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FKP Scorpio expands into Poland

Hamburg-based concert promoter FKP Scorpio has grown its European footprint, launching a division in Poland.

FKP Scorpio Poland, headquartered in Warsaw, is headed up by Filip Potocki, who has been managing director of Arcadia Live since 2015.

Other members of the Polish branch include Jan Brzoza (administration, marketing and ticketing) and Krysztof Czarniakowski (project management and ticketing).

“I’ve been following the development of the Polish live music market for a long time and see great potential there,” says FKP Scorpio chief executive Folkert Koopmans.

“I’ve been following the development of the Polish live music market for a long time and see great potential there”

The company had its first foray into the Polish market in 2018, says Koopmans, promoting an Ed Sheeran show in “the fantastic atmosphere of the PGE Narodowy Stadium (58,145-cap.) in Warsaw,” as part of Sheeran’s record-breaking ÷ tour.

The first concert organised by FKP Scorpio Poland will be 2019 Eurovision Song Contest winner Duncan Laurence on 25 November at Proxima, Warsaw.

Poland is the ninth country office for the promoter, adding to branches in Norway, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, the UK and Germany.

The Polish expansion follows on from FKP’s recent acquisition of Stockholm-based promoter Woah Dad Live, through its Swedish arm.

 


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Market report: Austria

Sitting in a mountain range – the Eastern Alps, which covers nearly two-thirds of the territory – and with a population of 8.7m, around a fifth of whom live in the capital, Vienna, the country of Mozart, Mahler and Falco these days draws music from everywhere.

For instance, at the time of writing, the calendar of Vienna’s alternative art complex Arena Wien is a multicultural stew featuring Franco-German reggae-punks Irie Révoltés, US hip-hopper Joey Badass, Finnish rockers Sunrise Avenue and German electro-poppers Lali Puna, along with Austria’s own Julian Le Play. And when the Ernst-Happel-Stadion prepares itself for blockbuster shows, it’s for the likes of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Robbie Williams and German star Helene Fischer. Yet there’s still something distinctive about the Austrian music business, where highly individual independent festivals remain the norm, and where “you can still develop things based on quality rather than quantity,” in the words of veteran indie promoter Alex Nussbaumer.

“Austria is a very sensible market,” says Nussbaumer, who operates as al-x, with offices in Vienna and Bregenz. “I often liken it to Switzerland because it has the same, very healthy scene, whereas in Germany, you don’t really have the middle range anymore. My experience here has always been that you can really develop an artist from scratch with touring.” However, times change, as Nussbaumer concedes, and it’s possible that the Austria of the near future will be different from that of recent decades. Like Switzerland, Austria was built by indies and has only lately attracted the undivided attention of multinational operators.

Live Nation and FKP Scorpio/CTS Eventim are now a couple of years into their respective Austrian ventures, and though Barracuda (the 2016 amalgam of leading indies Skalar, Red Snapper and NuCoast Entertainment) remains the biggest player in both shows and festivals, it is safe to say the gap has closed

“To be the only big, independent player is not easy when Live Nation, DEAG and CTS all have offices in Vienna,” says Barracuda CEO Ewald Tatar, whose recent projects have included the Rolling Stones at Spielberg; Robbie Williams in Vienna and Klagenfurt; and the perennial Nova Rock festival. “But for us,” he adds, “business is still very, very good.”

“You can definitely play one big arena or one big stadium. For the second or third show, you need to be really careful”

For now, this is a view more or less shared by indies and multinationals alike. Austria may not be huge but it’s in reasonably good shape, especially after the festival market pulled back from the edge of saturation a year or two ago.

“In general, it’s been a pretty good year – possibly the best year ever,” says Arcadia Live head of booking Silvio Huber. “The Rolling Stones pulled a massive crowd; there’s been a significant rise in stadium shows in Vienna; and, of course, a steady growth of club and arena shows. It seems we have not reached a critical peak in Austria yet, but we should be aware that no business grows endlessly.”

Nestled beneath Germany with borders into Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, Austria has always been a well-connected sort of place, part west and part east, so a well-placed show in Austria can often draw part of its crowd from elsewhere.

A show such as Barracuda’s 95,000-capacity Stones show, for example, which took place in September at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg bei Knittelfeld in the central part of the country, is only an hour or two by road from the borders of Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia.

Nonetheless, Austria is a relatively small country, and its ticket-shifting powers have limits. Roughly 70–80% of all tickets sold are for shows in and around Vienna, and though Austria has many fetching cities, from Linz and Graz to Salzburg and Innsbruck, acts of any size can’t hope to play more than one or two of them.

“Basically, in Austria you can definitely play one big arena or one big stadium,” says Tatar. “For the second or third show, you need to be really careful. Outside Vienna, the other cities in Austria are not big. We play arena shows in Linz or Graz but you can’t do both – you need to decide if it’s Vienna and Linz or Vienna and Graz.”

 


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Austrian festival biz reaching ‘saturation point’

Austria’s festival market is reaching saturation point, a leading music industry figure has said, as news emerges of the cancellation of a third high-profile event in as many months.

The 2016 editions of Nuke Festival, in Graz, and One Drop Festival and Jazz Fest, in Wiesen – all promoted by Vienna-based Arcadia Live – were called off due to poor ticket sales, in what Music Austria (MICA)’s Rainer Praschak calls a symptom of a market overwhelmed by “too many festivals”.

Speaking to IQ, Praschak stops short of calling the current situation unsustainable, but notes the Austrian festival business is in a period of transition following the entry into the market of a number of new promoters. “There was only one really big festival promoter [Skalar] for quite some time,” he explains, “but in the past few years there has been a big change.”

Praschak says there are now “more promoters than ever before”, and while he cautions that “we have to see how this develops”, “at the moment”, he says, there are simply “too many festivals with too many artists”.

Arcadia Live, a joint venture between FKP Scorpio, Chimperator Live, Kikis Kleiner Tourneeservice and the Four Artists booking agency, signed a deal last September giving it exclusive use of the historic 8,000-capacity Wiesen festival site for five years. In addition to Nuke, which returned last year after a five-year hiatus, and the long-running Jazz Fest, which was scheduled to return on 18 June, the company earlier this year unveiled a raft of new events for 2016, including genre festivals One Drop (reggae), HipHop Open Austria (rap), Out of the Woods (indie/alternative) and Nu Forms (drum and bass) – all of which, with the exception of One Drop, went ahead.

“At the moment there are too many festivals with too many artists”

Aracadia Live’s head of booking, Silvio Huber, says 2016 was an “interesting year” for festivals in Austria, with one in particular “doing really well; better than expected” and others struggling.

Part of the problem for the country’s promoters, says Praschak, is that Austrian festivals traditionally relied on tourists from eastern and central European countries, which traditionally lacked their own world-class events. This influx of foreign visitors, he explains, has slowed in recent years, with more choosing to visit homegrown festivals such as Sziget in Hungary, Exit in Serbia, InMusic in Croatia and Positivus in Latvia.

Huber “absolutely” agrees: “They’ve grown a good festival scene over there,” he says. “There aren’t that many reasons left for them to travel abroad [to go to a festival].” Praschak says the lost custom will be “hard to lure back”.

Huber adds that festival traffic is actually now increasingly heading in the opposite direction, with Austrians taking advantage of the eastern events’ strong line-ups in countries where “everything is cheaper” than at home.

The picture is further complicated by the explosion in popularity of other live entertainment of the non-festival variety – much of it free. “Fifteen years ago there was not much going on in the summertime,” comments Praschak. “Now there is a lot more stuff to do.” He gives the examples of the free Popfest and dance/performing arts event ImPulsTanz in Vienna as alternative distractions for Austrians who don’t want to trek to a village on the country’s eastern border for their live fix.

“They’ve grown a good festival scene in eastern Europe. There aren’t that many reasons left for them to travel abroad”

Praschak says next year “promoters will learn” from 2016, adding that he expects to see several festivals “get smaller, and some might focus on a specific genre”.

Huber, whose company’s line-up of small, specialised festivals met mixed fortunes in its first year at Wiesen, says Arcadia was “maybe” too ambitious with its plans for the Austrian market this summer and is currently considering its options for next year. “Right now we’re thinking, ‘OK, if there’s too many festivals, what should we do next year?’,” he says. “Maybe the time was not right, maybe we should reconsider certain things…”

However, he’s reluctant to attribute the cancellations solely to a glut of festivals, saying instead it’s going to “take some time” to establish Arcadia Live’s new festival offering in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“Booking a festival is an endless development and adventure,” he says. “Does any booker ever have a point where they say a festival is so perfect they won’t change it for another ten years?”

 


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