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Paléo Festival booker toasts 21-minute sellout

Paléo booker Dany Hassenstein has hailed the Swiss festival’s longstanding bond with its audience after all 200,000 tickets for the 2024 event sold out in just 21 minutes.

The festival will run in Nyon from 23-28 July, featuring acts such as Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

Launched in 1976, the event accommodates more than 35,000 fans daily. Tickets for the Sunday finale, which started at CHF80 (€82), sold out in a record seven minutes.

“We knew from our December pre-sale that demand was very strong,” Hassenstein tells IQ. “All our digital data were showing this same evolution too. I really believe that, together with the very rich lineup, it is our standards and values that makes this success. We have this tremendous level of confidence and loyalty from our guests, and we are doing everything to never put that trust at risk.”

Last year’s event took almost double the time – 41 minutes – to sell out for a bill starring the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Martin Garrix and Placebo.

For 2024, Paléo is expanding its musical horizons with a mix of pop, rock, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats, reggae, electro, opera and funk, welcoming 130 artists in all, as the countdown begins to its landmark 50th festival in three years’ time.

“We have several new features on track, mainly guest comfort improvements but we will also open our stages to other type of performances, such as humour with an in-house show, a performance by French troupe Murmuration and even opera, hosting tenor singer Roberto Alagna,” says Hassenstein.

“It is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals”

Organisers introduced of a raft of well-received changes two years ago, including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system, in what was billed as the festival’s biggest makeover in more than 30 years.

“We had huge changes of the general festival set up in 2022 and we will prepare the next big step for our 50th edition in 2027,” notes Hassenstein.

The festival’s traditional ticket exchange, which is designed to combat the black market, will go live on 27 March, while 1,500 daily tickets will be made available from 9am on each morning of this year’s event.

While the debate continues to rage about the availability (or lack thereof) of headliners across the sector, Hassenstein considers the names of those at the top of the bill to still be “undeniably very important”.

“It’s the essence of a music festival,” he says. “Our challenge was mainly our dates being outside of most of the international touring periods. But it is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals.”

Looking to the future, Hassenstein indicates that Paléo will always prioritise quality over potential capacity increases.

“Growth in quality will always be our goal, with sustainability and social awareness being part of this growth,” he concludes. “Growth in capacity is not necessarily a healthy ambition and not really a target for us.”

 


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Is the touring boom hurting festivals?

Leading promoters have spoken to IQ about how the boom in huge stadium tours and outdoor concerts is impacting festivals.

In an industry first, a record five tours – Taylor Swift ($300.8 million), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band ($142.6m), Harry Styles ($124m), Elton John ($110.3m) and Ed Sheeran ($105.3m) – grossed more than $100m (€913m) in the first six months of 2023.

Earlier this week, it was revealed Styles, who headlined last year’s Coachella, grossed close to $600m overall with his recently wrapped 2021-23 Love On Tour. And with stadium runs by the likes of Coldplay, Beyoncé and The Weeknd sure to impact the rankings for the second half of 2023, Pollstar declared “the age of the blockbuster tour is upon us”.

With summer historically reserved for festivals, and touring more consigned to colder months, the recent boom in stadium shows puts A-list tours and the outdoor season head to head. With greater financial return than a festival appearance, the ability to play to more fans and complete control over a show’s production, it’s easy to see the appeal.

So with A-list artists increasingly skipping festivals in favour of their own, what’s the impact on festivals, and what does that mean for those lower down the food chain?

“Festivals fulfil a very special role in live music. The variety, value and intensity offered during several days of live music and entertainment is greater than the sum of its parts”

Courrier International reports that attendance at Dreamhaus’ Rock im Park in Germany, which was topped by Kings of Leon, Die Toten Hosen and Foo Fighters, fell to 75,000 this year, having attracted 90,000 in 2022, with expense cited as a factor. According to trade association BDKV, the average price of festival tickets in the country is up 15% on 12 months ago due to rising costs.

FKP Scorpio reported more positive news, with its twin Hurricane and Southside festivals – headlined by Muse, Die Ärzte, Placebo and Queens of the Stone Age – coming close to selling out, pulling in crowds of 78,000 and 60,000, respectively. FKP MD Stephan Thanscheidt accepts that bigger acts often prefer to play solo shows, but believes the festival sector retains a unique selling point in a changing market.

“Festivals fulfil a very special role in live music,” he tells IQ. “The variety, value and intensity offered during several days of live music and entertainment is greater than the sum of its parts – therefore, the demand for well thought-out festivals remains high, even in economically demanding times.”

Eva Castillo, communication director for Last Tour, promoter of festivals such as Spain’s Bilbao BBK Live and Cala Mijas, and Portugal’s MEO Kalorama, says there is no reason both scenes cannot continue to coexist and thrive.

“They go hand in hand and are compatible with each other,” says Castillo. “A festival is an experience that goes beyond music, featuring both well-known and emerging artists in a venue that has its own distinct characteristics.”

“One of the key challenges posed by the rise of big stadium shows is the financial aspect”

Over in Australia, Christian Serrao, co-founder and managing partner of Melbourne-headquartered Untitled Group, says the explosion of outdoor music spectaculars has had a “noticeable impact in flooding the market”, affecting festivals and diverting people’s spend on entertainment.

“Our one-day festivals face more challenges than camping festivals,” he contends. “We are finding that people are seeking the immersive camping experience, which allows them to connect with nature and create lasting memories beyond music performances.

“One of the key challenges posed by the rise of big stadium shows is the financial aspect. These shows often require a significant investment from attendees, which can take a toll on people’s wallets, especially considering factors like inflation and the rising cost of living. As a result, people have become more selective in the events they choose to attend.”

The trend has prompted the firm to think outside the box and make strategic decisions, like booking Nelly Furtado for an exclusive show at its flagship festival Beyond The Valley.

“To ensure the success of our festivals, we focus on creating distinct experiential brands,” adds Serrao. “Our marketing emphasises the unique selling points like location, stage design, art installations, and activities such as workshops. For instance, [the festival] Grapevine Gathering offers a winery experience with live music, vineyards, and wine tasting.

“Some stadium shows cost around $400, comparable to our camping festivals, which provide four days of music, art, and camping—an irreplaceable immersive experience. Festivals set themselves apart from big stadium shows by offering experiences beyond music.”

“Putting on a stadium show doesn’t come cheap… It’s becoming a serious investment for a customer and I do think it will have an impact on festivals”

AEG Presents UK Steve Homer admits to being taken aback by the sheer volume of “high quality stadium shows” around Europe this summer, and feels it is inevitable that others will suffer as a result.

“We’re not talking the odd date – people like Harry Styles, Beyoncé and Arctic Monkeys are doing large numbers of dates, which is really impressive, so I do think it has an impact on available money,” he says. “No matter what people say, the cost of living is a real issue and it’s expensive to go to shows at that level. We’ve all gone through the rigmarole of increased costs from transport, to fuel, to everything else.

“Putting on a stadium show doesn’t come cheap and obviously the ticket price has to reflect that in some way. I think it’s becoming a serious investment for a customer and I do think it will have an impact on festivals.”

The 20th anniversary edition of Live Nation’s Download Festival, however, became the fastest-selling in its history, offering headline sets Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot and Metallica, with the latter playing two unique sets on separate nights. AEG’s London concert series BST Hyde Park also enjoyed a record year, shifting around 550,000 tickets for gigs by Guns N’ Roses, Take That, Blackpink, Billy Joel and Lana Del Rey – plus two nights each from Pink and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

“Download had its best year ever, but that’s a very genre specific event, and British Summer Time is more like a big stadium show than a traditional festival,” argues Homer. “But we may see some of the more boutique festivals struggle if people have been going to these mega stadium gigs and it will be interesting to see what happens at the end of the summer.

“It’s great that these things are happening, but there is a finite amount of money and I think we’ll see the pinch somewhere. Whether it’s smaller festivals, whether it’s theatre tours, people just don’t have the money.”

“The top level is always protected. It’s the small to average level which is going to get affected”

As promoter of Isle of Wight Festival and MD of Solo Agency, John Giddings has a foot in both camps. IoW 2023 was a 55,000-cap sellout, and Giddings, who has worked on Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball and Beyoncé’s Renaissance stadium dates for Live Nation over the past couple of summers, has a hunch is that if anyone loses out, it won’t be the festival business.

“People are prepared to pay a load of money to go to something they know is going to be fantastic, but they might not go to one or two smaller gigs,” he tells IQ. “I haven’t seen much evidence of it yet, but it does worry me to an extent because the top level is always protected. It’s the small to average level which is going to get affected to be honest.”

Elsewhere in the UK, last weekend’s Kendal Calling, which starred Nile Rodgers & Chic, Kasabian, Blossoms and Royal Blood, was a 40,000-cap sellout. Andy Smith, co-MD of the Lake District festival’s promoter From The Fields, says the season appears to have been a mixed bag across the board.

“On the grapevine, I hear a bit of difficulty with the newer shows and the generally less established ones,” says Smith. “If you were just making do previously, it sounds like it’s a struggle now. But if you were doing well previously, it seems to have got better. So it does seem to be more more extreme one way or another.”

“We had some concerns at the beginning of the season, but it had no impact on our ticket sales”

The UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) previously revealed that its members are on course to attract a total audience of 3.3 million to their events in 2023. The trade body represents the interests of 105 UK music festivals, including GreenBelt, El Dorado, Deershed, Valley Fest, End of The Road, Pitchfork London, Field Maneuvers and We Out Here, and AIF CEO John Rostron says he has seen “no evidence” that big ticket gigs are affecting festival sales.

“What we are seeing with gigs of all sizes this year is a new trend for very last minute sales,” he adds. “It looks very likely that last minute buying is a trend, though ‘last minute’ for festivals tends to be a few weeks before, rather than the day before, as people need to plan their travel, camping and the like.”

Meanwhile, Dany Hassenstein, booker of Switzerland’s Paléo Festival, reports the 2023 Nyon event sold-out in record time, aided by a line-up headed by Rosalia, Indochine, Martin Garrix and Black Eyed Peas.

“We had some concerns at the beginning of the season, but it had no impact on our ticket sales,” he tells IQ. “Probably because there are no stadium shows in our immediate market.”

Recent research by economist Will Page using data from PRS for Music found that the portion of spend on live music by UK consumers had grown hugely when it came to both stadium shows and festivals – from 23% of the total market in 2012, to 49% in 2022.

Evidently, fans are spending more of their money on bigger shows, whether that’s festivals or stadium tours. And with Page noting the club market has also grown over the last decade, where that leaves traditional theatre and arena shows – as part a much bigger pie than 10 years previously – promises to be equally revealing.

 


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Euro festival bosses upbeat ahead of 2023 season

European festival bosses tell IQ they are approaching the 2023 season with positivity as a mixed picture emerges of the sector’s fortunes.

Download’s Germany spin-off was cancelled yesterday, with organisers citing production issues caused by the “massive number of open-air events”. The event joined a number of other major festivals including Falls Festival (Australia), Rolling Loud (US), Summerburst (Sweden), Hills of Rock (Bulgaria), InMusic (Croatia), Wireless GermanyHear Hear (Belgium) and Tempelhof Sounds and Tempelhof Sounds Presents (Germany) in not returning this year.

FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans, meanwhile, recently laid bare the post-pandemic financial struggles faced by the scene, reckoning that only 20% are still profitable. However, more encouraging reports have surfaced elsewhere in the marketplace.

DEAG chief Peter Schwenkow tells IQ the business is “on track with our business plan” for the summer ahead. The Berlin-headquartered company added Germany’s electronic music-oriented Airbeat One and psychedelic trance festival Indian Spirit to its portfolio last year, and also runs outdoor events such as the UK’s Live at Chelsea, Kew the Music and Belladrum through its Kilimanjaro Live subsidiary.

In its Q1 report last week, DEAG revealed more than 500,000 tickets have already been sold for its open-air festivals, and Schwenkow describes demand as “strong and late”, adding that cost control is the circuit’s overriding concern.

“Frankly, it’s a challenge to navigate rising costs while keeping the ticket prices as low as possible”

Also in Germany, FKP Scorpio MD Stephan Thanscheidt has a similar viewpoint when it comes to the biggest challenge facing the business.

“That would be, without a doubt, the rising production costs, which averaged across all sectors are over 40% higher than before the pandemic,” he tells IQ. “The reasons for this are the long-term consequences of the pandemic and the terrible war in Ukraine, which have made energy in particular more expensive. This effect is, after all, felt in all sectors of the economy and had in the meantime made itself felt in Germany with the highest inflation in 70 years.”

Thanscheidt continues: “In this climate, we have to finance every single item of our major events ourselves: Every metre of construction fencing, the entire technical infrastructure such as stages, sound, lighting and video technology, but also tent structures, sanitary facilities, space rentals, rapidly rising personnel costs and artist fees, GEMA, insurance, cleaning, innovation as well as sustainability.

“This incomplete list alone makes it clear that a very large part of our turnover is spent on covering these enormous costs. At the same time, we do our utmost to pass on only a fraction of these costs to our guests, as the comparatively moderate increase in ticket prices shows.

“Frankly, it’s a challenge to navigate rising costs while keeping the ticket prices as low as possible. So far, we’ve kept our prices on the lower end of the spectrum at our own expense, but we won’t be able to hold this up forever – the economy as a whole needs to go back to normal.”

“Advance sales for this year have started with record sales in 2022, and the overall demand is still strong”

Speaking to Radio Eins, Stephan Benn from German cultural association Liveinitiative NRW estimates that festival ticket prices have risen by 30% on average in the country (albeit tickets for several 2022 events were frozen at 2020 prices).

Tickets for Nuremberg’s Rock im Park are priced at up to €300 – an increase of around €70 on last year – necessitated by rising costs of 45% “in many areas”, according to spokesperson Carolin Hilzinger. Elsewhere, metal institution Wacken Open Air sold out in five hours after raising its admission price from €239 to €299 and adding an extra day, while Lollapalooza Berlin increased prices by €10 but has sold more tickets than at the same time last year.

Thanscheidt says that ticket sales for FKP’s festival season got off to a record-breaking start, and remain healthy. Its flagship Hurricane and Southside events will welcome the likes of Muse, Die Ärzte, Kraftklub, Placebo, Billy Talent, The 1975 and Queens Of The Stone Age next month.

“Advance sales for this year have started with record sales in 2022, and the overall demand is still strong,” says Thanscheidt. “The fact that our festival brands like Hurricane and Southside are among the very few major festivals in Germany heading for a sell-out this year is a great result in view of the overall economic situation and increased costs everywhere. We’re thankful and happy, although margins are very slim to non-existent – even with a fully sold-out festival.”

“Squeezing festivals and their clients with exploding artist fees is not a sustainable development for the entire industry”

In Switzerland, Paléo Festival booker Dany Hassenstein is toasting a record-breaking sellout for the Nyon event, which will host artists such as Rosalia, Indochine, Martin Garrix, Black Eyed Peas, Sigur Ros, Alt-J, Aya Nakamura and Placebo.

“We are observing increasing general demand from all generations,” Hassenstein tells IQ. “Festivals’ social and environmental responsibility is more and more important. Support from festival for social media content creation by visitors is a must.”

Nonetheless, Hassenstein points out issues regarding “general inflation, overall rental costs and lack of qualified staff”, as well as rising artist fees.

“Squeezing festivals and their clients with exploding artist fees is not a sustainable development for the entire industry,” he adds.

“Sales for 2023 are holding up well, with audiences choosing festivals as good value events that they want to attend”

John Rostron, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) tells IQ that sales are “holding up well” within the organisation’s membership, which reached 100 earlier this year.

“There are no plans for any Association of Independent Festival members to cancel their festivals,” notes Rostron. “Sales for 2023 are holding up well, with audiences choosing festivals as good value events that they want to attend. Lots of people are taking up payment plans too, paying a little every month, and that seems to be helping everyone make their way to their favourite events.”

Rostron points out, however, that a few member festivals have announced that this year will be their last event.

“There are some similar themes for each one choosing to come to an end: the rising costs of putting on an event – the fees artists are charging and the supply chain costs, which have risen by around 30% are the two biggest problems – have all increased what was already a risky business into something they no longer want to be involved in.

“Of course, the odd thing is that all of these events are either now sold out, or way ahead in terms of selling tickets, as everyone wants to make sure they go one last time. So at least they’ll all have a really good send off.”

Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn also offered his thoughts on the current state of play. Launching the company’s upcoming series of events in Dublin’s Marlay Park, Benn said the cost of putting on large events in Ireland is “not prohibitive yet” and doesn’t expect it to become so despite costs “going through the roof”.

“We work hard every single day to keep the prices at an economic level,” said Benn, as per the Irish Examiner. “I think we do that successfully which is why we have the equivalent of seven sold-out nights at Marlay Park. I think it’s a testament to how we work so hard to keep them down.”

 


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Paléo Festival revamp pays off amid ‘epic’ return

Paléo Festival booker Dany Hassenstein has spoken to IQ about the revamped event‘s “epic” return, which marked a major turning point in its history.

Held from 19-24 July, the 30,000-cap event in Nyon, Switzerland hosted acts such as Kiss, Sting, DJ Snake, Stromae and Rag’n’Bone Man. Tickets for its first edition since 2019 sold out in record time last December.

“It was an epic return after the break of more than 1,000 days,” Hassenstein tells IQ. “We were sold out way in advance and the festival was a success in every aspect – satisfied visitors, artists and volunteers.”

“We have been overwhelmed by the success of our two new stages”

In what was billed as the festival’s biggest makeover in more than 30 years, organisers introduced of a raft of well-received changes for 2022 including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system. The former Arches and Detour stages were replaced by two new spaces: the Vega stage and the electronic music-focused Belleville venue.

“All improvements made full sense, not a single show was cancelled because of Covid and it looks like our guests were very hungry and thirsty,” smiles Hassenstein.

“We will be able to copy paste all new features to the future. In particular, we have been overwhelmed by the success of our two new stages: Véga and Belleville. We have had fantastic feedback from artists on the infrastructure and the general vibe of the 20,000-capacity Véga Stage.”

“Switzerland is having a fantastic summer”

According to Hassenstein, the only real setback of note involved the pandemic-related dropouts of a number of staff members. “The summer wave was at its peak in Switzerland when we opened the gates,” he says.

Hassenstein says Paléo’s successful comeback reflects the fortunes of the resurgent Swiss industry as a whole since returning from the Covid shutdown.

“I believe Switzerland is having a fantastic summer,” he adds. “All festivals I know are doing better than they expected at the beginning of the season.

“I know this mess-up is not over yet – indoor promoters are still facing existential challenges over the next month, but at least we can see now at festivals that the fans are ready to move forward.”

Subscribers can read IQ‘s report on the Swiss live music market here.

 


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Paléo fest set for biggest revamp in 30 years

Switzerland’s Paléo Festival is undergoing its biggest makeover in more than three decades ahead of its 2022 comeback, booker Dany Hassenstein tells IQ.

The 30,000-cap Nyon event, which sold out in record time, returns from 19-24 July for its first edition since 2019. Kiss, Sting, DJ Snake, Stromae and Rag’n’Bone Man are among acts on the bill.

Organisers consider this year to be a major turning point in Paléo’s history due to the introduction of a raft of features including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system. Due in part to the installation of the NStCM railway depot, it will also see the most significant alteration to the long-running festival’s layout since it moved from the lakefront to Plaine de l’Asse more than 30 years ago.

“The major boost to undertake all these changes came from our audience last December when we sold all the tickets for the 2022 event within a record-breaking time”

“With all the changes we have on track, it will be the biggest reshaping of the festival since 1990,” says Hassenstein, speaking to IQ. “Some were planned already for 2020 and some have been invented and planned during the pandemic-related break. Not only it will improve the festival experience for our customers, the process of innovating and developing new project was also vital for the team to get through this terrible period.

“But the major boost to undertake all these changes came from our audience last December when we sold all the tickets for the 2022 event within a record-breaking time. It not only massively reduced some financial uncertainties; this incredible loyalty of our audience also gave us the last kick to prepare a return at the hight of their expectation.”

In addition, the former Arches and Detour stages will be replaced by two new spaces: the Vega stage and the electronic music-focused Belleville venue.

Tickets will be delivered via the Paléo Tickets blockchain-based mobile app, while the festival is also implementing a system of washable and returnable dishes in a bid to reduce the volume of waste and single-use. All plates, bowls, cups and jugs will be returnable as part of the event’s sustainability efforts.

 


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