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Arena Market: Luxembourg

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With a population of just 661,000, prosperous Luxembourg is a one-arena nation. That arena is the state-owned,6,500-capacity Rockhal, in Esch-sur-Alzette, 22km south-west of the capital city, and it is a busy spot. What other arena in one of Europe’s smallest countries can offer up a summer programme that includes Slipknot, The Black Keys, Disturbed, Die Ärzte, Machine Gun Kelly, Hollywood Vampires, and Macklemore, on top of a broader palette of shows at its smaller Rockhal Box and Rockhal Club venues?

Luxembourg, then, has come out of the pandemic in pretty good shape, like we all suspected it would. But that doesn’t mean everything is exactly as it was before, says Olivier Toth, Rockhal’s CEO for 18 years and currently president of the European Arenas Association.

“We still see some reluctance in the older audience”

“We still see some reluctance in the older audience,” he says. “For the younger audience, we were a bit afraid of how [we could] not only bring them back to live entertainment but actually get them interested in live entertainment in the first place. A lot of them had never been to their first show, because there were no shows in the pandemic.”

The solution – very successful, so far – has been a calendar with a heavy slant towards rock and hip-hop. “We made some booking choices early this year, and we saw that went pretty well,” says Toth.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, the kids’ gig-going model isn’t exactly the same as that of their elders. “A generic concertgoer of the usual type would come to the events on time– maybe half an hour, maybe an hour before, and get a drink, maybe get something to eat,” says Toth.

“The catering part is actually a crucial part of their experience. The kids go straight into the venue itself and just wait until the show starts – we see less interest in drinks, less interest in food.”

“The catering part is actually a crucial part of their experience. The kids go straight into the venue itself and just wait until the show starts – we see less interest in drinks, less interest in food. So that’s an interesting learning. I had a meeting with the EAA guys some weeks back, and some colleagues reported the same observations.”

The older punters, meanwhile, are constantly convinced the venues have been oversold, unaccustomed as they are to sharing a confined space at quite such close quarters. “We had one show with 20% no-shows. And still we got remarks from some audience members that we’d sold too many tickets.”

The Rockhal itself is yards from the French border, 15km from Belgium to the west and about 30km from Germany to the east, making it a distinctly international destination and prey to the upside and downside of several economies.

“We attract an audience from at least four different markets”

“We attract an audience from at least four different markets,” says Toth. “Half our audience comes from Luxembourg or buys their tickets from a Luxembourg-based IP address. That’s what we know. And then the second half basically is in thirds: the Germans, the French, and the Belgians. And then it depends on the agenda, the selection of artists, which proportion is larger or smaller. But if something bad happens in France, we do see it.”

Developments at the Rockhal include a new balcony in the Club, which increases the capacity from 1,200 to 1,500, and a new Adamson sound system in the same room. A new second bar, with a VIP vibe, and a relaunched restaurant are part of the plan for 2023.

Rockhal promotes in its own venues as well as renting them to external and foreign promoters.

Rockhal promotes in its own venues as well as renting them to external and foreign promoters. The independent A-Promotions is the other main promoter in the Grand Duchy and a frequent Rockhal user, though it has options in the capital, too.

These include outdoor summer shows in front of the LuxExpo conference and exhibition centre for up to 16,000, and an open-air stage at Neumünster Abbey, whereA-Promotions promotes artist shows and runs the open-air stage of the 3,000-capacity Siren’s Call electronic festival.

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