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Herman Schueremans on the “happy rebirth” of festivals

Live Nation Belgium CEO and Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says this summer has been a “happy rebirth of festivals after two years of Covid”.

With a slate of sold-out festivals and concerts, Schueremans has hailed the season as “even better than 2019” and says that Belgium’s recovery is “well in line with the rest of Europe”.

A key highlight for Schueremans was Rock Werchter’s record sell-out which saw 66,000 combi-tickets and 80,000 one-day tickets fly off the shelf by the start of February – months earlier than usual.

Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and Metallica were among the acts that performed at Belgium’s biggest festival, which took place between 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark, Werchter.

Sister festivals Werchter Boutique (cap. 60,000) and TW Classic (60,000) also sold out. However one-off event Rock Werchter Encore was called off just one month after it was announced due to “high production costs, staff shortages, and low consumer confidence”.

Elsewhere in LN Belgium’s stable of festivals, Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel sold out after its capacity was expanded from 50,000 capacity to 52,000 to match high demand.

The renowned heavy metal festival, which took place across four days, sold 42,500 combi tickets and 40,000 day tickets, drawing 82,500 unique attendees.

Schueremans has hailed the season as “even better than 2019”

Capitalising further on pent-up demand for festivals, Rock Werchter also launched a new two-day festival in Brussels in partnership with fellow Belgian festival behemoth Tomorrowland.

Core debuted between 27–28 May this year in Osseghem Park, a picturesque nature area in the Belgian capital, featuring an eclectic bill topped by Stormzy, Jamie xx and Mura Masa.

“It was a promising first year with a happy audience, happy artists and happy crew. It will do very well in 2023,” says Schueremans, who attributes the festival’s success to the synergy of the Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland teams.

“We brought both teams together again and made it work like clockwork. They took care of the look of the festival site and gave it a unique feel and our team took care of the artist bill. Together we are strong,” he adds.

Live Nation Belgium has also enjoyed an extraordinary summer of concerts, selling out four stadium shows for Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour. With 220,000 tickets sold, Schueremans says it is a new record in Belgium.

And the promoter’s sell-out success is already seeping into next year, having sold out TW Classic (18 June 2023) with headliner Bruce Springsteen, and Harry Styles’ show at Werchter Park (24 June 2023).

Werchter Boutique (17 June 2023) and Rock Werchter (29–30 June and 1–2 July 2023) will also return next year and will soon be announced.

 


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All Things Live seals Musickness acquisition

Nordic live entertainment giant All Things Live has continued its acquisition spree, enhancing its presence in Belgium with the addition of management company Musickness.

Antwerp-based Musickness was founded in 1992 and has a team of eight people representing 24 artists including Tamino, Deus, Balthazar, Eefje De Visser and Tourist LeMC.

The company, which is led by co-founder Christian Pierre, expanded into the Netherlands in 2020 with the opening of a Rotterdam office.

“Our team is excited to be joining All Things Live and eager to contribute to the continued growth of the group based on our 30 years of experience in the music management industry,” says Pierre. “We will build an even stronger business in our existing markets and expand our reach as part of the partnership.”

“We continue to expand the footprint of All Things Live and deepen our local presence and network”

The acquisition strengthens All Things Live’s management business and will contribute to its continued international expansion.

“We continue to expand the footprint of All Things Live and deepen our local presence and network with the acquisition of Musickness and the outstanding team and artists,” adds All Things Live Group executive board member Kim Worsøe. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to the All Things Live family and working together to grow the partnership together.”

Last week, All Things Live signalled its expansion into the Italian market with the acquisition of promoter and agency Radar Concerti and also recently announced the signing of international management firm Then We Take The World.

All Things Live was established in 2018 as “the new independent market leader in Nordic live entertainment” following Waterland Private Equity’s acquisition of six leading Scandinavian promoters and agencies.

 


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Tomorrowland discusses approach to recouping €25m losses

Tomorrowland’s chief has discussed the festival’s attempts to recoup some of the €25 million it lost between 2020 and 2021.

As previously announced, the Belgian festival was granted a permit for a third festival weekend this year to “cushion the financial hangover” from six cancelled festival weekends, including four in Belgium (Tomorrowland 2020 and 2021) and two in France (Tomorrowland Winter 2020 and 2021).

This year’s extended edition will see a record 600,000 people descend on De Schorre park, Boom, between 15–17, 22–24 and 29–31 July.

The sold-out third weekend was priced 5% higher at €114.50 per day or €310 for the weekend, to help compensate for high inflation in Europe.

In addition to the extra weekend, Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers successfully appealed to the festival’s headliners to discount their 2019-level fees by 10%.

Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers successfully appealed to the festival’s headliners to discount their 2019-level fees by 10%

According to the handful of headliners Billboard spoke to, it wasn’t a tough sell. “We’re all sticking together because basically we’re kind of lost without each other in this game,” said Danish techno DJ Kölsch.

The extra weekend and lower artist fees won’t be enough, however, to make the company profitable again, according to Tomorrowland founder Michiel Beers.

“It’s an important part of a solution of being healthy again,” he says. “Does it cover a two-year loss? No.” What’s more, the festival must return to its two-weekend format from next year onwards.

In, perhaps, another bid to recoup losses, Tomorrowland teamed up with another of Belgium’s biggest festival organisers, Rock Werchter, for a new two-day festival in Brussels.

Core festival debuted between 27–28 May in Osseghem Park, with up to 25,000 visitors per day enjoying sets from the likes of Action Bronson, Caribou, Celeste, Cellini, DJ Harvey and Jamie xx.

This year also saw the return of Tomorrowland Winter at the Alpe d’Huez ski area between 19–26 March 2022. The festival’s other activities include a partnership with leading global cryptocurrency exchange FTX Europe and a link-up with Coca-Cola.

 


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Werchter chief toasts biggest festival summer yet

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says the success of this summer’s Belgian festival season is helping to stimulate ticket sales across the board.

Boasting a star-studded line-up headed by Pearl Jam, Metallica, Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Twenty One Pilots and The Killers, Belgium’s biggest festival sold out in record time in February this year.

Held from 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark in Werchter, organisers shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets for its first edition since 2020. The event attracted festival-goers from 95 countries.

“The biggest challenge was making sure everything ran as clockwork, as per the top Rock Werchter standards, and our team did it. It went super-smoothly,” Schueremans tells IQ. “Everybody was positive: in front of the stage, on stage and backstage. There were too many highlights to mention. Our audience, bands and their teams loved it.”

“We see an enormous boost in the ticket sales for our indoor shows”

Some tickets for the 88,000-cap festival were sold at 2020 prices, with those shifted after December 2021 priced higher due to increased production costs.

Next year’s Rock Werchter is set for 29 June to 2 July 2023, and the Live Nation CEO indicates the 88,000-cap event’s well-received return has had a positive knock-on effect on the domestic market overall.

“We see an enormous boost in the ticket sales for our indoor shows, especially for acts that performed well at our Werchter festivals,” says Schueremans. “It is exciting.”

Despite the cancellation of 25,000-cap spin-off Rock Werchter Encore, which was called off just one month after it was announced due to “high production costs, staff shortages, and low consumer confidence”, Schueremans reels off a string of other triumphs, declaring 2022 “our most successful summer ever”.

“We are now focusing on the four sold-out Coldplay shows at Brussels stadium”

“We had a sold out Werchter Boutique [cap. 63,000] with Stromae and Gorillaz on June 19,” he says. “We sold 60,000 tickets for TWClassic with Nick Cave, Florence + the Machine and Placebo on June 25, and a sold-out Graspop Metal Meeting – 52,000 tickets – from June 16 to 19.”

Schueremans’ attention now switches to the raft of other huge Live Nation Belgium shows planned for later in the year. Tours set to visit the country include Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Anne-Marie, Kendrick Lamar, Machine Gun Kelly and Lil Nas X.

“We are now focusing on the four sold-out Coldplay shows at Brussels [King Baudouin] stadium – 220,000 tickets – as well as the August festivals and then shows in the autumn,” he notes.

 


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Gry Mølleskog named Group CEO of All Things Live

Leading Nordic live entertainment company All Things Live has appointed Gry Mølleskog as group CEO, effective from 1 August.

In addition, she will also take on the role of country CEO for the All Things Live companies in Norway.

The Waterland Private Equity-backed company represents artists and promotes events in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium.

“All Things Live is one of the most exciting companies in live entertainment in Europe,” says Mølleskog. “The group is well-positioned for further growth, and I look forward to building on this strong foundation together with the ambitious owners.”

Mølleskog boasts more than 30 years of experience, which includes management and board positions in Nordic and international companies.

“All Things Live is one of the most exciting companies in live entertainment in Europe”

She currently serves as Lord Chamberlain (CEO) of the Royal Court of Norway where she previously worked in chief of staff positions for a total of seven years.

Other former positions include senior client partner with recruiter Korn/Ferry International and various management roles at SAS where she was senior vice president and part of the executive management team from 1998 to 2003.

Current group CEO Kim Worsøe will continue as a member of the All Things Live Group board of directors and will focus on the company’s expansion in Europe including acquisitions and artist relations across the group.

“All Things Live has seen tremendous growth over the last three years and is today in a great position to continue this positive development,” says Worsøe. “I am confident that Gry Mølleskog will be a strong addition to the organisation and able to support our future growth journey and I look very much forward to working together with her.”

 


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Belgium’s Rock Werchter plans one-off day festival

The organisers of Belgium’s Rock Werchter have announced a one-off event to celebrate the return of festivals.

Rock Werchter Encore will take place on 26 June at Werchter’s Festivalpark, a few days ahead of the flagship festival.

Florence + The Machine are slated to headline the one-day event, with more acts to be announced soon.

The festival will be preceded by Werchter Boutique (19 June) featuring the likes of Stromae and Gorillaz, as well as TW Classic (25 June) with acts including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Placebo and The Smile.

“For the past two summers, things were pretty quiet at the Park, making us all the more hungry for a festival experience”

Rock Werchter (cap. 88,000), Belgium’s biggest festival, will return to the park between 30 June and 3 July with acts including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Killers.

“For the past two summers, things were pretty quiet at the Festival Park, making us all the more hungry for a festival experience lived to the full,” says Herman Schueremans, who promotes the festival alongside Live Nation Belgium.

“This year’s Rock Werchter and Werchter Boutique are both sold out in a records time. The fans are raring to go, and so are the artists. And of course, so are we. And we want more. That’s why we are announcing this one-off extra festival day featuring a number of top artists, including the always amazing Florence + the Machine. It’s our way of giving more fans the chance to enjoy the unique Rock Werchter experience.”

Today’s news comes after Rock Werchter and fellow Belgium festival Tomorrowland announced they were partnering on a new two-day festival in Brussels, called Core festival.

 


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Pukkelpop launches new festival for indie lovers

Pukkelpop, one of Belgium’s marquee festivals, has planned a new one-day event for fans of indie and alternative music.

Hear Hear! festival will take place in the Kiewit festival arena in Hasselt, Belgium, on Sunday 14 August.

Editors, Pixies, Liam Gallagher, Future Islands, Wolf Alice and Anna Calvi are among the acts booked for the inaugural event.

“Pukkelpop focuses on what is going on among young people, and in recent years that has mainly been hip-hop,” says spokesperson, Frederik Luyten. “As a result, rock and indie have faded into the background. We’ve been thinking about giving those genres a little more attention for a few years now. Now is the perfect time for that, especially because you see young bands reviving the guitar.”

Squid, Porridge Radio, Balthazar, Battles and Bill Nomates are also due to perform on one of the festival’s four stages.

“We’ve been thinking about giving those genres a little more attention for a few years now”

Hear Hear! is scheduled for the week before Pukkelpop, which also takes place in the Kiewit festival arena.

The 66,000-cap. flagship festival is due to take place for the first time in two years due to pandemic-related cancellations.

Arctic Monkeys, Tame Impala, Slipknot and Bring Me The Horizon are slated to perform across the four-day event, running between 18–21 August.

In the past, Pukkelpop has tried several times to start an extra festival in addition to its flagship event.

Previous events run by Pukkelpop include Polsslag, Rimpelrock and the Summer Swing family festival.

Since 2018, Pukkelpop has also been organising techno and house festival Garnizoen.

 


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Ukraine fundraisers: “Music has the power to make a difference”

A handful of benefit concerts have each raised upwards of six figures for humanitarian and financial relief during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dutch promoter ALDA and renowned Dutch radio show ASOT100 (A State of Trance) raised a total of €152,350 from their Dance for Ukraine fundraiser in Poland.

The event took place on Saturday (12 March) at the Tauron Arena (cap. 22,000) in Kraków and featured performances from ASTOT producers Armin van Buuren and Ruben de Ronde among others.

The proceeds from Dance for Ukraine go to the Polish Red Cross to aid their efforts in helping the Ukrainian people in need.

Elsewhere, in Belgium, more than fourteen electronic music festivals and nightlife collectives rolled up their sleeves for a unique open-air festival to raise funds for Ukraine.

Led by festivals Hangar and Paradise City, the United for Ukraine benefit at Atomium in Brussels garnered €100,000 for Underground4Ukraine.

More than 4,000 attendees watched performances from Charlotte de Witte, Lefto, AliA, DC Salas and Ukrainian singer Ana Fantana who sang the national anthem.

“You proved that music has the power to make a difference,” wrote Paradise City on Facebook the day after the event.

Across the pond, a fundraiser at New York City’s City Winery, hosted by Ukrainian-born Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello, raised US$130,000 (€118,500).

Patti Smith, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and Suzanne Vega were among the artists that performed at the benefit.

 

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A post shared by Patti Villegas (@pattivill)

Proceeds from the concert were donated to Come Back Alive, a foundation that provides support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and Care.org.

Among the funds raised, there was a $50,000 donation by Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon to Doctors Without Borders.

“Fundraising is crucial,” Hutz told Rolling Stone. “People are being super generous and making astronomical donations. Our task is to keep beating the drum and tell the story authentically.”

More benefit concerts for Ukraine are being announced every day, with Arcade Fire’s fundraiser in New Orleans, Louisana, being the latest.

The Canadian band will take to the stage at the city’s Toulouse Theatre venue tonight (14 March) and all proceeds will benefit the Plus 1 Ukraine relief fund.

Elsewhere, Polish promoter Follow the Step has announced a televised charity concert, Together with Ukraine, featuring some of the biggest Polish and Ukrainian stars.

Vito Bambino, Zalewski, Igo and Daria Zawiałow are among the artists that will perform at Atlas Arena (cap. 13,806) on 20 March for Together with Ukraine.

 


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Tomorrowland partners with global crypto exchange

Belgium’s biggest festival Tomorrowland is partnering with leading global cryptocurrency exchange FTX Europe to “make the leap into web3 and NFTs”.

According to Tomorrowland, the partnership will explore a variety of applications of Web3 and blockchain technology including NFTs for art, music, and ticketing, events in the metaverse, and cryptocurrency payments.

The partnership will kick off with an activation called The Quest by FTX, which will allow Tomorrowland Winter festival attendees to collect the first 1,500 NFTs of a 6,500 collection and earn a unique experience.

There will be five locations hidden throughout the mountains that festivalgoers will have to find and then scan their event bracelet for entry, with 250 winners selected each day of Tomorrowland Winter. These tickets entitle 1,500 attendees access to exclusive concerts held at a secret location over three nights.

“The evolution to web3 opens a lot of possibilities for our endless imagination”

Tomorrowland Winter will take place in the Alpe d’Huez ski area between 19–26 March 2022.

Michiel Beers, founder of Tomorrowland, says: “Since day one it’s within the DNA of Tomorrowland to never stop pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation, to create the most unique experiences and important moments for our global community, The People of Tomorrow. The evolution to web3 opens a lot of possibilities for our endless imagination and also the opportunity to tighten the bonds of our community in the coming years.”

Some 600,000 visitors are expected at this year’s Tomorrowland in Belgium, after tickets completely sold out just 30 minutes after the on-sale.

The marquee festival will take place in De Schorre park in Boom, Antwerp, during three weekends rather than its usual two.

The 16th edition of the Belgian festival will take place this year from 15–17 July, 22–24 July and 29–31 July and will feature more than 700 different artists spread over fourteen stages.

 


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Belgium rolls back restrictions on live events

Belgium has transitioned to ‘code yellow’ on its coronavirus barometer, meaning the majority of restrictions have now been lifted.

As of today (7 March), the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will no longer be required to gain entrance to events, bars and gyms, given the “favourable evolution of the epidemic conditions”.

The maximum capacity for activities, concert halls and theatres has also been lifted, meaning that concerts and other shows can take place in full venues again.

The mandate to wear face masks in public spaces has also been ditched. “However, in places where no safe distance can be maintained, it is still recommended,” prime minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference Friday (4 March).

The testing and quarantine rules have not changed, but Belgium’s health ministers are expected to discuss this topic on Wednesday (9 March).

The testing and quarantine rules have not changed, but Belgium’s health ministers are expected to discuss this topic

Prior to today, Belgium was operating at ‘code orange’ on the barometer, in which the CST was mandatory for all indoor activities with more than 50 participants and for all outdoor activities with more than 100 participants. Face masks were mandatory for indoor concerts.

The CST, initially introduced in July 2021, certifies that a person has either been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has tested negative for Covid-19 or has recovered from Covid-19.

Elsewhere in Europe, England, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have all announced plans to lift all remaining limits.

In Germany, most Covid curbs will be axed from Freedom Day – 20 March – although “low-threshold basic protective measures,” such as mask-wearing, will still apply.

Italy’s live music sector was still waiting for the green light to restart.

 


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