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Local promoters hail record Ed Sheeran sales

Local, independent promoters have spoken to IQ about how they’re breaking ground in their markets with record ticket sales for Ed Sheeran’s 2024 European tour.

The European leg of Sheeran’s + – = ÷ x (Mathematics) Tour is due to kick off on 8 June 2024 in Italy, making 20 stops at a mix of stadiums and festivals across the continent.

The first stadium stop on the AEG Presents promoted-outing will be at Ta’ Qali National Park (cap. 30,000), marking the 32-year-old’s first-ever concert in Malta.

According to one of the show’s local promoters, Nigel Camilleri at NNG Promotions, the 26 June 2024 concert has broken “all records” in the island country.

“The number of tickets in an hour, total number of ticket sales in one day, as well as total gross amount of ticket sales in an hour and in a day,” lists Camilleri, who is promoting the gig alongside AEG and Greatt.

“Hopefully, this will open more doors which were previously closed or only ajar”

“The adrenaline rush when the ticket sales opened was indescribable,” he continues. “It’s not often, at least in Malta, that one gets to promote a concert of an artist who appeals to such a wide-ranging audience.”

Camilleri says hosting a star of Sheeran’s size helps to put Malta – which is isolated from mainland Europe – on the map for other blockbuster tours.

“It is a great triumph for us because we have proven that the Maltese market can sustain an A-level artist such as Ed Sheeran,” he adds. “We have been working towards and building up to this moment for many years and admittedly there was an element of luck with the stars aligning for it to happen.

“As a company, it is a major feather in our cap and hopefully, this will open more doors which were previously closed or only ajar.”

Bulgarian promoter FEST Team is also hoping the success of Sheeran’s show at Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia (31 August) will be a calling card for other A-list artists.

“[We hope] more prominent artists will acknowledge Bulgaria as a substantial market with tour potential”

“Our aspiration is that the success of this event will encourage more prominent artists to acknowledge Bulgaria and the Balkan region as a substantial market with tour potential,” FEST Team’s Stefan Elenkov tells IQ.

The Sofia-based full-service promoter sold all 60,000 tickets to the Bulgaria date in the first 24 hours of the on-sale. It beat the previous record set in 2009 by Madonna who sold 19,000 tickets in the first 24 hours for a 55,000-capacity show.

“This indeed is a truly remarkable achievement,” says Elenkov. “It is important to mention that a show of this magnitude hasn’t taken place in Bulgaria since 2009.”

Staging the biggest-ever concert in Bulgaria, which is yet to be included in the Schengen Area, hasn’t been without its challenges but Elenkov says his team has been “excited to embrace them”.

“After dedicating eight months to negotiations and detailed planning, we managed to successfully overcome various infrastructural and logistic challenges associated with the venue,” says Elenkov.

“Ticket Station Bulgaria is handling a show of such magnitude for the first time and has met the tour’s criteria”

“Anticipating Bulgaria and Romania’s inclusion in the Schengen area, we expect even fewer logistical challenges, making future tour planning considerably more structured. The routing Budapest – Bucharest – Sofia – Athens—would essentially become practically borderless.”

Another source of pride for FEST Team is the reported absence of tickets for Sheeran’s Bulgaria date on Viagogo.

“This demonstrates our success in implementing stringent security measures, ensuring that only real people have bought tickets for the show,” adds Elenkov. “This marks an important milestone – Ticket Station Bulgaria is handling a show of such magnitude for the first time and has precisely met the tour’s criteria.”

Sheeran’s team has long taken an aggressive stance against the secondary ticketing market, opting to use 100% mobile digital ticketing technology to keep tickets in the hands of fans.

The tour’s local promoters in Lithuania also have a lot to celebrate after sales for Sheeran’s two 2024 dates in the country broke “all previous entertainment sales records” across the Baltic states.

“By selling the most tickets of any artist in the Baltics, Sheeran has set yet another record”

According to L Tips Agency – which is organising Sheeran’s concerts in the Baltics for the third time – the first concert sold out in just over 24 hours the second is already more than 50% sold out, nine months in advance.

Provided both dates in Lithuania sell out, Sheeran will perform to 90,000 fans across the 3 and 4 August at Darius and Girėnas Stadium in Kaunas.

“In 2019, he set the record for the most visited international artist show of all time in Latvia with an attendance of approximately 50,000 people,” says Gints Putnins, owner of L Tips Agency. “Now a new record has been set for the whole of the Baltics!”

The Agency, which is one of the largest independent promoters in the Baltic States, is promoting the concert alongside FKP Scorpio.

Folkert Koopmans, founder & CEO of FKP Scorpio, adds: “By selling the most tickets of any artist in the Baltics, Ed Sheeran has set yet another record. We’re proud and happy to be promoting the shows and couldn’t have done so without the support of all local stakeholders and our partner agencies. L Tips Agency’s work has been invaluable in making the second-ever music concert in Kaunas stadium possible. We’re already looking forward to seeing everything coming together in August 2024!”

The 32-year-old’s forthcoming Dubai concerts could become the best-selling shows in UAE history

Sheeran’s record-breaking streak doesn’t stop at independent promoters, nor does it stop in Europe. As previously reported in IQ, the 32-year-old’s forthcoming Dubai concerts could become the best-selling shows in UAE history, according to All Thing Live Middle East CEO Thomas Ovesen.

The British singer-songwriter is due to play the Sevens Stadium from 19-20 January 2024 in what are being called the largest open-air concerts ever to take place in Dubai.

The dates, which will see Sheeran perform “in the round”, will be his first in the Middle East since playing at the city’s Autism Rocks Arena in November 2017, which attracted a sell-out 23,272 crowd.

Last month, Sheeran concluded the North American leg of his Mathematics tour, with the final date on 28 October at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sheeran is represented by Marty Diamond and Ash Lewis at Wasserman for US and Canada, and Jon Ollier at One Finiix Live for the rest of the world.

 


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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Boyan Pinter, SPIKE

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Frederik Diness Ove, founder of Queer Music Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The series continues with Boyan Pinter (he/him/his/they/them/theirs), founder/director at SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Born in Bulgaria, educated and matured in the US, Boyan Pinter (Boiadjiev) has been working in the music industry for over 20 years. He is a college-educated musician, linguist, music manager, and soon-to-be solicitor.

Boyan has worked with the Lotus World Music Festival in Bloomington, IN; Sofia Music Enterprises (Live Nation); and as a freelance production specialist and promoter for a number of concerts at the Antique Theater Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Their current roles include A&R for Believe Music in Bulgaria; director at SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase; booking and production at the Green Futures Field at Glastonbury Festival; and as a promoter with PanHarmony/Blue Hills Events.


Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
We are breaking new ground for the Bulgarian music industry, and I am happy to have brought a good number of “firsts” in terms of opportunities and contacts to the local community. I am quite proud of the success we’ve had with SPIKE over the course of the three years it has been in existence. We try to tackle many issues under the blanket of ‘showcase festival and conference’. Much like peeling layers of an onion, it can be unpleasant to get to the core, and it comes at a cost, but in the end, we are able to both deliver on what the local music industry needs and converse about the difficult issues that contemporary society is facing. Tolerance and inclusivity of the queer community in the local industry being one of the focus points. Thanks to the connections made at SPIKE, this year we were able to facilitate the first professional songwriting camp for one of Bulgaria’s best and brightest pop stars. Songwriters from Sweden, Latvia, Romania, and Bulgaria wrote the material for her upcoming album in a little under a week. Another positive “first” for the local industry.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Oh, there are so many. If it must be just one, then it will have to be Lil Nas X on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival this year. I also heard that our friends at Block 9 have got something special planned, so I am itching to see that. I am also excited to see the artist Satch perform at Brighton Pride this August. Locally, I am excited to see the band IVA. They have been growing in leaps and bounds.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Even though it may be difficult, find the space where your authentic and creative self can develop and thrive, and make that space your own. Learn to trust your instincts and strive to be fair and balanced in your judgements. It may surprise you, but you are very much not alone in this, so don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone whom you can trust for advice or just a chat. You will also do well to erase the abbreviation “FOMO” from your lexicon. Especially the word that starts with “f.” We can’t be physically present in two places at once, so learn to enjoy every interaction at every event you will visit as a professional. Be in the moment and immerse yourself in experiences. You’ll be pleasantly surprised in the connections you make this way.

“I keep reminding myself that lasting, and hopefully meaningful, change takes time to seed, sprout, and take up roots”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
The best mistake I made was to manage artists whom I strongly believed in, as early as possible in my career. Evidently, things didn’t work out as I hoped they would, but these experiences taught me to cope with the feelings of disappointment and frustration, which unfortunately come with the territory. This was a way to build resilience and to keep one’s head above water. Once you become familiar with your authentic self and you are aware of your own methods and approach to the work you do, it becomes easier to say “yes” or “no” to engagements.

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
I am frustrated that change is slow to take place. However, I keep reminding myself that lasting, and hopefully meaningful, change takes time to seed, sprout, and take up roots. That viral dance hit from last year came and went very quickly, but the message in the songs of k.d. lang, Tears for Fears, or Leonard Cohen have grown stronger with time. There are many things that worry me on a local and global level. In my trips, I still see a reluctance to innovate and integrate new approaches and practices into our work routine. The arts are in a constant state of refinement and experimentation, so we have to allow for this to spill over to the professional side of the industry. We must meet the artist halfway and not shy away from getting our hands dirty. There is a lot of lofty commentary about it, but at the end of the day, someone will have to get things done.

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
I can already see a palpable change in the industry. A new generation of artists and music consumers has arrived in the Balkans, which is driving productivity, music consumption, and of course, revenue. I am also incredibly grateful to have many mentors today, legendary movers and shakers that were agents of change in the past have embraced this new role in the industry and are helping us navigate the new business landscapes by taking a page from their books. Their knowledge is worth its weight in gold.

“In creating a closed group that services a particular echelon in our industry, we seem to be moving away from understanding”

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
This is a very difficult question to answer because the layers of our industry, in my mind, work like an ecosystem. Changing one factor will inevitably cause a ripple effect down the line. I think we need a change in recognising the value of diversity and the multiple intelligences that our fellow professionals bring to the table. This would create an internal system of checks and balances that would prevent problems with communication, increase transparency, move toward a healthier life-work balance, and ultimately increase the financial and human resources we can all partake in.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
We could refocus our efforts on inclusivity, rather than exclusivity. In creating a closed group that services a particular echelon in our industry, we seem to be moving away from understanding, relating, and communicating with the diverse pool of fellow professionals we have and toward an exclusive, closed group, for members only. I see this as being contrary to the values that we aspire to defend and nurture. I realise that many of my fellow professionals feel that “it’s our time now,” and we are in a better position to make decisions about our present and future in the industry. However, with this newfound power comes even greater responsibility. We must not lose focus on the fact that we fought to have an equal standing in the industry, and once that door is opened, we must keep it ajar for those who wish to follow in our footsteps.

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
I must note that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and be myself in the industry without the support of my partner. I would like to give a shout-out (with much gratitude) to Sandy Graham, Peter Åstedt, and Anca Lupes for being amazing. I want them to know how much I value our friendship. We are stronger together!

Do you support any LGBTIQ+ causes?
I support and make frequent donations to Allout.org.

 


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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Meet this year’s queer pioneers

IQ Magazine has revealed the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – the third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee – are individuals that have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

The third instalment comprises agents, promoters, tour managers, marketing executives, consultants, founders and more – all of whom identify as LGBTIQ+ and, in the face of adversity, have made enormous contributions to their respective sectors.

In alphabetical order, the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 is:

Christina Austin, music agent, United Talent Agency (UK)
Hila Aviran, director of entertainment & tours, PixMob (US)
Johanna Beckman, senior creative curator and promoter, FKP Scorpio Sweden (SE)
Amy Greig, booking agent, Runway Artists (UK)
Adem Holness, head of contemporary music, Southbank Centre (UK)
Kane Kete, client development manager, Ticketmaster (AU)
Ippei Kimura, booking/marketing/tour manager, Creativeman Productions (JP)
Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager, Festival Republic (UK)
Stefan Lehmkuhl, freelance curator & live entertainment consultant, BMG/Ruined My Rainbow (DE)
Lucy Mackenzie McNae, tour manager (Josef, Twin Atlantic), Two and a Half TMs (UK)
Saskhia Menendez, innovator at Keychange, board of directors at F-List Music (UK)
Dev Mistry, global internal comms manager, DICE (UK)
Frederik Diness Ove, founder, Queer Music Agency (DK)
Boyan Pinter (Boiadjiev), founder/director, SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase (BG)
Scott Robson, event manager, ASM Global (UK)
Roman Samotný, director, Queer Slovakia (SK)
Marie-Christine Scheffold, senior booking agent manager, Selective Artists (DE)
Karim Siddiqui, senior booking manager, Live Nation (US)
Areti Tziorta, marketing manager, TEG Europe (UK)
João Pedro Viana, music agent, WME (UK)

Throughout the next month, IQ will be publishing full-length interviews with each person on the LGBTIQ+ List 2023.

Subscribers can read the full Pride edition now. Click here to subscribe to IQ from less than £8 a month – or see what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below.

Check out 2022’s cohort of queer pioneers here, and 2021’s cohort here.

The vibrant music scene of the Balkans

Prepare to have your expectations shattered and your creative senses tingling because the Balkans are about to unleash their full artistic potential! Yes, you heard it right. The region that brought you stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a healthy dose of self-irony is now making waves in the music and artistic world.

Picture this: major record labels and big promoters, who once thought the Balkans were just a charming vacation spot, are now scrambling to establish their presence in this vibrant region. Why? Because they’ve finally realised that hidden within the Balkans is a goldmine of untapped opportunities and unbridled creativity.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. We all know that certain countries have faced their fair share of challenges. Russia, with its restrictive regulations, has put a damper on the music industry’s growth. And Ukraine, although we have high hopes for its comeback, has been facing obstacles in the live music sector. But fear not! The spotlight has shifted to the Balkans, and it’s ready to shine brightly like never before.

The Balkans, with its rich tapestry of cultures and an eclectic music scene, is a breeding ground for innovation and collaboration. It’s where traditional folk music dances with contemporary genres like pop, rock, and electronic music. Artists, producers, and industry professionals are flocking to the region, recognising the wealth of talent and the potential for groundbreaking cross-genre projects.

Now, let’s talk about why the Balkans are the place to be for music and artistic advancements:

The Balkans, with its growing economy and increasing disposable incomes, is the perfect breeding ground for a thriving music industry

Untapped Market Potential:
Imagine a market ready to embrace music and entertainment with open arms. The Balkans, with its growing economy and increasing disposable incomes, is the perfect breeding ground for a thriving music industry. Artists and music businesses have the opportunity to captivate a fresh audience, build a loyal fan base, and establish a strong presence in a market hungry for new sounds.

Cultural Diversity and Fusion:
Prepare to be dazzled by a diverse melting pot of cultures, traditions, and musical genres. The Balkans offer a vibrant tapestry of artistic expressions that range from traditional folk to cutting-edge electronic beats. By tapping into this cultural diversity, music businesses can create unique and captivating projects that resonate with a global audience. Collaborations with local artists will result in mind-bending cross-genre experiments that push boundaries and ignite imaginations.

Cost-Effective Touring and Production:
Forget about draining your bank account on extravagant tours. In the Balkans, touring becomes a cost-effective affair. The region’s smaller size and proximity between countries make it a breeze to navigate and perform in multiple markets without breaking the bank. And let’s not forget about production costs. The Balkans offer a fertile ground for creating and recording music without draining your creative budget. It’s a win-win situation for artists and music businesses alike.

Networking and Collaboration:
In the Balkans, the music community feels like one big, supportive family. The close-knit environment allows for meaningful connections and collaborations to flourish. From local festivals and industry conferences to impromptu jam sessions in cozy cafés, the opportunities for networking are endless. You’ll meet like-minded individuals who share your passion and vision, opening doors to collaborations that will take your artistic endeavors to new heights.

Filming and Creative Resources:
Lights, camera, action! The Balkans are not only a playground for musicians but also a paradise for filmmakers and creative professionals. Imagine picturesque landscapes, rich historical heritage, and cost-effective production options. It’s no wonder that blockbusters like 300 and music videos for artists like Ellie Goulding and Dua Lipa have embraced the Balkans as their backdrop. The region’s creative talent is also booming, with designers, photographers, videographers, and writers offering high-quality services at competitive prices. Outsourcing creative work to the Balkans is a smart move that guarantees exceptional results without breaking the bank.

The Balkans serve as a gateway to emerging markets, acting as a bridge between Central and Eastern Europe

Games and Technology:
Get ready for a gaming and tech revolution in the Balkans! The region boasts a talented workforce skilled in software development, design, animation, and more. With universities offering specialised programs tailored to the gaming and tech sectors, the Balkans are producing a pool of skilled professionals ready to innovate and create. The cost advantage of operating game development studios and tech companies in the region allows for investment in research and development, leading to high-quality products that are capturing the attention of the global market. Governments and local authorities are supporting this growth, providing funding, infrastructure, and incentives to nurture startups and foster collaboration. Brace yourselves for a wave of gaming and technological innovation from the Balkans.

Already, the region has showcased its prowess with standout games that have captured the hearts of gamers worldwide. Dive into the intense action and humour of the “Serious Sam” series developed by Croteam in Croatia. Embark on epic adventures in the long-standing MMORPG “RuneScape” with a dedicated development team in Serbia. Master the art of stealth and strategy in the critically acclaimed “Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun” from Bulgaria’s Mimimi Games. And explore the human impact of war in the gripping survival game “This War of Mine,” with contributions from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 11 bit studios.

But it’s not just about games. The Balkans also excel in providing top-notch IT services and software development, serving clients around the globe. From software development to cybersecurity, the region’s thriving industry is making its mark in the tech world.

Gateway to Emerging Markets:
The Balkans serve as a gateway to emerging markets, acting as a bridge between Central and Eastern Europe. Artists and music businesses who establish themselves in the Balkans gain access to a broader network and exciting opportunities for cross-cultural collaborations. Proximity to Turkey and the Middle East adds a sprinkle of spice to the mix, allowing for exploration of new markets and exposure to diverse audiences.

Now, the cherry on top of this artistic feast: the SoAlive Music Conference. This event is your gateway to the vibrant music scenes of the Balkans. From 19-21 October, the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, will be buzzing with industry professionals, artists, and music enthusiasts, all eager to connect, share knowledge, and seize business opportunities. Whether you’re an established player in the industry or a rising talent, the SoAlive Music Conference is your ticket to expanding your horizons and staying ahead of the curve.

Secure your spot now and join us as we celebrate the creative powerhouse that is the Balkans. It’s time to unleash your full potential, network with like-minded individuals, and embark on a thrilling journey of artistic growth and innovation.

Get ready for the Balkans to shake up the music and artistic world. The stage is set, the spotlight is on, and the world is waiting for you to make your mark.

See you at the SoAlive Music Conference: 19-21 October, Sofia, Bulgaria! Click here to sign up to this year’s event.

 


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Bulgaria’s FEST Team plans new concert series

Nothing But Thieves and Franz Ferdinand will perform their first-ever concerts in Bulgaria as part of a new series organised by FEST Team.

The two UK bands will be joined by Finnish-Bulgarian act Hayes & Y for the first concert in the Burgas Summer Live series, on 11 August.

The 11,000-capacity series will take place in the seaside city of Burgas, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, with more concerts to be announced.

The 11,000-capacity series will take place in the seaside city of Burgas, with more concerts to be announced

Fest Club members tomorrow (24 March) can purchase discounted tickets starting at BGN 88 (€45). The general sale starts on Monday (27), with tickets starting from BGN 99 (€51).

News of the new concert series comes a week after FEST Team, Bulgaria’s largest live music company, cancelled two of its marquee festivals for 2023.

 


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Bulgaria’s biggest rock festival cancelled for 2023

Bulgaria’s biggest rock festival will not take place in 2023 after organisers struggled to book “a quality music programme in the current economic climate”.

Hills of Rock (cap. 15,000) has been held since 2017 at the Rowing Base in Plovdiv, inviting 150 domestic and international rock and metal acts to perform each year.

Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Evanescence, Sabaton, Judas Priest and Disturbed are among the biggest names that have previously played at the three-day summer festival.

Promoter FEST Team announced the cancellation yesterday (15 March), weeks after it confirmed that the Sofia edition of Hills of Rock would not be held this year.

“It has proven to be a real challenge to provide a quality music programme in the current economic climate and we at the Fest Team are not prepared to sacrifice the quality of our festival,” reads a statement from the promoter.

“Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that it is best to focus our efforts on providing the necessary foundation for a stable continuity of the festival next year instead of offering you a compromise line-up this year.

“Over the last few years, together with our partners, we have dedicated all our efforts and resources to providing a first-class music festival with high-quality of programme and production and accompanying entertainment that our audiences deserve and look forward to.

“Fest Team are not prepared to sacrifice the quality of our festival”

“We have the ambition in 2024 to organise the strongest Hills of Rock Plovdiv to date. The bands that you wanted and for which we are already in negotiations are huge names – a dream of every devoted rock and metal fan, and we will share the dates with you as soon as possible.”

Hills of Rock ticketholders can request a refund or hold onto their passes for the 2024 instalment.

FEST Team have also cancelled Bulgaria’s only family music and art festival, ARTE Feastival. The three-day festival has been held since 2021 in Velingrad, welcoming 12,000 visitors each year.

“Unfortunately, despite numerous public discussions in the last two years and the support of the municipality of Velingrad and the hosts from the ARTE Hotel, the organisers do not find the necessary local and communal support for its holding. Although local businesses have direct economic and image benefits to support the long-term occurrence of such events in their territory,” reads a statement from FEST Team.

“The sharp increase in prices of hotel and other tourist services on the territory of Velingrad during the period of the festival does not help its holding, on the contrary, it makes it difficult for the audience of the festival.”

FEST Team says ticketholders should request a refund, and that it will announce a new location for the family festival soon.

In addition to Hills of Rock and ARTE Feastival, the Sofia-based full-service promoter organises Solar Summer and SPICE Music festival.

 


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FEST Team: ‘Bulgaria is full of new opportunities’

FEST Team founder and CEO Stefan Elenkov has spoken to IQ about how the company came out of the pandemic stronger than ever and why artists should include Bulgaria in their touring plans.

Founded in 2012, the Sofia-based full-service promoter organises festivals such as Hills of Rock, ARTE Feastival and SPICE Music Festival, and has worked with artists including Lenny Kravitz, Five Finger Death Punch, Sting, Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, Bryan Adams and Tom Jones.

With a core team of around 100 employees, FEST Team is the largest live music company in Bulgaria and works with Live Nation, Charmenko and Cobra Agency.

During the pandemic, the company managed to launch a new festival, draw a sensational amount of sponsorship and find common ground with the competition. Now, Fest Team is on a mission to make Bulgaria an unmissable stop for tours…

Was it possible to hold events in Bulgaria during the pandemic?
I think we were the only company to pull off a festival in 2020 – Spice Music Festival. It was a very positive thing that happened that summer in Bulgaria and people were so enthusiastic and so happy that they could be together again, even though there were some restrictions. We managed to gather something like 8,000 people, which was amazing for that summer. Unfortunately, not enough people decided to come to the festivals. It was a very difficult year for us. In 2021, we did three festivals and including a new one called Arte Feastival, which was the first family festival in Bulgaria.

What kind of challenges did you have to overcome?
There were huge problems with the logistics and I believe all artists felt it. We almost lost two of our biggest concerts – Slipknot and Arctic Monkeys – due to logistic problems and transportation. Luckily, we solved it a couple of hours before the concerts and actually, the bands couldn’t believe it because the problems were out of our hands but we pushed really hard.

Those two cases were not isolated – flight delays and cancellations were happening across Europe. And because of the war, inflation increased a lot which pushed the bands to increase their prices. At the end of the day, we spent much more than we earned from ticket sales. We didn’t try to squeeze fans and push them to pay much higher prices.

We managed to get around BGN 2.5 million (€1.2m) from sponsorship which had never been done before in this country

How were you able to keep afloat financially?
From a sponsorship point of view, it was a hugely successful year. We managed to get around BGN 2.5 million (€1.2m) from sponsorship which had never been done before in this country and probably in most parts of the world. Because of our reputation, we collected all the money on the market for live events; all the budgets came to us. We’re the trusted partners for our sponsors and have been working with some beer companies and banks for more than 15 years. We just need to say when and what are we going to do.

And your loyalty programme has been hugely successful, right?
In the past few years, we managed to collect more than 60,000 music fans in the country. For us, it’s very easy to reach the target audience for a particular event – whether it’s a hard rock festival or an EDM event or music from the 90s. We have all the targeted audiences and it’s much easier to secure ticket sales and sponsorship.

Has the Bulgarian live music industry changed much since the pandemic?
During the pandemic, we started working with the other promoters in the country and decided that instead of competing, it’s much better to work together and benefit all together from the small market that we have instead of increasing and fighting for the price of the artist. It’s much easier to work together and coordinate between us and eventually benefit more from the events that we’re working on. I’ve been in the business for 20 years and have been working with most of these people in these companies since the very beginning.

Which of your 2023 events are selling well?
We have three big events at the beginning of this year: Eros Ramazzotti, Pantera and the family show Hot Wheels. All three of them are selling extremely well. People are definitely coming back to shows. The war is no longer on their radar and they’re not worrying about what will happen. Inflation has calmed down. So I believe people will have fun this summer.

Do you have any plans for expansion this year?
I don’t think that this is the year for expansion. We are still facing problems with booking artists for some of the events so our focus now for the next two or three months will be really to build the strongest lineups we can to satisfy the expectations of fans.

During the pandemic, we started working with the other promoters in the country…instead of competing

Tell us about the problems with booking artists in 2023.
We’re trying to be reasonable with artist fees. There are some that are three or four times higher than our offer. We simply don’t book them of course because we cannot afford it. And from the other side, we are increasing ticket prices by no more than 20% from the previous year which is still not enough for bands who are increasing the fee three or four times. We are always aiming for international artists because domestic artists are not that interesting – most of them are performing every week somewhere. Our lineups are 80–85% international acts. I prefer to cancel the festival if I cannot book international artists because fans have high expectations for our events and they want quality without compromise.

Where are you making cuts at the moment?
Right now the biggest cuts we’re making are in the marketing. We’re not spending that much on marketing from the production side of view. That very much depends on the artist requirements but in most cases, we’re trying to find the best possible solution in order to satisfy their needs and then at the same time to keep the production at reasonable levels.

With hotels and accommodation, we have really good deals all over the country and they understand the situation and give us good prices for four and five-star hotels. Human resources and security cost us a lot of money but at the same time, we cannot cut this expense because we see the higher cost of living right now. Inflation is reasonable. We are trying to keep the people who work for us happy.

FEST Team is attempting to expand into stadium shows, how’s that going?
We’re trying to resend a couple of offers this summer. Unfortunately, Live Nation couldn’t provide the artists, or the artists rejected the region for their tours. Right now, we’re negotiating for some stadium shows for 2024. I believe that we will manage to have a couple of them and it will be really nice for Bulgaria fans.

Why should international artists visit Bulgaria on tour?
This region is full of new opportunities and has the potential to deliver something strong for the artists and for the fans.

 


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Bulgaria gains first music showcase and conference

Bulgaria is set to gain its first music showcase and conference festival this spring.

Spike is scheduled to take place between 26-28 May in Plovdiv, one of Bulgaria’s most historic cities.

The event will welcome music business delegates from over 12 countries, including the US and Canada.

The content of the conference will cater to executives in artist booking and management, publishing, royalties, and sync licensing, digital technology workshops and equality and diversity in the music industry.

The event was founded by Boyan Robert Pinter of Bulgarian promoter Pan Harmony, who says: “The festival’s primary goal is to create learning and networking opportunities for Bulgarian artists and professionals and to introduce international delegates to Bulgaria’s music scene. This will be done in the spirit of diversity and inclusivity.

“The festival’s primary goal is to introduce international delegates to Bulgaria’s music scene”

“We are very happy that our event will finally go live. When we took our first steps, we received a lot of international support, which gave us the confidence to continue building this platform for local artists and music professionals. We are very grateful to the city of Plovdiv – EU Capital of Culture 2019 – for being our gracious host, providing us with the perfect backdrop to our activities.”

The Spike showcase will take place across several locations on Plovdiv’s main street, including the Temple Bar, Bezistenа, and Rock Bar Download. A special selection of artists will be chosen to perform at the city’s Roman Stadium, downtown, which was built in the 2nd century AD.

“There are many surprises in store for our international delegates, as we’d like to them to experience the wonderful architecture, delicious food, and the hip, laid-back vibe that Plovdiv can offer,” says Pinter.

 


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Bulgarian promoters organise hilltop festival Music Daze

Working around ongoing restrictions on live events, Bulgarian promoters PanHarmony and Blue Hills Events kicked off the summer with a 1,500-person concert and a three-day festival in the city of Plovdiv earlier this month.

On 5 June, at Plovdiv’s iconic ancient Roman theatre, over 1,500 people welcomed Portuguese-Cape Verdean songstress Sara Tavares (pictured below) to Bulgaria for the third time. Tavaras’ “energetic and heartfelt music proved an uplifting and life-affirming elixir after nearly a year without live shows,” say the promoters, reflecting the “emerging optimism and good summer vibes of a population that is steadily working its way out of the Covid crisis.”

Bulgaria has been on a downward trend with regards to coronavirus cases, averaging around 180 daily Covid-19 infections over the past month. Around 10% of the population of the country, which has a population of about seven million, are now fully vaccinated.

Sara Tavares performed in Plovdiv's Roman amphitheatre

The festival, Music Daze, took place from 11 to 13 June atop Bunardzhik Hill, overlooking Plovdiv. Booker Boyan Robert Pinter says it was a success, despite the stress of fluctuating international Covid-19 regulations, cancelled flights and other mishaps: “Music Daze was a difficult birth, but we desperately wanted to have international artists,” he explains. “Dealing with Covid protocols, PCR tests and quarantines in the artist’s home country proved to be quite a challenge, but one we were determined to take on.”

Artists flying into the country had to present a PCR test on arrival and immediately get a local PCR test in advance of their return flight. PCR tests were valid for up to 72 hours and organisers were able to send everyone back home with a test result in hand. “We partnered with a local lab that sent medical staff to the band’s hotels to extract the samples and deliver the negative results on time for departure,” continues Pinter. “We had it all worked out, but it was still a stressful situation.” One artist, meanwhile, drove to the festival, crossing European borders with his vaccination card in hand.

The festival line-up experienced a last-minute shake-up when 12 June headliners Asian Dub Foundation found themselves unable to make the trip to Bulgaria. Taking their place one week out from the show was Australian artist Dub FX, who travelled to Bulgaria on his birthday.

“We had it all worked out, but it was still a stressful situation”

Dub FX was meant to be accompanied by British saxophonist Mr Woodnote, but he was not allowed to board his plane despite showing negative PCR and antigen test results at London Stansted airport. “Another example of the unexpected predicaments artists and promoters face in this new reality,” comments Boyan.

The rest of the international line-up of Music Daze comprised French band Nouvelle Vague and Amsterdam-based DJ Burak Yeter, both performing on 11 June until the 11pm noise curfew.

Watch a drone video from day of Music Daze, featuring Dub FX, above.

The promoters have more shows planned at the Antique Theater later this year. Swedish band Katatonia will take the stage on 17 September, with Slovenian act Laibach performing with a full orchestra the following night, 18 September.

“These are the kind of unique experiences were are known for regionally and internationally, and we count ourselves lucky to be able to bring this level of entertainment back to local and regional fans,” says Stefan Popov of Blue Hills.

 


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Exit announces new festival in Bulgaria

Not content with Exit Festival being one of the only major festivals in Europe going ahead this summer, Serbia’s Exit will launch a new open-air event, Sunland, in Bulgaria next month.

Nina Kraviz-headlined Sunland will take place on Perla Beach, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, from 29 to 31 July. Sunland joins the a festival family which also includes Sea Dance (Montenegro), Sea Star (Croatia), No Sleep (Serbia), Revolution (Romania) and F84 (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

In addition to the new event, Novi Sad-based Exit has also announced plans for a new nightclub in Changsha, China, dubbed Exit Effinity, and a partnership with Space Miami in the US, which will host an Exit-themed party this summer.

Exit announced last month will offer the coronavirus vaccine to international guests who attend its flagship event on 8–11 July.

Newly announced for Exit Festival 2021 is Jonas Blue, who joins previously announced acts including David Guetta, DJ Snake, Meduza, Paul van Dyk, Nina Kraviz, Sabaton and Paul Kalkbrenner.

 


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