term oversupply of events. This is reflected in slightly reduced ticket sales. Ticket sales per event are slowly increasing but are not yet where they used to be.”

Markfort says the venue recently changed its name from the König-Pilsner Arena following a naming partnership with building cleaning company Rudolf Weber Gebäudedienste. Acts appearing there include Whitesnake, Pet Shop Boys, Judas Priest, and Sting.

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