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Budapest, by all reports, is blossoming. Despite losing almost a third of its hospitality and live music venues during the pandemic, the Hungarian market was well on the road to recovery and thinking bigger than ever in 2022.
In its busiest year, racking up its highest ever ticket sales and volume of shows, market leaders Live Nation staged the first concert at Budapest’s Ferenc Puskás Stadium, opened in 2019 and this year home to a sell-out show by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Our first show scheduled there in 2020 was Aerosmith, which was obviously postponed and later cancelled,” says László Borsos, head promoter at Live Nation CEE. “So we were very excited to do the first international gig there.”
“Our first show scheduled there in 2020 was Aerosmith, which was obviously postponed and later cancelled,”
Though Borsos feels the city needs more smaller grassroots venues to cater to the thriving Hungarian-language scenes in rap, pop, and the new wave of post-punk indie rock, Budapest remains a major destination for larger-scale shows.
Major new venues such as the 15,000-capacity MVM Dome have arrived and the acclaimed international festival Sziget – dubbed the ‘European Glastonbury’ – drew huge crowds in 2022 with a headline bill including Dua Lipa, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, and the previously postponed Justin Bieber tour.
Laszlo Hegedus, MD of Multimedia Organisation, also points to the transformation of the huge Palatinus open-air bath complex on Margaret Island into a 1.7km-long LED light show called Lumipark. Multimedia have seen great success in 2022 with tours by Bieber, Celine Dion, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Ennio Morricone’s Official Concert Celebration, featuring original choirs and orchestra and a 160-people touring team, and Hegedus also sees much opportunity for more challenging acts in the grassroots scene, currently dominated by hip-hop and progressive rock and blues.
“If new acts come in with anything else, they have a better chance to be successful,”
“If new acts come in with anything else, they have a better chance to be successful,” he says. But visiting acts need to be sympathetic to Hungary’s unique economics: the combination of Europe’s highest VAT rate on live events, the weakness of the Hungarian forint against the euro and dollar, 20% inflation, and wages at roughly half those in Western Europe make the Hungarian market more price sensitive and enforces lower ticket prices than elsewhere.
“Most of the reasonable artists are making compromises and calculating a little bit [of a] lower deposit, understanding the results of the lower ticket prices,” says Hegedus. “Fans have great difficulties [buying] the tickets, especially bands like Mötley Cru ̈ e, whose farewell tour is charging €200-300 for the better tickets and €2,000 for VIP. I will publicly cook and eat my hat if they [sell out].”