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Austria’s live sector unites for ‘Back to Live’ campaign

Behemoths from across Austria’s live entertainment industry are banding together for a campaign aimed at boosting the sector’s post-lockdown recovery.

The ‘Back to Live’ campaign kicked off today (8 July) with the launch of a portal that gives an overview of upcoming cultural and sporting events, alongside exclusive discounts and offers to entice fans.

The initiative, launched by the Austrian Event Industry Association (IGÖV) and CTS Eventim Austria’s oeticket, comes shortly after the country reopened at the beginning of July.

According to the organisers, the joint initiative is intended to benefit all industries connected to live entertainment including sport, culture, tourism, hospitality, events and music, and accelerate the return to “normal economic conditions”.

The alliance has already attracted more than 120 players including Arcadia Live, Arena Wien, Barracuda Music, Hoanzl Agentur, Leutgeb Entertainment, Live Nation, Masters of Dirt, Musikverein Graz, Posthof Linz, Scheibmaier & Schilling, Show Factory and Szene Wien, from the live music sector.

“With ‘Back to Live’ we convey confidence and joie de vivre after 15 months of almost no events. A flourishing event industry helps many industries, such as the badly suffering city hotel business, to make their comeback and support the artists,” says Ewald Tatar, president of IGÖV and MD at Barracuda Music.

“The campaign will invite everyone to take part so that we can actually make the comeback with our combined strengths”

Georg Hoanzl, IGÖV board member and founder of Hoanzl agency, adds: “The ‘Back to live’ campaign will invite everyone to take part so that we can actually make the comeback with our combined strengths. It is a joint effort that I am happy to support in order to offer the live acts a stage and a platform for the entire culture and event industry.”

Christoph Klingler, CEO at CTS Eventim Austria, says: “Today’s presentation of ‘Back to Live’ is the impetus for a major joint project aimed at the entire industry. We get a ball rolling so that we can get started together and support each other.

“After months of intensive negotiations with politicians to make the comeback possible, we are back with ‘good news’. The concert halls and sports stadiums are being filled again.”

The live sector has returned to business faster than expected after the Austrian government brought forward its date for mass gatherings to restart.

Since 1 July, all events have been permitted to go ahead at full capacity, including standing events, both indoor and outdoor.

Social distancing and masks are not be required, but event attendees still have to meet one of three rules to gain admission: they must be vaccinated; they must be able to provide a negative Covid test; or they must be able to prove that they have recovered from a Covid infection.


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Austria prepares for July reopening

Promoters and festival organisers in Austria are preparing to relaunch activities after the government made a surprise announcement that full capacity events will be allowed to resume in July.

On Friday, 28 May, the Austrian government brought forward its date for mass gatherings to restart, when it told its citizens that from 1 July onwards, all events will be possible at full capacity, including standing events, both indoor and outdoor.

Social distancing and masks will not be required, but event attendees will still need to meet one of three rules to gain admission: they must be vaccinated; they must be able to provide a negative Covid test; or they must be able to prove that they have recovered from a Covid infection.

The bold move is testament to Austria’s successful Covid vaccination drive, which has so far seen more that five million vaccines administered (to a population of nine million people), which in turn has helped the number of Covid infections drop significantly in recent weeks.

The news has been welcomed by live music professionals around the country, with many now resurrecting summer plans.

FM4 Frequency festival can take place now,” says Barracuda Music promoter Thomas Zsifkovits, who has the sold-out event scheduled for 19-21 August, with a line up that includes a hefty international presence such as Marshmello, Die Antwoord, Mabel, Sum 41, Martin Garrix, Chase & Status and many more.

“The government here has said that everybody can be vaccinated by the end of July”

Zsifkovits tells IQ that the surprise government decision has seen Barracuda staff back in the office together for the first time in months, where the excitement is perceptible as they discuss what might and might not be possible for the remainder of 2021.

And highlighting just what a game-changer the government’s announcement means for the Austrian live music community, he reveals, “Szene Open Air just called me to say that will organise their event, which they cancelled a month ago.”

The exciting news also means that shows in the autumn are now a real possibility for fans in Austria. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but touring will depend on other countries following Austria’s example,” continues Zsifkovits.

“The government here has said that everybody can be vaccinated by the end of July, bet we know that’s not the same in other countries. In fact, I am having conversations with agents about their acts, as we know that some of those will not be able to comply with the Austrian rules.”

However, with around 50,000 fans per day waiting to flood in through the Frequency gates, Zsifkovits is looking forward to a massive relaunch of business, while he and his peers throughout Austria also look toward the autumn schedule of shows, as well as confirming dates for 2022.

 


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Austrian promoter Erich Zawinul passes aged 55

Erich Zawinul, a concert promoter, booker and tour manager who was a fixture of the Austrian live music scene for three decades, has died after contracting Covid-19. He was 55.

The son of jazz legend Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Zawinul began his career as a tour manager for Jimmy Cliff with George Leitner Productions (GLP) in Vienna. In 1990, with GLP colleague Richard Hoermann, he co-founded promoter Artist Marketing, and served as a partner in the firm until 2002.

Encouraged by the success of Artist Marketing (AM)’s first shows (Bonnie Tyler and the Chippendales), the pair left GLP to focus on AM full time. AM went on to promote Austrian shows by the likes of Kiss, Barry Manilow, Carlos Santana, Bryan Adams, Deep Purple, ZZ Top and Aerosmith.

In 2008, Artist Marketing became part of Barracuda Group (now part of CTS Eventim), where Zawinul worked as a booker until 2015.

“He loved music and he lived for the music biz with all his heart”

After leaving Barracuda, he became a brand manager for Austrian tequila company Padre Azul, although he continued to organise shows occasionally on the request of “close artist friends”, according to Hoermann.

An ILMC member, Zawinul also continued to work pro bono for Vienna’s Life Ball, the charity concert in aid of people living with HIV or Aids, booking artists and DJing.

“He loved music and he lived for the music biz with all his heart,” says Hoermann. “I personally, but also many friends all over the world, will certainly miss him.”

 


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Austria: Live biz blasts EU for blocking funding

A coalition of Austrian live entertainment businesses has warned that the European Union’s decision to deny it emergency aid could deliver a “fatal blow” to an already struggling sector.

The Austrian government had planned to provide the country’s ailing nightlife industry with a second so-called fixed-cost subsidy (Fixkostenzuschuss II) – a payment intended to support companies with little or no business throughout autumn/winter 2020. However, the plan is not popular with Brussels, which has reportedly asked for detailed information about the subsidy, which would primarily benefit entertainment and tourism businesses.

According to Vindobona, the European Commission – whose approval is necessary for the state aid – takes issue with both the size of the package (‘phase one’ was worth €8 billion) and its duration, until 2021.

The EU’s objection to the bail-out has taken Austrian politicians by surprise, with finance minister Gernot Blümel quoted as saying: “It is bizarre that Austria has to prove that this economic catastrophe really exists.”

“If the EU says this is not a catastrophe, I no longer understand the world”

Representatives of the Austrian Event Industry Association (Interessengemeinschaft Österreichische Veranstaltungswirtschaft, IGOEV), which was formed earlier this year, are similarly bewildered, with an angry Christoph Klingler, the CEO of CTS Eventim Austria, exclaiming: “Apparently, Brussels is prepared to accept an Austria without culture and events while it concerns itself with the technical details.”

“The culture and events industry is on the ground,” adds Ewald Tatar, head of leading promoter Barracuda Music. “If the EU says that this is not a catastrophe, then I no longer understand the world.”

“The consequences” of blocking the phase-two subsidy “will be dramatic: Masses of bankruptcies, ruined livelihoods and an entire industry, with all its employees and service providers, having to start again from scratch,” says Matthias Rotermund of Live Nation Austria. “The entertainment industry will take years to get back on its feet.”

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz last week announced the tightening of coronavirus restrictions amid an increase in daily cases of Covid-19, including limiting mass gatherings to 1,500 people. The country previously had one of the most liberal attitudes towards live events in Europe, allowing up to 10,000 people in stadia with social distancing.

 


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Eventim: Barracuda safe amid Austrian banking crisis

Germany’s CTS Eventim, the parent company of Austrian promoter Barracuda Music, has announced that Barracuda’s business is protected against the bankruptcy of Commerzialbank Mattersburg, despite the company holding deposits of some €34 million with the soon-to-be-liquidated bank.

After finding inconsistencies in its accounting, Austria’s Financial Market Authority prohibited Commerzialbank – headquartered in Mattersburg, near the Hungarian border – from trading effective 14 July, and the bank is now in the process of being wound up. It is reportedly over-leveraged to the tune of €528m, with creditors expected to receive up to €490m under Austria’s deposit protection scheme.

According to Eventim, which announced its acquisition of Barracuda in December 2019, adding it to its Eventim Live promoter network, it has put in place a “comprehensive financing plan” that ensures the “activities of the Barracuda Group are well protected, particularly its two flagship festivals, Nova Rock and Frequency.”

Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of the live entertainment giant, explains: “Even in times of coronavirus, we are pursuing a long-term corporate strategy and are fully aware of Barracuda’s enormous potential. We are therefore pleased that Barracuda, one of most creative concert promoters in Europe, has been a member of our corporate family since early 2020, which also means a significant investment in Austria, a market that is so important to us.

“We are delighted for hundreds of thousands of music fans from Austria and abroad that we are able to carry on our successful work”

“The team around Ewald Tatar, Barracuda’s managing director, can rely on us totally, even in these turbulent times.”

“We are immensely struck by the fast and uncomplicated way that CTS Eventim jumped to our side, and are really very glad to have such a strong and flexible company as our parent,” says Tatar.

“We are delighted for hundreds of thousands of music fans from Austria and abroad that we are able to carry on our successful work and that the future of Nova Rock, Frequency and hundreds of concerts a year is secure.”

Schulenberg adds that Eventim and Barracuda “will take any steps that are necessary to protect our rights in respect of the current situation at Commerzialbank Mattersburg.”

 


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Nova Rock cancels: Austrian event ban to last until July

Austria’s Nova Rock has been forced to cancel its 16th edition, after chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced no live events would be permitted in the country until July.

The 55,000-capacity hard-rock event, scheduled for 10 to 13 June, was to have been headlined by System of a Down, Volbeat, Foo Fighters and local act Seiler und Speer.

No public events will be allowed in Austria until after the end of June, although Kurz said today (6 April) some shops would be permitted to reopen as early week. Austria acted early to close down businesses, and has consistently had some of the most stringent anti-Covid-19 measured in Europe; it outlawed all gatherings of more than five people as early as 16 March.

Commenting on the extension of the event ban in Austria, promoter Nova Rock Entertainment (part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Music) says in a statement: “We, as organisers, are, of course, 100% behind the government’s decision, although we would have preferred this decision earlier.”

“We are 100% behind the government’s decision, although we would have preferred this decision earlier”

“It’s a shame, of course, because we were in the middle of the preparations to make the Nova Rock Festival 2020 an unforgettable experience for you again, but this is a situation that we naturally understand due to the current situation, and fully support,” reads an announcement from festival founder Ewald Tatar and the Nova Rock team. “Health is the most important thing!”

Also cancelled is Stream Festival in Linz, which was due to take place from 28 to 31 May.

Outside Austria, many festivals are still awaiting clarification from national governments as to whether they will be allowed to go ahead.

 


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CTS Eventim confirms Barracuda acquisition

CTS Eventim has made official its acquisition of a majority stake in Barracuda Music, formerly the largest independent promoter in Austria.

As reported last month, the German ticketing and concert giant planned to acquire 71% of Barracuda, which promotes some of Austria’s biggest concerts and festivals. The deal has now been approved by the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (BWB), with Barracuda becoming part of the Eventim Live European promoter network.

CTS Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg comments: “We want to offer artists not only powerful ticketing services, but also international touring opportunities. Strengthening our market position in Austria is therefore an obvious step.

“Barracuda is one of Europe’s most creative concert promoters and ideally complements the portfolio of our Eventim promoter network. I am delighted that Ewald Tatar and his management team will continue to drive forward the development of Barracuda in their proven manner.”

Strengthening our market position in Austria is an obvious step”

Formed in 2016 as the result of a merger between leading indies Skalar, Red Snapper and NuCoast, Barracuda was the biggest player in both concerts and festivals in Austria last year, according to a 2018 IQ market report, although competition from leading multinationals was growing.

“To be the only, big independent player is not easy when Live Nation, DEAG and CTS all have offices in Vienna,” Barracuda’s Ewald Tatar told IQ for the report, adding that business remained “very, very good” for Barracuda.

The acquisition by CTS adds festivals including Nova Rock (55,000-cap.), FM4 Frequency (120,000-cap.), Electric Love (70,000-cap.) and concert series FM4 Indiekiste and Beat the Fish to the Eventim portfolio.

Upcoming Barracuda-promoted shows include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Santana, Avril Lavigne, Parkway Drive and the Kaiser Chiefs, while the company has previously worked with Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran and Robbie Williams. Since 2012, Barracuda has also been the exclusive organiser of concerts at the historic Clam Castle, one of Austria’s most popular and prestigious venues.

CEO Ewald Tatar (pictured), who will continue to manage Barracuda’s operations from Vienna, says: “I look forward to this opportunity to continue Barracuda’s success story in the future with the support of a global player like CTS Eventim.

“Collaborating with the Eventim promoters will help us to offer artists, venues and fans the best possible solutions”

“In particular, collaborating with the Eventim promoters will help us to offer artists, venues and fans the best possible solutions. I am confident that we, and hence Austria’s concert scene as a whole, will benefit greatly from this partnership.”

Barracuda becomes the 29th member of CTS’s pan-European promoter network, Eventim Live, following the addition of number 28, Russia’s Talent Concert International (TCI), in October. The acquisition brings the number of Austrian promoters in the network to four, along with Arcadia Live, LSK and Show Factory Entertainment.

“The Barracuda Group is the first point of contact in Austria for countless outstanding local and international artists. It also has an exceptional portfolio of festivals that bring together hundreds of thousands of fans from home and abroad year after year,” says Frithjof Pils, managing director of Eventim Live.

“We very much look forward to being able to benefit from Ewald Tatar and his team’s experience and network at Eventim Live from now on.”

 


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CTS Eventim shares up 60% in 2019

German entertainment behemoth CTS Eventim has enjoyed a profitable 2019 so far, with the creation of promoter network Eventim Live and expansion of online ticket sales driving “significant growth” in live entertainment and ticketing respectively.

The company’s share price has risen by 61.5% since January, climbing from €33.8 to to €54.6, following a “successful” first half of the year and strong third quarter results. Earlier this month, Eventim traded at an all-time high of €55.5.

At the time of writing, the company’s market capitalisation sat at €5.2 billion, a significant increase from the €3.9bn recorded in the first half of 2019, indicating an acceleration of growth as the year has progressed.

Group revenue surpassed €1bn for the first time in a nine-month period, up 16.5% from the same period in 2018 to €1.1bn. Normalised EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) also saw an increase from the previous year, rising 26.5% to €177m.

According to Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, the company has “significantly improved” its online ticketing volume in 2019. The company has sold 36.8m tickets through its online channels so far this year – a 9.2% increase year-on-year – which has helped drive ticketing revenue up by 11% to €306.9m.

“Our aim is to offer international tour opportunities to artists from all over the world”

Schulenberg adds that the increasing number of tickets sales through digital channels “has positive and long-term impacts” for the company.

Live entertainment revenue “exceeded expectations” rising 19% to €781.4m, whereas normalised EBITDA grew “disproportionately” by 52.7% from the first nine months of 2018, reaching €57.8m. Eventim puts the growth down to “major tours” put on by Eventim Live promoters in Germany, as well as by newly acquired promoters abroad.

Russian promoter Talent Concert International (TCI) was the most recent addition to the pan-European promoter network, with Austria’s Barracuda Music potentially joining in the near future.

“CTS Eventim is on course to achieve the targets for the 2019 financial year,” comments Schulenberg. “The establishment of our promoter network, Eventim Live, is opening up additional avenues for us in the [live entertainment] field. Our aim is to offer international tour opportunities to artists from all over the world.”

The CTS boss adds that “by taking a stake in France’s market leader, France Billet, we have also achieved a major and strategic step forward in the ticketing segment. In this way, CTS Eventim is extending and reinforcing its market position in a commercially attractive and culturally diversified market.”

Read IQ‘s anniversary feature on 30 years of CTS Eventim below.

Deutsche Courage: The rise and rise of CTS Eventim


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CTS Eventim sets sights on Austria’s Barracuda Music

German live entertainment powerhouse is looking to expand on its growing European promoter base, as plans emerge for a potential acquisition of a majority stake in Austrian promoter Barracuda Music.

According to Pollstar, the deal would see Eventim take a 71% stake in the promoter, the largest remaining independent player in the country.

“A possible transaction is currently being reviewed by Austria’s Federal Competition Authority,” an Eventim spokesperson tells IQ. “We do not wish to anticipate the outcome and cannot currently provide any further information regarding a possible collaboration with Barracuda.”

The acquisition would add festivals including Nova Rock (55,000-cap.), FM4 Frequency (120,000-cap.), Electric Love (70,000-cap.) and concert series FM4 Indiekiste and Beat the Fish to the Eventim portfolio.

Upcoming Barracuda-promoted shows include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Santana, Avril Lavigne, Parkway Drive and the Kaiser Chiefs.

“A possible transaction is currently being reviewed by Austria’s Federal Competition Authority”

Formed in 2016 as the result of a merger between leading indies Skalar, Red Snapper and NuCoast, Barracuda was the biggest player in both concerts and festivals in Austria last year, according to a 2018 IQ market report, although competition from leading multinationals was growing.

“To be the only, big independent player is not easy when Live Nation, DEAG and CTS all have offices in Vienna,” Barracuda’s Ewald Tatar told IQ for the report, adding that business remained “very, very good” for Barracuda.

If the acquisition were to take place, the Austrian promoter would join CTS’ pan-European promoter network, Eventim Live, which currently comprises 28 companies, following the addition of Russia’s Talent Concert International (TCI) last month. The deal would bring the number of Austrian promoters in the network to four, adding to current members Arcadia Live, LSK concert agency and Show Factory Entertainment.

Eventim finalised its acquisition of a minority stake in France Billet, the largest ticketing platform in France, last week.

 


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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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