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Norway’s 2021 festival season obliterated

Norway’s 2021 festival season has been effectively wiped out with the cancellation of Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest and Tons of Rock, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival.

The cancellations come after the minister for culture last week (6 May) announced preliminary guidelines which would restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

The restrictions come in spite of the government’s NOK 350m festival cancellation pot, which the minister said aims to “create predictability now, so that the industry can start planning different scenarios”.

“There is also uncertainty related to what the economic support schemes that include Bergenfest in practice”

Bergenfest, which would have take place between 15–19 June 2021 at Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen, was cancelled last night.

“With current restrictions on outdoor events in June, it is not possible to complete Bergenfest 2021 as we know the festival. There is also uncertainty related to what the economic support schemes that include Bergenfest in practice. It is therefore unfortunately time to confirm the inevitable – Bergenfest 2021 will not happen in June this year,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

Bergenfest will return between 14–18 June 2022.

Øya Festival, which would have taken place between 10–14 August 2021 at Tøyenparken, Oslo, was cancelled the day after the proposed restrictions were revealed.

“It feels like a little nightmare to have to cancel Øya for the second year in a row”

“It feels like a little nightmare to have to cancel Øya for the second year in a row,” general manager Tonje Kaada wrote on the festival’s website. “Our big wish over the past year has been to gather artists, the audience, festival workers, volunteers and partners for a unique festival experience in Tøyenparken, but it will not be possible with the guidelines that the authorities presented this week.

“There is too much uncertainty associated with the existing framework, and even the best case scenario with 5,000 people, it’s not compatible with the audience experience Øya Festival wants to provide. We have no choice but to realize that it will not be happening in 2021. Even though we are sorry, it is a relief to be able to provide a clarification to everyone who has been waiting for it. We’ll roll up our sleeves and start over now.”

Øya will return between 10–13 August 2022.

Norway is the latest European market to pull the plug on the 2021 festival season, following widespread cancellations in Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Denmark and France.

 


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Bergen Live, Øya tasked with saving Norway’s summer

Live Nation-owned concert and festival promoter Bergen Live, and Superstruct-backed Øya Festival will be partially responsible for determining how the upcoming festival season can take place.

The two organisations will bring their live music expertise to the Norwegian government’s newly formed working group, which is completed by festival organisations spanning literature, sports, arts and agriculture.

With the input of Norway’s health authorities, the group has been tasked with the safe reopening of large outdoor events this summer, compliant with the infection rate at the time.

Minister of culture, Abid Raja, has entrusted the group with two tasks. The first is to look at alternative practical solutions that make it possible to carry out the events within the current infection control rules.

“The working group must solidify its understanding of what can be realistic when it comes to planning summer events within an optimistic scenario, an intermediate scenario and a pessimistic scenario,” the brief reads.

“The working group must solidify what can be realistic within optimistic, intermediate and pessimistic scenarios”

The second task is for the members of the group to provide professional input and suggestions for solutions that make it possible to open to a larger audience than previously allowed during the pandemic.

“The input must include plans for handling the public both to and from and during the events themselves with a view to reducing the risk of the spread of infection,” the brief outlines.

The working group will be required to submit their input on the three aforementioned scenarios by 5 March.

Norway’s government this month took an important step towards ensuring this year’s summer season can go ahead, with the announcement of a NOK 350m cancellation insurance fund for festivals.

While this week the government paid out another NOK 120m to compensate organisations including Live Nation, All Things Live and Tons of Rock for last year’s festival season wipeout.

 


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Norway festivals cancelled, but small events to return

Concerts of up to 200 people will likely once again be permitted in Norway as of Friday 15 June, as the country’s live music sector begins its slow return to normality.

The first live events will return this week, with shows for up to 50 people permitted from this Thursday (7 May), providing a one-metre (3’3”) distance is kept between attendees. From 15 June, the government will also consider allowing events for up to 200 people should infection rates be kept under control, said health minister Bent Høie last week.

The concrete timetable for the lifting of restrictions on concerts – which follows a similar, much-talked-about announcement by Spanish authorities, where events of 30 people (in venues with over 90 capacity) may return from 11 May – welcomed tentatively by promoters’ association NKA, nevertheless comes too late for Norway’s large live events, with the country’s largest and best-known music festivals finally called off last week.

Bergenfest (scheduled for 10–13 June) and Tons of Rock (25–27 June), both owned by Live Nation, and Øya Festival, part of the Superstruct stable, will no longer take place in 2020, after the Norwegian government extended its ban on major live events until 1 September.

“For the larger industry players, events of up to 200 people will not even be close to being financially viable”

Large-scale live events are banned in most of continental Europe this summer to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Going further than Norway, the Netherlands has prohibited all festivals, concerts and club nights until 1 September, while in SwitzerlandIrelandGermanyBelgium and Denmark a ban is in place until 31 August. Hungary has banned mass gatherings until at least 15 August, and Luxembourg and Finland until 31 July. France, meanwhile, has given mid-July as the earliest date when events could go ahead, while Austria has identified the end of June.

“While it is positive that there are now clear signs that society can gradually be reopened, at the same time it will be a long time until we can be together as normal,” comments Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA) head Tone Østerdal. “Our industry was among the very first to be shut down, and will most likely be among the very last to open completely. In the meantime, the focus must be to keep concert organisers and the rest of the players in the music industry afloat.

“For some of the smallest, allowing events for up to 200 people could represent such an opportunity, and I think we will see many positive initiatives going forward. At the same time, we should not underestimate what maintaining the infection prevention rules will require of promoters – and for the larger industry players, events of up to 200 people will not even be close to being financially viable.”

 


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Live Nation acquires Norway’s Bergen Live

Live Nation Norway has acquired a majority stake in Bergen Live, the Bergen-based concert and festival promoter, as competition between the major live music businesses heats up the Norwegian market.

Bergen Live’s activities include promoting headline acts at outdoor venues such as the Bergenhus Fortress, organising club events with up-and-coming Norwegian artists, and staging leading music festival Bergenfest, whose 2020 edition takes place this June and features Lewis Capaldi, Robyn, Dave, Michael Kiwanuka and Belle and Sebastian.

“Today marks the next step in the journey of Bergen Live, which will further develop and strengthen the company’s position in the Norwegian market,” says Bergen Live CEO Frank Nes.

“We look forward to working with Rune [Lem, senior promoter, Live Nation Norway] and being a part of the team at Live Nation Norway, as well as the support and resources that come with this union.”

“It is both exciting and natural that they today become part of the Live Nation family”

“Bergen Live and Live Nation Norway have had a close relationship since 2005. It is both exciting and natural that they today become part of the Live Nation family,” adds Lem.

Live Nation’s acquisition of Bergen Live – its second of 2020, after Taiwan’s Tixcraft, and following a record 20 in 2019 – comes amid a flurry of activity in Norway. Live Nation-owned, Sweden-based Luger announced its expansion into the Norwegian market earlier this month, while Live Nation rival CTS Eventim/FKP Scorpio recently acquired leading promoter Nordic Live.

Elsewhere, private equity-backed All Things Live has been steadily building its Nordic business, with Sweden’s Big Slap festival the latest addition to its portfolio, which includes events in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Read IQ’s latest Norway market focus here:

Norwegian Mood: Norway market report

 


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Bergenfest celebrates 25 years with sell-out event

It was with a five-day event and 50,000 visitors that Norway’s Bergenfest celebrated its 25th birthday last weekend. Despite challenges in recent years regarding the weakness of the Norwegian currency, the  festival, organised by local independent Bergen Live, managed to enjoy a sold-out anniversary event.

Since 1993, Bergenfest has brought people to the west-coast city of Bergen every year. Originally only a small multi-venue city centre event, the festival now takes place in the open-air Bergenhus Fortress in the Unesco world heritage site Bryggen. Thanks to the relocation, Bergenfest can welcome around 9,000 people a day.

Guests last weekend were treated to performances from artists including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Queens of the Stone Age and Father John Misty. Also on the lineup was a host of Norwegian talent – performers Sigrid and Astrid S appeared on the bill alongside 13 year old local rap ‘whiz kid’, MachoMayne.

“It can’t really get much better for us!”

Additional to the main festival, a further 10,500 children attended Bergenfest Ung, the festival’s youth event. With an early morning show for 2,000 kindergarten children and further events for 8,000 school students, young people of all ages were able to enjoy what Bergen had to offer.

Festival organisers were impressed with the resounding success of the five-day event. Festival director Frank Nes says: “This year is our best so far – a great line up, great feedback from artists, press and festivalgoers, a growing international audience and four out of five days without rain.

“It can’t really get much better for us!”

Fresh from celebrating the successes of 2018, organisers are already looking to the new year. Next year’s Bergenfest will take place 12–15 June and early-bird tickets are on sale now from the Bergenfest website.

 


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Non-concertgoers: A minority in Norway

Live music has grown to become the most popular cultural activity in Norway, with six out of ten Norwegians seeing a concert in 2016, new data reveals.

Sixty-two per cent of Norwegians attended a gig last year, and 22% said they are “very interested” in live music, according to Statistics Norway’s latest Norsk Kulturbarometer (Norwegian Culture Barometer), which has tracked the popularity of various forms of arts, culture and entertainment in the Scandinavian nation since 1991.

Seeing concerts is now a more popular pastime than visiting sporting events, theatrical shows, museums, art galleries, libraries, ballet and opera, reveals the latest Kulturbarometer, with live music only bested if the criteria is opened up to include cinemas (72% of people).

The national proportion of concertgoers has hovered around the 60% mark for much of the 2000s, up from 48% in 1991, 55% in 1994 and 57% in 1997. It was 61% at the time of the last Kulturbarometer, in 2012. On average, Norwegians went to 2.5 concerts in 2016.

The most noticeable trend compared to 2012 is the rise in concertgoing among 45- to 66-year-olds. It was 60% four years ago, rising to 65% in 2016; also up is the figure among 25- to 44-year-olds (64%, from 61% in 2012) and 67- to 79-year-olds (51%), while it has fallen among 9–15s (55%, down from 59%) and 16–24s (64%, down from 75%).

Seeing concerts is now a more popular pastime than visiting sporting events, theatrical shows, museums, art galleries, libraries, ballet and opera

The new figures from Norway are around 20% higher than those across the Skagerrak, with 41% of Danes having seen a concert in the same year.

Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, managing director of the Norwegian Concert Promoters’ Association (NKA), says the figures “correspond well with our experiences”.

“Over the last ten years we have doubled our membership, from 150 to 300 concert promoters,” he comments. “The concert business has become much more professional since the 1990s.”

Valum highlights the growth in festivals as contributing to the the rise in concertgoers, especially older fans. “There has been an explosion in the number of festivals since the 2000s,” he says. “This means a wider audience are exposed to live music and continue to seek out concerts throughout the year.”

The value of the Norwegian live music business grew to US$440 million, a four-year high, in 2015, the most recently available data – although the weak krone remains a challenge for the festival market.

 


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Weak currency a challenge for Norwegian festivals

The weakness of the Norwegian krone is an ongoing challenge for the country’s music festivals, according to Bergenfest festival director Frank Nes.

Echoing the post-Brexit concerns of festival bosses in the UK – and following Friday’s cancellation of Pemberton Music Festival, with the weak Canadian dollar partially to blame – Nes says the two biggest difficulties his festival is facing are “a weak Norwegian currency” (which makes it more expensive to book artists, who are generally paid in US dollars or euros) and “stiff competition for artists in what seems to be an ever-increasing international festival circuit”.

Bergenfest, promoted by local independent Bergen Live, has taken place in the west-coast city of Bergen since 1993 – initially as a multi-venue, city-centre event, and later in an open-air setting in the grounds of Bergenhus Fortress. It currently has a daily capacity of roughly 9,000, and will this year welcome Pet Shop Boys, Liam Gallagher, Ellie Goulding, Richard Ashcroft, Rag’n’Bone Man and Emili Sandé over three days from Wednesday 14 to Saturday 17 June.

Currency concerns aside, Nes is upbeat about both Bergenfest and the state of the Norwegian festival market as a whole. Tickets for the 2017 event are selling “really well”, he tells IQ: “We are way up from last year and expect to sell out at least two of the days.

“Friday” – headlined by local rap heroes Karpe Diem – “is already sold out, and Saturday and possibly Thursday are good candidates as well. We have also sold many more four-day festival tickets than in previous years, which is great.”

Part of that success, says Nes, is that large festivals underpinned by major international acts are still relatively scarce in Norway. “There are a lot of festivals, but most are pretty small and attract mostly a local audience,” he explains, “so there is not too much competition for the punters.”

“There’s high degree of Darwinism involved in the festival market”

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2016, Norway has a disproportionately high number of music festivals for a country of its population, and 1.8 million people – or 40% of the country – visited a festival in 2014. However, not all of them are in it for the long haul, explains Nes, with market forces swiftly putting paid to unsustainable events.

“There’s high degree of Darwinism involved in the festival market, and I think most of the ones that are not sustainable have closed shop now,” he comments. “Some of the smaller, but really nice, festivals are also closing down or taking breaks due to organisers needing to face the realities of workloads, financial pressure and an increased focus on health and security…”

Despite a relative lack of competition than in some other markets, Nes is clear that Bergenfest – a four-day pass for which costs 2,325 kr (US$279) – more than holds its own when it comes to programming and the overall festival experience: “Where else will you be able to see Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft perform on the same day and stage this summer?” He also praises the “sensational” Rag’n’Bone Man, who will play “an intimate 2,500-cap. open air stage on the same day as those two British giants…”

It’s also telling that the best-selling day for Bergenfest 2017 is the one with a Norwegian headliner, as a country whose population is two-thirds that of London continues to produce a plethora of internationally renowned native acts.

“Local talent is, of course important,” comments Nes, “but I have to stress that local acts play our festival because they are good at what they’re doing, not that they’re locally based. There is so much talent coming out of Bergen in particular, and Norway in general, these days that it would be plain stupid not to include these acts in the programming.”

The Norwegian live business was worth $229m in 2015 – a 5% year-on-year increase in revenue.

 


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