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The world’s leading promoters & the 55 top markets they operate in.
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New Year’s Day 2023 was a significant date for Croatia. On that day it joined both the Schengen area and also adopted the Euro (which replaced the Croatian kuna).
Trading in Euros was seen as having an immediate and highly positive impact on the market, with Mario Grdosic, MD of LAA, the country’s leading promoter, telling IQ in July that business has been “exceptionally strong” because of the Euro.
These two major developments are much-needed bright lights in a live music market that was seriously damaged not just by Covid but also by an earthquake in the capital Zagreb in March 2020, its biggest earthquake in 140 years, right at the start of lockdown.
“After the earthquake, we lost some venues, some have smaller capacities and we lost the only big stadium in Zagreb that was able to host shows with over 30,000 people,” says Grdosic.
“After the earthquake, we lost some venues, some have smaller capacities and we lost the only big stadium in Zagreb that was able to host shows with over 30,000 people.”
He says the Croatian market is at its best in venues ranging from 4,000 capacity to 15,000 capacity. LAA puts on between 50 and 70 shows a year, with Robbie Williams, Florence + The Machine, The Cult, Incubus, Damien Rice, Sigur Rós, Tash Sultana, Steve Vai, and Amon Amarth being among the major names playing in 2023.
Being part of the European Union has dramatically streamlined the business, something that could make the country far more attractive to even more international acts.
“Lots of past challenges don’t exist anymore,” explains Grdosic. “There’s no need for visas and no more border control. Only work permits are needed for international acts, and those are very easy to obtain here.”
Grdosic is, however, a realist and accepts that a wider change in mindset needs to happen before international touring acts start to prioritise Croatia – and that may take time.
“In all honesty, I am not sure any serious agent or manager dreams of building a career in Croatia!”
“In all honesty, I am not sure any serious agent or manager dreams of building a career in Croatia!” he laughs. “We are simply outside of any regular international routing. We get shows by pure luck, having cool-looking venues or if an agent needs a play around Vienna, Italy, Budapest, or Prague on their way to Romania, Bulgaria, or Greece.”
A major change for promoters in the country is that almost all marketing happens on social platforms today. “We do some outdoor and radio here and there, but for the biggest shows only,” reveals Grdosic. “I don’t think we have had a TV ad for any of our shows for over ten years now.”
The switch to the Euro this year may have seen the average cost of tickets rise significantly, but it appears that the market is able to sustain this. “Sales are good, and demand is still solid,” argues Grdosic. “I expect the market to be healthy, at least over the next 24 months.”
Zagreb accounts for around 90% of international shows, but, given the touristic nature of the country, events on coastal locations away from the capital can draw audiences that are upwards of 50% foreign visitors.
“I expect the market to be healthy, at least over the next 24 months.”
Rock and metal perform well in Croatia, but Grdosic says family shows and exhibitions have historically struggled and past attempts in these areas have yielded poor ticket sales.
LAA is the dominant local promoter and Live Nation will promote shows in Croatia but, without a local office there, these tend to be run from outside of the country. Charm Music, part of Charmenko Group, has an office in Croatia and put on shows by Sting and Arctic Monkeys this year.
Grdosic feels the level of competition in Croatia currently is not detrimental to local players such as LAA. He argues that the relatively small size of the country also works against the big international names coming in too aggressively.
“I think it’s healthy at the moment and still not overcrowded,” he says. “When it does get overcrowded, big players usually leave our market and try to find happiness somewhere else.”