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Increasingly, Finland is out on the European limb. Always a slightly dislocated market due to the two or three extra days it takes for major tours to reach cities such as
Helsinki from Sweden or the Baltics, the war in Ukraine has had the effect of cutting Finland off even further.
“[The main] reason to go to Finland was [to get] to Russia, and that’s off, obviously,” says Hardi Loog, CEO of All Things Live in Helsinki, who staged a successful Andrea Bocelli tour of Finland this year.
“Also, the biggest arena in the Helsinki area [Helsinki Halli] is owned partly by Russians, so that hasn’t been in use since the war started, and they haven’t yet figured out how to work around it. In the Helsinki area, we are capped [at] 7,000-capacity venues as of now. I’ve done some multiple nights in a row for these smaller venues, but it hasn’t been very attractive for bands because they’d rather keep it simple, tour Sweden, and go back to Central Europe where they can move city to city.”
“I’ve done some multiple nights in a row for these smaller venues, but it hasn’t been very attractive for bands because they’d rather keep it simple, tour Sweden, and go back to Central Europe where they can move city to city.”
Last summer, Loog staged Justin Bieber’s Finnish concert in a Helsinki park, which will be under construction and unavailable for the 2024 summer season, while the new 15,000-seat Nokia Arena in Tampere is proving a hit-and-miss draw. “In the beginning, when it was opened, it was a great new thing, and everyone wanted to see the venue,” says Loog, “but when you oversaturate the market, it’s still only 200,000 people. Sometimes the people from Helsinki might go there for something really good but very often they won’t.”
Besides a shortage of top-end venues, that over-heated market as acts raced back on tour post-pandemic has hit the mid-level shows, too. Overestimating the sales potential of previously strong-performing acts at a time when fans’ choice is broad but budgets are tight has landed some in hot water in 2023.
“It’s not good to anyone when your artist that normally does 5,000 tickets now does 1,000,” says Loog. “But the market will heal. I’m not expecting next year to be any better than this year, but hopefully, by ’25 and ’26, it’ll start to get back and hopefully the Halli arena situation will be resolved. There are constant talks also about building one or two different venues or arenas in the Helsinki area, which will be helpful.”
“The market will heal. I’m not expecting next year to be any better than this year, but hopefully, by ’25 and ’26, it’ll start to get back and hopefully the Halli arena situation will be resolved.
The market isn’t in complete stasis, however. Loog has a sold-out show by Louis Tomlinson coming up, while Aino-Maria Paasivirta of major Finnish promoters Fullsteam reports healthy business at their festivals Sideways and Provinssi, as well as headline tours by Jokers Out and local acts JVG and Kuumaa. “The trend of rising costs is something that hits Finland especially hard because of our geographic location,” Paasivirta argues. “The main cost that causes problems here is travelling here, not necessarily the costs in Finland.
The new elected government brought up an idea of raising VAT on tickets, but this hasn’t progressed in any way so far. I think the years ahead will be about redefining touring. The question of rising costs in touring and how to handle it is not a question for one market only, it will take all of us in the business coming together and figuring out ways to keep touring a viable business in the future as well.”
Promoters here – who also include Live Nation Finland, Grey Beard Concerts, and RH Entertainment, among others – have also seen promising signs of rejuvenation in Finland’s grassroots hip-hop, hard rock, and EDM scenes. Against stiff competition in the busy Finnish festival calendar, his summer techno weekend CNNCT in Helsinki reverted to its EDM roots with great success this year. Otherwise, promoters are being rewarded for agility – guerrilla discount campaigns have been helping revive sales.