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Xenia Grigat joins Luger Denmark

Three months after stepping down from her role at Down the Drain Concerts, Xenia Grigat, one of Denmark’s most experienced concert promoters, has joined Luger Denmark.

Luger, a Swedish promoter and booking agency owned by Live Nation, expanded into Denmark in early 2018 when it opened an office in Copenhagen. At Luger, Grigat will lead the company’s Danish expansion, as it transforms from being an agency for local artists to promoting shows by international acts.

Sarah Sølvsteen, director of Luger Denmark, comments: “There are good days and then there are absolutely fabulous days, like today, when we can announce the addition of Xenia Grigat to our Danish Luger team. With her sublime taste and love for her artists, Xenia is a perfect match with Luger Denmark’s philosophy and values​, and it makes me really proud that she has chosen to become part of our team.”

Ten acts, including Lord Siva, Efterklang, Ida Laurberg and Hugorm, have joined Luger Denmark this year. They join a roster that includes established artists such as Mø, the Minds of 99, Jada and Phlake.

Grigat, named head of international artists, explains: “I’ve had amazing 12 years working at Beatbox and then Down the Drain promoting shows and festivals, but the time is right for me to take the next step in my career. The opportunity to create a new chapter with Luger Denmark and their team is an offer I can’t resist.

“The time is right for me to take the next step in my career”

“I’m really looking forward to getting started and present artists, agents and managers with a variety of new opportunities, such as our extended Scandinavian reach.”

Adds Ola Broquist, director of Luger Sweden: “It’s a big day for our Scandinavian Luger family. In Sweden, we have clearly seen the synergies when working with both Swedish and international artists under the same roof and how it benefits the artists. With the new offerings structure in Denmark, we will collectively be positioned much stronger in the Scandinavia market.”

“We have clearly seen how Luger Sweden has been able to develop their business for a number of years by heavily focusing on their artists as both agent and promoter,” says Jesper Christensen of Live Nation Denmark. “With Xenia Grigat’s addition to the team, we will have a star capacity on board, which will strengthen Luger Denmark’s position both locally and internationally.

“I have great respect for Xenia as a promoter, and have always admired her unique ability and special care for the many strong artists she has worked with over the years”.

From today (1 November), Luger Denmark’s team consists of Sølvsteen, Grigat, Emma Markvad, Dorthe Hyllested, Freja Becker Anthonsen and Martin Rintza.


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Beatbox Entertainment becomes Down the Drain Concerts

Scandinavian concert and festival promoter Beatbox Entertainment has rebranded as Down the Drain Concerts, after its parent company, Down the Drain Group.

Aarhus, Denmark-based Down the Drain Group, which describes itself as the largest independent concert organiser in the Nordics, is behind festivals such as Haven, Tinderbox and Northside, the latter two it acquired from FKP Scorpio last April.

Copenhagen-based Down the Drain Concerts, which began life in 2005 as Beatbox Concerts, organises more than 200 shows annually, and has worked with artists including Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys. Mads Sørensen, founder of Beatbox and now CEO of Down the Drain Concerts, joined Down the Drain Group last year.

Sørensen describes the merger as a “natural step for all of us”. “The year-round process of booking artists for festivals, and other concerts, hangs inseparably together,” he comments. “With a strong team of people with broad experience from both the festival industry and the touring industry, we can ensure optimal utilisation of the synergies of the merger.

“I am very proud that what started in 2011 as a booking collaboration now ends up in a joint company”

“I look forward to joining the management and helping to lift Down the Drain Group to the next level.”

“It has been a fantastic journey for us,” adds Down the Drain Group CEO Brian Nielsen. “Mads and his team have been one of the leading forces in the creation of Northside, Tinderbox, and Haven Festival. I am very proud that what started in 2011 as a booking collaboration now ends up in a joint company under the Down the Drain Group banner.

“Mads Sørensen is one of the most reputable and successful concert organisers both in Denmark and internationally, and, together with his fantastic team, Down the Drain Group is strongly geared to the future.”

Already announced shows for Down the Drain Concerts in 2019 include Shawn Mendes, Tenacious D and two sold-out Ed Sheeran open-air dates.


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FKP Scorpio parts ways with Tinderbox and Northside

FKP Scorpio has sold its stake in leading Danish festivals Northside and Tinderbox for an undisclosed sum to Down the Drain Holding, which now owns 100% of both events.

Down the Drain, owned by festival directors Brian Nielsen and Flemming Myllerup and Beatbox Entertainment founder Mads Sørensen, is also the majority owner of Beatbox, and the co-owner of the new Haven festival in Copenhagen.

German-based FKP will continue to own a minority share of Beatbox, which books both festivals.

“We would like to thank the Danish team for their good collaboration so far, and are happy that we will continue to cooperate with Mads Sørensen and the rest of the Beatbox Entertainment team”, says Folkert Koopmans, CEO of FKP Scorpio.

“We have long wanted to consolidate the festivals under the Down the Drain umbrella”

Down the Drain Group CEO Nielsen says the company will now operate as an independent player in the Danish festival market.

“We have long wanted to consolidate the festivals under the Down the Drain umbrella, which today serves as Scandinavia’s largest independent concert and festival organiser,” he adds, “and we are pleased that it has fallen into place.”

In addition to Tinderbox, Northside and Haven, Down the Drain will in 2018 organise Sommertid i Søndermarken (1–2 June) in Copenhagen, Komos Festival (22–23 June) in Odense and Copenhagen and, through Beatbox, shows by Arctic Monkeys, Haim, the Black Angels, Calexico and Bon Iver.


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First-year success for Haven festival

Beatbox Entertainment has spoken of the success of the inaugural Haven festival, its first event in Copenhagen, after selling close to 20,000 tickets in its debut year.

Despite losing headliner Chance the Rapper to “scheduling conflicts” with three months to go, the 20,000-cap. festival – held, in a departure from Beatbox’s greenfield events Tinderbox and NorthSide, on the site of former shipyard on 11–12 August – fell just short of selling out, with around 150 tickets left, spokesman Sigurd Hartkorn Plaetner tells IQ.

“In a narcissistic way it was a little bit frustrating [not to sell out],” jokes Hartkorn Plaetner. “But it’s better than if we did sell out and lots of people didn’t come.”

Haven 2017 headliners included Bon Iver, Iggy Pop and Beach House, as well as the National, whose members Aaron and Bryce Dessner co-curated the event alongside chef Claus Meyer and Mikkellers brewery founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø.

“It’s not really a festival. It’s a two-day experiment”

Hartkorn Plaetner says all the collaborators were “super involved in building up the whole festival”. Musically, he says, the booking philosophy was to focus on quality, rather than quantity – “We could have said, ‘We want 50 acts, a bit of world music, a bit of African music, et cetera’,” he explains, “but we decided we would rather have have 20 really, really strong acts” – with visual arts and a strong F&B line-up also key to the festival’s success.

“It’s about taking various disciplines and making them something you can experience together,” he continues. “At traditional festivals you drink beer to get drunk between concerts; at Haven, the shows were as much something you see between the beer experiences!

“The way I like to think about it is that it’s not really a festival. It’s really a two-day experiment – but you can’t say to your friends, ‘Hey, do you want to get tickets for a two-day experiment…?'”

Haven Festival will return in 2018.


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Festivals hit with direct licensing claims

Several European festivals are facing the prospect of paying multiple licensees this summer, caught in the middle between a growing number of headliners directly licensing their performance rights and local performance rights organisations (PROs) that only offer a one-stop blanket licence.

The situation follows a report by IQ in issue #64 that many European PROs (including SACEM in France, SGAE in Spain, GEMA in Germany and SUISA in Switzerland) rebate promoters up to 45% of performance royalties – money meant for songwriters, composers and publishers – for reasons including prompt payment, submitting setlists or being a member of a trade association.

With a number of headliners turning their backs on PROs to collect their performance royalties directly – and asking for a greater share of the festival’s performance royalty payment in the process – some believe the situation could have huge implications for festival promoters worldwide.

Adam Elfin of PACE Rights Management, which administers direct licensing on behalf of artists, and counts among its clients Deftones, Fink and Mark Knopfler, says he is in negotiations with “between 30 and 40” managers, as well as an accountancy firm that represents 140 artists and “wants to use [us] for all of them”.

“If you look at the larger festivals, 20% of the acts on the main stage might be directly licensing by next year,” Elfin predicts. “It could be more.”

The move to direct licensing is seeing artists further up festival bills arguing for a greater proportion of the festival’s performance royalty payment based on their fee versus the typical percentage of gross receipts collected by the PRO, but is primarily driven by writers and publishers who “don’t want to suffer from promoter kickbacks or PRO deductions, and want to receive the money faster and more transparently”, says Elfin.

In practice, this development is seeing some promoters having signed up to a blanket licence with their local PRO for performing rights at their festival this summer, only to discover that those licences are not inclusive of all rights.

“If you look at the larger festivals, 20% of the acts on the main stage might be direct licensing by next year”

Mads Sørensen, CEO of Copenhagen-based promotion/booking outfit Beatbox, which is involved in Tinderbox, Grimfest and Northside, says one band who played a Beatbox festival this year are direct licensing.

He says Beatbox isn’t “paying twice” and is currently in negotiations with Danish PRO Koda to discuss how the band is going to be paid. “It’s the first time this has happened,” he tells IQ, “so I’m speaking to the collection society…

“Festivals are already paying top dollar for our acts. Of course we have to respect [public performance rights], but it shouldn’t mean the promoter has to pick up the bill.”

“It all springs from the Dutch case,” he explains, referring to the initial revelations about rebates given by Buma/Stemra to promoters in the Netherlands, which first surfaced in mid-2010. However, Sørensen adds that to his knowledge nothing similar is happening in Denmark.

Ewald Tatar of Barracuda Music, the promoter behind Austrian festival Nova Rock, says it has also had one act opt to bypass collection societies in favour of direct licensing this year.

Tatar speaks of the “need to find a solution” – and notes that Barracuda already pays Autoren, Komponisten und Musikverleger (AKM) – but won’t be drawn on whether Barracuda will, like Beatbox in Denmark, take up the issue with the Austrian collection society. “We’re having lots of meetings regarding this matter,” he tells IQ. “It’s a new situation, so we need to check everything [first]…”

“Of course we have to respect public performance rights, but it shouldn’t mean the promoter has to pick up the bill”

He does, however, agree with Sørensen that it’s not an issue that’s going away any time soon, stating that he “expect[s] more bands to do it” (license directly) in the years to come.

Mojo Concerts’ Eric van Eerdenburg, festival director of A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (Lowlands), says he knows of the “same two or three artists” who handle their own performance royalties (Rammstein are one, he reveals) but that no one has gone the direct licensing route for Lowlands 2016.

If, as Elfin forecasts, that changes next year, “we would take it up with Buma/Stemra”, says van Eerdenburg, which “would have to work out a settlement” that doesn’t leave Mojo out of pocket. Alternatively, he suggests, “we’d make a deal inclusive of all performance rights” – or, failing that, “we’d say, ‘You can’t do this [collect your own royalties] at our festival'”.

“It would be too complicated,” he explains. “If you have lots of stages, lots of acts, how are you going to calculate the amount due to each artist?”

Folkert Koopmans of European festival heavyweight FKP Scorpio (Hurricane, Southside, Highfield) says his events have been unaffected, but, “If it comes to that point [with a significant minority of bands direct licensing], we will surely have a conversation with GEMA. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Elfin says his message to festival promoters worried about the rise of direct licensing is that it’s better to have the issue out in the open now before it takes off in a big way. Leaving promoters out of pocket “is not something we want or that should happen”, he says, but adds that it’s “beneficial that we’re having this conversation now, because if they weren’t aware of this [direct licensing] and they proceeded with their deals for next year with local PROs, the impact will be massively different.

“We absolutely feel for promoters, because we don’t want them to pay more. That’s not why we’re doing this”

“We absolutely feel for promoters, because we don’t want them to pay more. That’s not why we’re doing this: to squeeze promoters. The issue is that in the dealings between PROs and festival promoters, the PROs haven’t been transparent in their deals that this is a possibility – and, equally, the festival promoters haven’t been aware this is a possibility.”

When asked by IQ if the responsibility for the lack of awareness lies with the collection societies, Elfin says “absolutely” and asks why, when “it was a requirement of the 1997 MMC [Monopolies and Mergers Commission] findings into the PRS that they publicise the fact that people can direct-license and can reassign their rights, we’re only just discovering this [now]”.

He adds that existing public performance licensing deals between festivals and PROs have “got to change”.

Iain Black, senior international manager for PRS for Music, says the society last year received three requests from writers and publish to license concerts directly, noting that “this isn’t an unusual figure as, on average, PRS receives three to four requests of this nature per year”.

“If members are interested in exploring the option of direct licensing, we are entirely flexible and openly invite them to contact us,” he continues. “We can arrange a conversation with our UK and international concert specialists, who can answer any questions and discuss possible options.”

While it remains to be seen whether Elfin’s bold predictions come to pass, it’s clear that any significant growth in the number of main-stage acts deserting their local PROs next festival season could have major repercussions for the bottom lines of promoters across the world.


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