Mercedes-Benz Arena marks 15 years in business
The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin has welcomed more than 18.1 million guests at 1,992 events since opening 15 years ago, according to operator AEG Europe.
Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, BLACKPINK, ABBA, Arctic Monkeys, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, BTS, Coldplay, Celine Dion, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney, Post Malone, Rihanna, Rod Stewart, Shawn Mendes and Slayer are among the artists that have performed at the 17,000-seater arena over the years.
The multi-purpose indoor arena opened on 10 September 2008 with a concert by American heavy metal band Metallica.
“15 years of Mercedes-Benz Arena means 15 years of highlights and unforgettable moments,” says Ole Hertel, vice president and managing director. “One thing is certain: a cosmopolitan city like Berlin would no longer be imaginable without an event venue of this size and quality. We will continue to strive to provide the ideal setting for top-class entertainment in the future. In the past twelve months, we have seen how people are drawn to unique live experiences. That’s why we’re looking forward to the next 15 years with excitement and optimism, despite all the current and certainly future challenges.”
“A cosmopolitan city like Berlin would no longer be imaginable without an event venue of this size and quality”
During the twelve-month period from the beginning of July 2022 to the end of June 2023, 192 events took place in the Mercedes-Benz Arena including concerts from Robbie Williams, Chris Brown, and Måneskin.
In the recently published Global Arenas Guide 2023, Hertel discussed a new trend of last-minute ticket purchasing in Germany. “If shows don’t sell out immediately then people are buying tickets rather late, and hat has changed a bit since the pandemic. People are probably looking at their monthly budgets, and once they find out they’ve got a little bit more money to spend, they’re going to buy a ticket and it might be within the last week or so.”
Hertel revealed that 2022 was a record year for the arena, with 171 events held. “The most we ever had [previously] was 156 in 2018. That is really remarkable. 2023 is almost going to be like that.”
Upcoming events at Mercedes-Benz Arena include Fred again…, Blink-182, Ayliva, Felix Lobrecht and Two Steps From Hell.
Alongside concerts, the Mercedes-Benz Arena is also home to the Eisbären Berlin ice hockey club and the Alba Berlin basketball team, and is used for other ice hockey, basketball and handball matches. During the last 15 years, the arena opened its doors 1,023 times for sporting events.
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AEG names Lynsey Wollaston VP and GM, European festivals
AEG Europe has appointed Lynsey Wollaston as vice president and general manager of its European festivals division.
Wollaston brings 16 years of experience years of commercial and operations experience to oversee the European Festival team’s day-to-day operations and play a key role in developing and supporting the strategic vision for the division alongside the US AEG Presents senior leadership team, according to the company.
She will work across AEG’s renowned roster of festivals, including American Express Presents BST Hyde Park and Luno Presents All Points East in London, Rock en Seine in Paris, and AEG’s newest festival, Bristol-based Forwards.
“I look forward to working with Jim and the team to take the festival division to new heights”
Prior to joining AEG, Wollaston held the role of managing director of festivals and events at Vision Nine Group and previously served as the global operations director at IMG (Arts, Entertainment and Culinary) and operations manager for the Royal Horticultural Society.
“We are delighted to have Lynsey join us as the new vice president and general manager for European Festivals,” says AEG European Festivals CEO, Jim King. “With her extensive industry leadership and experience, Lynsey brings huge value to our team. As we gear up for the busy festival season ahead, I look forward to working with Lynsey to deliver the best-in-class events for which we are renowned, and to growing the festivals division of the business.”
Wollaston adds: “I am incredibly excited to join AEG Europe and help lead the European Festivals team in delivering memorable events for music fans. With AEG’s reputation for innovation and excellence, I look forward to working with Jim and the team to take the festival division to new heights.”
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AEG calls on MP to intervene on MSG Sphere London
AEG Europe has stepped up its opposition to Madison Square Garden’s proposed MSG Sphere London venue by calling on levelling up secretary Michael Gove to block the scheme.
If given final approval, the 21,500-cap Sphere will be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich. AEG is a longtime critic of the scheme, having voiced concerns over its proximity to The O2 and – according to a 2019 investigation by The Times – creating a residents’ group in opposition.
The MSG scheme was approved in principal in March last year and handed a further boost last month when its digital advertising display plans for the exterior of the venue were backed by London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC), which was set up to secure the legacy of the Olympic Park following the London 2012 Olympics.
However, at the end of last week, Gove asked local officials “not to grant permission on the applications without specific authorisation” by issuing a holding direction to the LLDC. AEG says the MP’s intervention at this stage is significant because he has the jurisdiction to block the development entirely.
AEG claims the LLDC’s decision-making process has been “seriously flawed”, adding that that the proposed LED-covered Sphere will add congestion to the local public transport infrastructure and blot London’s skyline.
“More than a decade after the Olympic Games, the LLDC’s planning decision process is now at odds with the views of the communities that it was set up to support and develop”
“More than a decade after the Olympic Games, the LLDC’s planning decision process is now at odds with the views of the communities that it was set up to support and develop,” says Alistair Wood, EVP real estate and development at AEG Europe. “With the LLDC due to be disbanded at the end of next year, it would be democratic for the government to intervene and back the wishes of elected councils in east London who want this inappropriate development blocked to protect the wellbeing of local people and existing businesses.
“Since these proposals first emerged back in 2017, AEG has consistently raised its objections to the unacceptable impact that this proposal will have on the operation of The O2 and the hundreds of residents who will be even more directly affected.
Last week, local MP Lyn Brown wrote on Twitter: “Last year I wrote to the government and Mayor of London about stopping the monstrous MSG Sphere. Michael Gove has now issued a legal notice and I’m hoping he’ll act. The undemocratic LLDC steamrolled all local elected opposition, so it’s only right to take the final decision out of their hands.”
MSG Sphere London would become MSG’s first property outside of the US. MSG has suggested that London has an “undersupply” of dedicated large entertainment venues compared with cities such as Berlin, Paris, Madrid and New York. The capital’s next biggest indoor spaces are the 12,500-cap OVO Arena Wembley and the 10,400-cap Alexandra Palace.
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AEG Europe appoints first sustainability director
AEG Europe has appointed Sam Booth as its first director of sustainability.
Booth will provide strategic direction, expertise and support to AEG Europe’s business units as it continues to transition to net zero and confront the impact of the climate emergency on the business and operations.
Booth has more than 10 years’ experience of working across high-profile event production and sustainability projects with brands such as Nestlé, Adidas and Pernod Ricard.
“We entertain millions of fans across thousands of events annually and as such, we are acutely aware of our responsibility and take care to lead by example to ensure a sustainable industry and a healthier planet”, says AEG Europe COO John Langford. “Given Sam’s exceptional background in this field, we are so excited to have him join the team to focus on and lead the development of these plans.”
“They understand the importance of taking a proactive role in introducing a sustainability strategy that sits at the heart of the business”
Speaking on his appointment, Booth says: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the AEG Europe team. As leaders in their field, they understand the importance of taking a proactive role in introducing a sustainability strategy that sits at the heart of the business to drive the industry towards a more sustainable future, which is why I can’t wait to get stuck in and be a part of it.”
The O2 recently became the first arena in England to achieve its Greener Arena certification in recognition of the venue’s sustainability practices and commitments.
The certification is awarded by A Greener Festival (AGF), a not-for-profit company and sustainability expert, dedicated to helping events, festivals, and venues around the world to become more sustainable.
Booth’s appointment adds to the list of recent announcements from AEG Europe. Last month, the company confirmed a handful of new appointments within AEG Presents UK as part of its growth and development plans across the venues and touring business.
AEG Europe adds five new leaders to UK business
AEG Europe has announced a handful of new appointments within AEG Presents UK as part of its growth and development plans across the venues and touring business.
The company has promoted Jacqui Harris to the role of VP and general manager, responsible for all operational functions for the events, touring, marketing and ticketing teams.
In addition, Lucky Thompson is named senior director, events and operations, assuming overall leadership responsibility for the company’s cornerstone events division, which includes Summer Series, C2C, Eden Sessions and Just for Laughs, among others.
Elsewhere, Connie Shao becomes VP and general manager for international touring, tasked with managing the international touring division and operations of its tours and events.
“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans”
Plus, Leonie Wakeman is appointed director of commercial operations, with a focus on identifying, developing and implementing new revenue opportunities, while Stuart Dorn is installed as group venue operations director, responsible for AEG Presents venues, such as Indigo at The O2, The Halls Wolverhampton, Eventim Apollo and Olympia London.
“It’s an exciting time for our business as we break new ground and in turn, build out a people structure that powers the successful delivery of our growth plans,” says AEG Presents UK CEO Steve Homer. “From our recently announced appointment of Lucy Noble as our inaugural artistic director, or our expanded footprint into the world of comedy, to our continued investment in venues like The Halls Wolverhampton or Olympia London… We’re heading into 2023 with strong momentum and I look forward to what’s to come.”
The company says the expansion will bring further opportunities across AEG Europe, with a number of open roles due to open in 2023.
PHOTO L-R: Jacqui Harris, Lucky Thompson, Connie Shao, Leonie Wakeman, Stuart Dorn
Sustainability initiatives ramp up across the business
This week has seen major companies in the live music business ramp up their sustainability efforts with new initiatives, hires and partnerships.
ASM Global this week announced a new partnership with Honeycomb Strategies, a leading consultant in sustainability for the hospitality, sports and event industries.
According to a release, the partnership will support and improve the venue management giant’s sustainability efforts across its global portfolio of some 350 facilities, from stadiums to local convention centres.
Honeycomb Strategies, a woman-owned consultancy, brings extensive experience and a comprehensive understanding of events-related best practices in the sustainability field.
The consultancy will work closely with ASM’s corporate social responsibility platform, ASM Global Acts Foundation, which supports philanthropic and community-based endeavours, guided by its sustainability and diversity objectives.
ASM Global announced a new partnership with Honeycomb Strategies
Among Honeycomb Strategies’ clients are SoFi Stadium, Colorado Convention Center, Visit Denver, Greenbuild Conference and Expo, Vancouver Convention Center, Specialty Coffee Association, Coffee Expo, UUA General Assembly and Snowflake Technology Summit.
Meanwhile, AEG Europe is recruiting a director for the delivery of net zero, to be based out of its European head office in London.
The successful candidate will be charged with developing AEG Europe’s Net Zero Strategy, implementing and driving plans that deliver net zero and establishing AEG Europe as industry leaders and advocates for net zero.
Elsewhere, environmental nonprofit A Greener Festival (AGF) has launched ‘A Greener Supplier Kitemark’ to provide green suppliers with independent verification and recognition of their sustainability actions.
The new certification will help events, festivals and tours identify verified green suppliers more easily, reducing the time and overhead of having to undertake their own internal supplier assessments.
AEG Europe is recruiting a director for the delivery of net zero
For suppliers with the kite mark, it is hoped that it will reduce the effort required to demonstrate their green credentials to prospective customers.
To attain the kitemark, suppliers will have to demonstrate a commitment to supporting biodiversity, and reducing their organisations emissions and waste across the company’s operations, purchases and investment.
The supplier assessment will consider the organisation’s approach to applicable key elements of environmental sustainability including energy, food & beverage, transport, waste management, water, plastics & packaging, social responsibility, as well as its policy and strategies for dealing with hazardous materials and reductions in CO2 emissions.
Meanwhile, the US has gained a new nonprofit organisation studying sustainability and live events.
Sound Future launched with the goal to find solutions to making live events more sustainable in a way that supports business goals and improves the artist and fan experience.
The US has gained a new nonprofit organisation studying sustainability and live events
“Sound Future is a nonprofit born to harness the influence of the live event industry for the betterment of people, planet, and business,” reads a statement from the organisation.
“We partner with industry stakeholders to offer baseline climate accounting for live events. We use that data to inform the highest impact technology solutions, recommending only those that help our partners meet their business objectives and meaningfully improve the event experience for the talent and their fans.”
The nonprofit is led by CEO Cassie Lee, who has previously held roles at NASA, Paul G. Allen’s space programs and SpaceX.
Taking up the position of COO is Ashley O’Winter, an Emmy-award nominated documentarian and a philanthropist.
CMO of Sound Future is Brandy Schultz, founder and owner of the award-winning agency Adventure Nannies, whose knowledge of the live event space comes from touring the world with her husband, Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers.
Also serving in an advising role at Sound Future is Sara Full, current tour director of The Lumineers and who previously worked on the road with AC/DC and The Rolling Stones.
Later this year, IQ Magazine will publish the third edition of Green Guardians, an annual guide that aims to boost the profile of sustainability pioneers working to make the live business greener.
The O2 enhances sustainability measures
The O2 in London has announced a series of new sustainability measures as it prepares to host multi-day climate festival Overheated.
Overheated is set to take place across six days – 10-12, 16 and 25-26 June – during Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever, The World Tour dates at the AEG-operated venue.
The O2 will be implementing various changes within the arena to reduce single use plastic, promote a plant-based menu, and better enable customers to make informed and responsible choices. Working with the singer and her tour team on their Green Rider, it has committed to going 100% vegan on all available food items for the six shows,
Following Eilish’s residency, The O2 will continue with a plant-forward philosophy, which will see the concession stand staple ‘beef burger’ being removed from the menu permanently.
“We’re proud to be leading the charge as a company”
“Finding ways to make both our venues across Europe and worldwide, as well as the wider live entertainment industry, more sustainable has never been more important,” says AEG Europe COO John Langford. “We’re proud to be leading the charge as a company to help find and trial innovative solutions and help reduce our impact on the planet.”
Throughout The O2 arena, the venue will be installing several water dispensers for fans to easily access on their visit, thereby reducing the need for plastic water bottles. Visitors to the arena will be encouraged to bring soft, reusable water bottles which will need to be emptied prior to entry and fully collapsible.
The O2 is also taking strides to reduce the amount of single-use plastic used in the arena moving forwards and has committed to using recyclable paper cups in all areas of the arena, including backstage. It has also removed all plastic bags from merchandise units and is implementing fabric wristbands made from 100% recycled PET plastic for standing arena attendees for the first time this month.
“As one of the world’s leading venues, it’s important that we help drive industry change in the space of sustainability”
“We’re so proud to be taking real strides this month to becoming an even more sustainable venue here at The O2,” says Steve Sayer, the 21,000-cap venue’s VP & general manager. “Going fully vegan in the arena for six sold out show dates with Billie Eilish is no small task and is something that we know will really resonate with fans attending the shows.
“The reduction in single use plastic in The O2 arena is another huge step forward for us, as we work towards our A Greener Arena accreditation, and ultimately one day towards becoming net zero as a venue. As one of the world’s leading venues, it’s important that we help drive industry change in the space of sustainability and show that we can all make a difference, whilst continuing to still provide a best-in-class experience for the fans and artists.”
Through its partnership with catering partner Levy, The O2 is also working with Klimato to calculate, communicate and report the climate impact of the food available for fans to purchase. Levy has committed to reaching net zero at the arena by 2025 – an integral part of The O2’s overall strategy to hit net zero.
The O2 and AEG Europe are currently working with A Greener Festival on establishing an accurate scientific baseline for scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions before publishing its full plan for net zero later this year.
AEG Europe names Kylie Taylor first VP of comms
The European arm of AEG has appointed former Getty senior comms figure Kylie Taylor to a new position overseeing comms across the continent.
Taylor takes the role of VP of communications at AEG Europe, which operates venues including The O2 and Eventim Apollo in London and festivals such as American Express BST Hyde Park and All Points East in London.
AEG Europe said that in her new role, Taylor becomes an advisor to the European operation’s senior leadership team and oversees all aspects of external and internal comms, providing strategic and creative communications leadership.
“From media relations to global partnerships, to working across the company’s sustainability agenda, which is at the forefront of the industry, the role has also been appointed to deliver the company’s inclusive culture programme in collaboration with the people team,” the company stated.
“It’s rare that you fall in love with both a role and a company – I’m pinching myself”
It’s the first time AEG Europe has had someone in place to lead comms for the overarching company, although some venues such as the O2 have their own comms teams.
Taylor says: “It’s rare that you fall in love with both a role and a company – I’m pinching myself and am beyond thrilled to be joining the team. The business already has such amazing initiatives and a great framework in place which jumped out at me as unique during the interview process; I’m really excited to help bring this to life.”
She joins AEG Europe from Getty Images, where she had worked for more than 11 years, most recently as senior director, global corporate communications.
AEG Europe’s other venues include the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin and the Accor Arena in Paris.
European promoters reveal plans for Covid policies
Live Nation, AEG Europe, CTS Eventim and DEAG/Kilimanjaro have outlined how they plan to approach Covid-19 entry requirements for live entertainment in European markets.
Earlier this week, Live Nation Entertainment announced that, from 4 October, it will require all artists, crew and fans to produce proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test to gain entry to its US venues and festivals.
Days later, Live Nation representatives confirmed that it plans to do the same in the UK – which is fully reopen – as well as Canada, which last week opened to fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents.
As for other countries, IQ now understands that Live Nation will take a market-by-market approach based on local governments’ requirements –many of which already utilise Covid-status certification for entrance to public spaces.
IQ now understands that Live Nation will take a market-by-market approach based on local governments’ requirements
Additionally, Anschutz Entertainment Group – including Goldenvoice/Coachella, ticket agency AXS and AEG’s owned sports teams – will mandate that all employees working at their US offices have had the vaccine, with “limited exceptions as required by law”.
However, AEG Europe “will be adopting an approach that is appropriate to the prevailing conditions and local health department and/or legislative requirements in each market,” COO, John Langford, reveals to IQ.
The live entertainment behemoth has already implemented a number of measures at its landmark venue, the O2 (cap. 21,000) in London.
In line with the advice and guidance from UK and local government, ticket holders are required to present an NHS Covid Pass on entry to the arena in order to gain access.
AEG Europe “will be adopting an approach that is appropriate to legislative requirements in each market”
This week saw the London arena back at full capacity for the first time since March 2020, welcoming 34,000 people to two shows by Gorillaz.
The show was promoted by UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live, which is backed by Berlin-based DEAG.
Peter Schwenkow, CEO of DEAG, says the UK is “by far the best country to promote shows at the moment,” but that the company has to handle different restrictions in all its territories, which includes Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
“It very much depends on local authorities: For example, Bavaria is different to Berlin and Zurich different to Geneva,” he explains.
“Denmark is partly open, the rest of Scandinavia is currently still very complicated. Ireland continues to be problematic but the UK is by far the best country to promote shows at the moment; Kilimanjaro Live did two sold-out shows at the O2 last week with the Gorillaz. Generally, we do prefer the 3G rule: vaccinated, recovered or tested. Anybody else will not be allowed to work, stay backstage or even enter the venue,” he says.
“Generally, [DEAG] does prefer the 3G rule: vaccinated, recovered or tested”
European ticketing and promoting powerhouse CTS Eventim are taking a similar bespoke approach to Covid-19 safety measures. “In Germany, if concerts are allowed to take place, our promoters will develop individual concepts in close coordination with the local authorities in the various regions and the corresponding local regulations for the protection against Corona,” a representative tells IQ.
The ticketing services and live entertainment giant has interests in 21 countries including major markets such as Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK.
The Eventim Group includes concert, tour, and festival promoter companies for events like Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, Hurricane, Southside, and Lucca Summer.
And CTS Eventim’s venue portfolio includes the Lanxess Arena (cap. 18,000) in Cologne, the KB Hallen (4,500) in Copenhagen, the Waldbühne (22,290) in Berlin and the Eventim Apollo (2,500) in London.
AEG Global Partnerships makes senior hire in France
AEG Europe Global Partnerships has appointed Stéphan Degos as its new senior director of sponsorship sales, replacing the departing Emmanuel de Sola.
In his new role, Degos will oversee sponsorship and partnerships for for the 20,300-capacity Accor Arena in Paris.
He joins AEG from Pollen (the company formerly known as Verve, and before that as StreetTeam), having spent more than 20 years in live entertainment marketing, including seven years as head of brand marketing partnerships at Live Nation.
“I’m really looking forward to maximising the opportunities in the French region”
Paul Samuels, executive vice-president of AEG Europe Global Partnerships, comments: “We are looking forward to Stéphan joining our team and driving the strategic ambitions we have in France. As we reflect on our current successes in the region, we would like to thank Emmanuel de Sola for his contribution and wish him well with his new personal projects.”
“I am delighted to be joining AEG at this pivotal time,” adds Degos. “They are world leaders in entertainment and have a reputation for delivering exceptional deals for world-class brands. I’m really looking forward to maximising the opportunities in the French region and delivering against AEG’s strategic aims.”