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Ewald Tatar on “unforeseen challenges” at Nova Rock

Barracuda Music CEO Ewald Tatar has spoken to IQ about the “unforeseen and unpredictable” challenges at this year’s Nova Rock festival in Austria.

The annual hard rock event returned to Nickelsdorf last weekend (9–12 June) and featured acts including Muse, Placebo, Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch.

The sold-out festival saw a total of 225,000 visitors flock to Pannonia Fields, which marked a new attendance record for Nova Rock.

According to Tatar, the festival’s biggest challenge was recovering from “the rain of the century,” which hit the country mere days before the festival was due to open its gates.

“During the 3-4 final days leading up to Nova Rock 2022 it rained more in the region than during the period between November 2021 and the beginning of June 2022 in total,” explains Tatar.

“This was very challenging for the final construction work on the festival site, as the ground, which is a field used for farming the other 11 months of the year, was completely soft and our vehicles got stuck. This was also the case for the festival visitors’ cars and caravans, which slowed down the arrival process and made it very tricky. As soon as it dried up and everyone had arrived, we had perfect festival weather: sunshine and heat!”

Despite the washout, Tatar says everything worked smoothly behind the scenes and both artists and crew were happy to be back on the fields after two years.

“Festivals and big events are what everyone in our team loves and loves being a part of and you could feel this euphoria and great energy during Nova Rock,” he says.

“Most artists mentioned on stage how happy they were to be back performing for huge audiences and you could tell, that the audience shared that feeling too! The atmosphere was incredibly energetic and positive as the area in front of the stage was packed with people dancing and singing along to their favourite bands, who loved playing a big festival again.”

Nova Rock, which is promoted by Nova Music Entertainment (part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Music), will return between 7 and 10 June in 2023.

 


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Austria’s Barracuda helps raise €2m+ for Ukraine

Austria’s Barracuda Music has raised at least €2 million from a concert to benefit people affected by the war in Ukraine.

We Stand with Ukraine was held at Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna on 19 March, with performances from artists including Eazy, Bibiza x Eli Preiss, Mavi Phoenix, Josh., Ina Regen and Turbobier.

Yung Hurn, Mathea, Bilderbuch, Seiler und Speeer, Pizzera, Jaus and Wanda also performed at the concert, which drew around 40,000 people.

CTS Eventim-backed Barracuda, which promotes festivals such as FM4 Frequency Festival and Nova Rock, raised €1 million during the concert, which was subsequently doubled by the Austrian government.

Austrian federal president Alexander van der Bellen appeared at the event to make a speech: “Our solidarity, our compassion, our common will, to live in freedom and peace, are stronger than any aggression. And every tone that rings today makes it clear: we stand with Ukraine.”

“Our solidarity, our compassion, our common will, to live in freedom and peace, are stronger than any aggression”

The government will continue to double donations made to the charity Neighbour in Need until Easter Monday (18th April).

Commenting on the event, Barracuda said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all partners and artists who supported us in the realisation of this important and special event.”

We Stand with Ukraine is one of many benefit concerts that have raised millions of euros for victims of the war.

Sound of Peace in Germany raised more than €12m, Together with Ukraine in Poland raised €1.7m and Alda’s fundraisers, Dance for Ukraine in Poland and We are One in Romania, together raised €1 million.

Upcoming fundraisers include the UK’s Concert for Ukraine, which yesterday (23 March) confirmed performances from Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello, Emeli Sandé, Snow Patrol and Gregory Porter.

 


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Nova Rock Encore reports one Covid-19 case

Austrian promoter Barracuda says that only one Covid-19 case could be linked to Nova Rock Encore, a one-day pilot event that was organised to demonstrate that live events can safely take place in Austria.

The one-off festival was organised in response to the cancellation of Barracuda’s FM4 Frequency Festival by order of the district administration.

Nova Rock Encore was based on Barracuda’s flagship festival, Nova Rock, which was also cancelled in March this year.

The pilot event took place on 11 September at the Wiener Neustadt stadium (cap. 10,000) and saw 15,000 attendees enjoy performances from Seiler & Speer, Parov Stelar, Bullet For My Valentine, Måneskin and more.

Of the 15,000 attendees, contract tracing attributed just one Covid-19 infection to the festival, according to the organisers.

Two ticketholders reported a positive PCR result in advance of the event and, therefore, did not attend.

“For months we have been working to create perfect prevention concepts and to organise a festival trusted by all sides”

According to data from the festival, the vast majority (86%) of Nova Rock Encore attendees had been vaccinated and 14% were tested in advance. One hundred and eighty visitors opted to get vaccinated at the vaccination bus on the day of the event.

Ewald Tatar, managing director of CTS Eventim-backed Barracuda, said the results were what he expected.

“For months we have been working at full speed, not only to create perfect prevention concepts but also to organise a festival that has been trusted by all sides and which has also become a great success and a guide to the cultural future of our country,” says Tatar.

“Thanks to everyone who collaborated, to the artists, to the experts, the city of Wiener Neustadt with its esteemed mayor, to all the crews and many more. With the Nova Rock Encore, something great was achieved in a very short time and with maximum commitment. One can and must be proud of that,” he concludes.

Nova Rock will return to Pannonia Fields in Nickelsdorf between 9–12 June 2022 with headliners Muse, Foo Fights, Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch.

 


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Barracuda plans new event, Frequency fest cancelled

Baracuda Music is organising a ‘scientifically supported’ one-day festival to demonstrate how live events can take place in Austria, following the cancellation of its FM4 Frequency Festival.

According to the CTS Eventim-owned promoter, the Nova Rock Encore event will “significantly exceed the legal requirements,” by only admitting attendees who are vaccinated or can show a negative PCR test (otherwise known as the 2G rule).

The voluntary implementation of the 2G rule comes after FM4 Frequency Festival was cancelled by order of the district administration, despite compliance with all the requirements issued by the Austrian federal government.

According to a statement on the festival’s website, the city of St. Pölten – where the festival would’ve taken place – decided that outdoor events with more than 1,500 attendees that last longer than one calendar day will be prohibited from 28 July.

The sold-out event, scheduled for 19-21 August, was due to welcome 50,000 per day for an international-heavy bill which included Marshmello, Die Antwoord, Mabel, Sum 41, Martin Garrix, Chase & Status and many more.

“The cancellation of the FM4 Frequency Festival was a big mistake,” wrote the organisers. “Promises made by the minister of health, Wolfgang Mückstein, to the youth were not kept. This in no way has a positive effect on willingness to be vaccinated.”

“Events such as festivals and concerts have a positive effect on the vaccination readiness of the young population”

Currently, in Austria, only 50% of the vaccinable population are fully immunised. “Although there is a sufficient amount of vaccines available, the influx of vaccination centres has been decreasing since the beginning of summer. The number of vaccine sceptics is particularly high among younger people, according to a survey by the Integral Institute,” the organisers continues.

“Events such as festivals and concerts have a positive effect on the vaccination readiness of the young population.”

Christoph Klingler, CEO of CTS Eventim Austria, has now called for “clear and binding rules” to enable organisers to plan accordingly.

“This is the only way to plan live events and at the same time have a positive effect on the vaccination rate of the young population. Safe events for young people are an essential part of the solution and not the problem.”

Nova Rock Encore will take place on 11 September at the Wiener Neustadt stadium (cap. 10,000) with a line-up including Seiler & Speer, Parov Stelar, Bullet For My Valentine, Måneskin, Millencolin, Clawfinger, Jinjer, Russkaja and Fleks.

The festival’s planning team includes public health expert Hans-Peter Hutter and simulation researcher Niki Popper, and has received support from the city of Wiener Neustadt.

Barracuda’s flagship festival Nova Rock (55,000-cap.) was cancelled for a second consecutive year in March.

 


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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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