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‘Very good’ ticket sales help DEAG to solid Q1

DEAG has posted revenues of €52 million for the first three months of 2024 – 7% higher than the same period last year.

The German-headquartered live event company has cited a “well-filled event pipeline and very good ticket sales” for the Q1 figures. Ticket sales via the group’s ticketing platforms myticket.de, myticket.at, myticket.co.uk, gigantic.com and tickets.ie. platforms already increased by around 28% year-on-year in the first quarter.

EBITDA of €2.9m was down from €3.1m 12 months ago, which the firm says was “in line with expectations due to seasonal shifts in business within the genres and the restructuring of the executive board”. DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow handed over operational management to co-CEO Detlef Kornett at the beginning of last month.

The firm now generates around half of its consolidated revenue with its own and self-produced event formats, making it easier to plan business development and generates a high percentage of recurring revenue.

“We were successful in the first quarter and are right on target,” says DEAG Group CEO Detlef Kornett. “This gives us tailwind for the year as a whole and beyond. DEAG is growing organically and is also strengthening its market position as one of the leading live entertainment providers in Europe through targeted acquisitions.”

“We believe we are very well positioned for further growth and are continuing to expand ticketing in particular as a strong growth driver”

Highlights between January and March included the Christmas Gardens, which drew more than two million visitors at 21 locations in six European countries, as well as tours and concerts by Judas Priest and OMD, shows such as Cirque du Soleil and Disney on Ice, as well as the international literature festival lit.COLOGNE. Upcoming promotions include shows by AC/DC, Lenny Kravitz and Tream.

“Live entertainment means feeling good and getting away from it all,” adds Kornett. “This year, we will once again provide visitors with this ‘little slice of happiness’ on unforgettable evenings. We believe we are very well positioned for further growth and are continuing to expand ticketing in particular as a strong growth driver.”

DEAG has already sold 4.9 million tickets for its 2024 festivals, up 38% year-on-year, and is on track to sell over 800,000 tickets in total for festivals such as NATURE ONE, Indian Spirit, Syndicate, Belladrum Tartan Heart and Sion sous les étoiles.

It also further strengthened its market position in the spoken word & literary events segment by acquiring live promoter and producer ShowPlanr in the UK. DEAG plans to intensify its M&A activities overt the course of the year and says it is currently engaged in “promising talks with interested companies”, with a focus on ticketing and further expansion into new European markets.

For 2024, DEAG forecasts an increase in ticket sales to around 11 million, compared with more than 10 million tickets sold in the previous year, and expects an improvement in EBITDA with an equally positive sales trend.

 


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Mid-level touring: Cruising or crisis?

While the A-list tours break box office and attendance records, there’s a fear that those high-end, high-priced tickets are causing a vacuum for the career touring mid-tier acts. James Hanley looks back on some of the concerns raised during ILMC 36.

In many an argument, the truth often lies in the middle. And that is exactly what the global touring biz is grappling with, as it faces up to a potential mid-tier crisis. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…

On the surface at least, business is red hot – the embodiment of the smartphone fire emoji, if you will. Records are being smashed left, right, and centre on a monthly (sometimes even weekly) basis. The worldwide top 100 tours earned $9.2bn in 2023 – up 46% on the previous year – according to Pollstar’s year-end charts. Attendance was up 18.4% in total tickets sold to 70.1m. Gross from the top 100 stadiums and arenas rose 35% and 29%, respectively.

It doesn’t end there: Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour became the first in history to surpass $1bn in revenue and is projected to gross another $1bn this year. Swift led a touring boom in 2023, with more tours than ever grossing above $300m (three), $200m (seven) and $100m (17).

But while the numbers don’t lie, they don’t tell the whole story either. Delve beyond the spectacular headline figures and a more complex picture emerges – a puzzle that was the talk of the town at ILMC 36 in London last month. It’s widely known that production costs have rocketed post Covid, and with margins on mid-level shows far tighter than arena and beyond, some promoters are saying that the economics of some tours now just don’t add up.

“At the top end of the business, it’s clearly in rude health,” says CAA’s Maria May, chair of Open Forum: The all-stars, the conference’s traditional state-of-the-nation opening address. “But there’s a flip side here, with grassroots festivals and venues reporting closures and challenges. “We’re also fully aware that in the middle and lower range, it is tough – really tough. And at the 1,000-3,000-cap level, there are reports of artists who are deciding not to tour at all. The budgets simply don’t add up, and artists are just not going on the road.”

“Unless the industry stimulates solutions to the mid-level of the market, we have a massive time bomb”

The UK’s Music Venue Trust declared that 2023 was the worst year for UK venue closures since its launch a decade ago, while UK trade body the Association of Independent Festivals reports that more than 21 UK festivals have now announced a postponement, cancellation, or complete closure in 2024.

So, as A-list tours reach new heights, is live music’s bread-and-butter business stuck in the starting blocks? For Eleven Management co-founder Niamh Byrne, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

“From a mid-level point of view, it’s really, really tough, and I feel like we have a big conundrum,” says Byrne, whose roster includes Bastille, Blur, and Catfish and the Bottlemen. “There is no live business without artists and audiences, and we shouldn’t be hammering fans to make that make sense. There needs to be something done in order to be able to invest and drive culture because, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.”

As mid-level acts rely on touring for their income, one potential safeguard being touted is for collection societies to consider providing breaks for mid-sized shows. “We’re losing tours, events, and festivals because of the spiralling costs of everything, which in turn means the royalty societies will suffer exponentially. To protect themselves, as well as their members, they should consider some kind of discounted rate,” states one European festival executive.

“Everyone talks about grassroots touring being difficult, or the 1% at the top making too much, but the middle is where the crisis really is. And it’s the ancillary value of those bands not touring, or touring less, that’s the biggest problem. Unless the industry stimulates solutions to the mid-level of the market, we have a massive time bomb.”

“It’s becoming harder and harder for artists to reach a point where they actually make a profit on touring”

Given the widening gap between the superstars and the rest, One Fiinix Live founder Jon Ollier questions whether “boom and bust” would be a more apt description of the modern circuit.

“It feels to me like it’s becoming harder and harder for artists to reach a point where they actually make a profit on touring,” he offers. “It’s either massive and it makes money, or it’s small and it’s not.

“You’re not seeing those artists get up to 3,000-cap level, stay there, and churn that over as their career. You’re seeing them blow through that barrier into arenas and make money, or struggle underneath that.”

Finland-based Fullsteam founder Rauha Kyyrö agrees it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money on shows below arena level.

“If we have enough touring on a club- and medium-size-level, we can probably cover our overheads and make it work somehow, but we will need the stadium [concerts], or very successful festivals, to make money,” she says. “Touring, for me, is more [for] artist development actually.

“That [200-300-cap club] level has always been about developing, but now it feels like you’re also just investing at the 1,500 [capacity level], instead of at least getting your costs covered.”

“The biggest [touring acts] make more money than ever – but I don’t see the ones that are still in the investing phase making a living out of it”

She adds: “I also own a management company, and not many of the artists make a lot of money on basic touring. Some do – the biggest ones make more money than ever – but I don’t see the ones that are still in the investing phase making a living out of it. That’s where you need to find someone to pay for it, I guess.”

Be that as it may, legendary agent and Independent Artist Group vice-chair Marsha Vlasic maintains the predicament does not represent uncharted waters for the sector.

“Way before the pandemic, even way before any economic problems, bands came and did 20- to 30-city tours in a van and put the time and effort into it,” she recalls. “They stopped at every radio station and record store and promoted their music. They didn’t make money then.”

Indeed, those principles still form the backbone of the promoting trade, nods Mercury Wheels/Live Nation Spain’s Barnaby Harrod.

“[With] bands coming through, it’s always been about investing in them,” he says. “People [being] prepared to break even or to make small amounts of money to invest in the band so that they will come back and do the 2,000/3,000 [capacity shows] and then into the arenas and stadiums if we’re lucky.”

“As long as we have a market outside the market – where certain organisations can ask for twice the price that is on the ticket – then tickets are not expensive enough”

Germany-based DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow supports Live Nation chief Michael Rapino’s recent assertion that ticket prices “are still not high enough,” referencing the secondary ticketing market.

“As long as we have a market outside the market – where certain organisations can ask for twice the price that is on the ticket – then tickets are not expensive enough,” he argues.

Nevertheless, even in the face of rising costs, Kyyrö floats the idea of reducing ticket prices and treating club shows as loss leaders in a bid to entice more people through the doors and elevate acts at a faster rate.

“In order for any of that to make any financial sense, the ticket prices will have to be at a level where it’s actually not an introduction to the market anymore,” she says. “You actually need to have fans. So is it then better that we just make the ticket price €10 and take that hit? Because we’re gonna take the hit anyway, and then at least it helps us grow the artists to the next level faster. I think it’s an interesting conversation.”

However, lowering prices is simply not a realistic option, contends Jan Digneffe of FKP Scorpio Belgium.

“We have to keep [bringing these bands over and putting] them in front of an audience at a cost. Because if we [don’t] keep doing that as promoters, then we’re ambushing our own industry”

“I think that’s difficult,” he says. “Ticket prices are not high enough, but I think we can all agree that they shouldn’t be any higher – they should be as low as possible for everybody – so we’re kind of stuck in that situation. […] We have to keep [bringing these bands over and putting] them in front of an audience at a cost. Because if we [don’t] keep doing that as promoters, then we’re ambushing our own industry, and we will get in trouble.”

Digneffe points to ingrained issues, disclosing that the promoter’s fee for a sold-out show at a prominent Belgian club remains the same as it did more than 20 years ago.

“Everything is getting more expensive,” he says. “Somebody is getting the extra money – ticket prices are actually going up. But on that level, where it is important to help build artists, it’s clearly not going in that direction, and I think that is a problem.”

And the challenges are not limited to certain markets, adds Digneffe – similar hurdles are popping up across the board.

“We are all seeing the same things,” he notes. “If it’s a very big show, you can earn money. From the moment you take it down a level, it’s getting a lot harder. There is still a little bit of money to be made, but we all know with the smaller clubs, it’s the last 50 or 100 tickets that will make the difference between making some money or losing some money. And you need a whole lot of them to get somewhere to be able to cover your costs. So, indeed, if your bigger arena tours are not there or your stadiums are not there, I see an alarm light flashing.”

“There’s a whole generation that doesn’t leave their rooms, and they know an act by one song. They don’t even have the desire to go for the live experience”

Kyyrö, who was recently promoted to president of touring & artist development at FKP Scorpio, suggests the sector is also battling competition from other forms of media, such as the burgeoning video game market.

“I think we’re losing out on a lot of young people going to the shows to get that experience because, first of all, the ticket prices are high, and also the market has changed in other ways, too,” says Kyyrö.

“It actually might be a better 90-minute experience to play Fortnite than to go and see a little show,” she muses. “If you look at what’s happened with gaming, just as an example, it’s developed so much faster than our live experience has. But the price of the live experience is going up all the time.”

US-based Vlasic, who collected the prestigious Bottle Award during ILMC 36’s Arthur Awards, acknowledges that the shift in habits among younger people was a contributing factor to the status quo.

“There’s a whole generation that doesn’t leave their rooms, and they know an act by one song,” she says. “They don’t even have the desire to go for the live experience. They’re very content with their group chats and TikTok and just discovering new songs, not artists. That’s the worrisome generation, because they don’t even think about going to a live show.”

“It’s all about the streaming, and if I hear more streaming numbers, I’ll go crazy. It’s just maddening – and streaming numbers don’t sell tickets”

Furthermore, Vlasic laments the obsession with streaming numbers, which she blames for distorting an artist’s worth on the live scene. “You still go out, and you’re still looking, you still hope, but you don’t get the calls from the record companies,” she sighs. “It’s all about the streaming, and if I hear more streaming numbers, I’ll go crazy. It’s just maddening – and streaming numbers don’t sell tickets. I’ve always prided myself in working with career artists. How do we develop groups? It’s a really frightening thought.”

Veteran promoter and Live Nation Spain chair Pino Sagliocco bemoans the lack of support for up-and-coming talent, which he believes cuts to the heart of the matter.

“I think the problem is that we don’t do enough to build a bridge to help younger talents who are asked to try and make a living every day,” he says. “That’s why I’m so proud to help develop burgeoning Spanish musicians while convincing local politicians that we need a sponsorship break. We have the funds to support these artists through the banks, and I feel that is really important.”

Moreover, Digneffe suggests the time and attention given to huge global tours by established top-tier acts is to the detriment of those both in the mid-tier and at the start of their careers.

“What is frustrating everybody about these world tours is this cherry picking that’s going on all the time,” he continues. “I don’t want to be like a preacher in a church or anything, but cherry picking also comes with a responsibility to look after the next generation. No one is doing that at the moment, and I think that’s a real problem. The promoters that find solutions for that will help keep our business healthy.”

“As bigger acts are getting off the festivals and going into stadiums, the only way to do it is to piggyback and share the cost of the production”

Indeed, there appears to be an audience malaise for some of the bread-and-butter acts – those artists and musicians that rely principally on live for the majority of their income and therefore regularly tour every 12-24 months are, anecdotally, not seeing the same ticket sales anymore. Fans that know those artists will come around again soon, seem less willing to buy a ticket, whereas the high value stadium shows that do not come around every year are more unique and doing better than ever.

With increasing frequency, co-headline and packaged tours are coming to the fore as a means of sharing the load. Proponents include Mötley Crüe & Def Leppard, Suede & Manic Street Preachers, The Charlatans & Johnny Marr, Stone Temple Pilots & +LIVE+, Pixies & Modest Mouse, I Prevail & Halestorm, and Green Day, Fall Out Boy & Weezer.

While such combinations have proved particularly popular among the rock fraternity, Vlasic suggests the acts do not necessarily have to be a perfect fit.

“As bigger acts are getting off the festivals and going into stadiums, the only way to do it is to piggyback and share the cost of the production,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be completely compatible; it’s just entertainment. When you think of packaging an act… it’s [about], how does this package look in terms of bringing in additional people and different audiences?

“[But] so many of them want to headline on their own, and the market is saturated. I don’t know how the summer’s going to do this year – and everybody’s gone on sale so much sooner.”

“Some people need to step down from their throne in order to be able to play better venues, and that will make the costs go down”

Though Digneffe applauds the idea, he advises that persuading all parties of its merits can be easier said than done.

“I think it’s an interesting idea, but you have trouble getting everybody on board,” he says. “If you look at the metal and the hard rock scene, there is a lot more going on, and there is a lot more understanding between bands as well.

“We all know it’s an ego business. But I think that some people need to step down from their throne in order to be able to play better venues, and that will make the costs go down. It’s a more fun night for the punter anyway, so I see nothing but advantages. But to get it done, you need everybody on board. You need the agents to be on board. You need the management to be on board.”

Vlasic also implores artists to embrace VIP ticketing, admitting that the reluctance of some acts to do so – notably those outside the United States – is a growing source of frustration.

“VIP is huge,” she says. “We had a package two summers ago that broke every record. But I have artists that just won’t do it. And it’s so frustrating because, again, they don’t understand the value of it. It’s actually mostly non-American artists that don’t allow it. But it’s such a big source of additional income.”

“Sometimes, going through hardships and recessions can be a really good thing”

Putting a more positive slant on the current state of play, Eleven’s Byrne shares her conviction that difficult periods can spur innovation.

“Sometimes, going through hardships and recessions can be a really good thing,” she says. “It’ll force us to become more innovative with our ideas, and I’m looking forward to exploring new ways of doing things, as well as opening up lots of international markets.”

Wrapping up, DEAG’s Schwenkow attempts to finish on a similarly optimistic note.

“I think this is my fourth real recession,” he concludes. “And I love recessions because people don’t buy new houses, apartments, cars, washing machines; they’re spending their money on live entertainment. We had a terrific ’22, we had a very, very good ’23, and ’24 looks great as well.”

 


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Mixed results in DEAG 2023 year-end figures

Deutsche Entertainment’s (DEAG) preliminary figures for the financial year 2023 show mixed results, with ticket sales up by 10% but profits flat and revenue down.

The German live entertainment company indicated consolidated revenue of approximately €334m in the financial year 2023, a 5.11% drop from €352m in the previous year. In the pre-Covid year of 2019, it totalled €197m.

The company now generates around half of its consolidated revenue with its own event formats, for which the majority of tickets are sold via the Group’s ticketing platforms myticket.de, myticket.at, myticket.co.uk, gigantic.com and tickets.ie.

Meanwhile, adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) remained at the same level as last year, €31m, which has more than doubled since 2019, from €14.1m.

“Our ticketing is a dynamic driver of our growth”

However, DEAG achieved its forecast target of over 10 million tickets sold, up from nine million in 2022. For the current financial year 2024, DEAG expects an increase in tickets sold to around 11.5 million.

“Our ticketing is a dynamic driver of our growth,” says incoming CEO Detlef Kornett. “We are selling a steadily increasing number of tickets via our strong platforms and generating high margins. Accordingly, further sales growth and high profitability are our declared goals.”

Another focus for DEAG has been its “buy and build” strategy which has led to the firm increasing its stake in electronic music promoter I-Motion from 50.1% to 100%.

DEAG also continued its international expansion, entering the Spanish rock/pop market with the launch of subsidiary Get Rock Live (GRL) and opening a new office in Wales via its subsidiary Kilimanjaro Live.

The 2023 financial report comes soon after the company announced a management handover, which will see DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow pass the baton to co-CEO Detlef Kornett after 46 years at the helm.

Prof. Peter L.H. Schwenkow, CEO and founder of DEAG: “We are once again very pleased with our development in 2023. DEAG has grown into a new dimension over the past two years and will continue on its successful path in an exciting and attractive market. I am proud to be able to continue to accompany its development as a relevant shareholder and advisor in the coming years. The captain is leaving the bridge, but not the ship!”

 


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DEAG announces management handover

DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow has announced he is handing over operational management of DEAG to co-CEO Detlef Kornett.

Schwenkow, who will step back to an advisory role at the German-headquartered live entertainment firm, made the announcement today (23 March) during a reception for his 70th birthday held at Wintergarten Varieté in Berlin.

“After 46 years at the helm of the company I founded and in the best of health, I am announcing the long-prepared move to a new role,” said Schwenkow. “From 1 April 2024, I will assume the role of founder and senior advisor at DEAG and hand over responsibility as CEO.

“This step, on my 70th birthday, was planned for a long time and carefully prepared. The captain is leaving the bridge, but not the ship. I will continue to be part of the journey as an advisor to the company and – together with my son Moritz – as a major private shareholder in DEAG, in order to make my contribution to the company’s continued growth in the interests of all shareholders.”

He added: “Since 1978, we have continuously and successfully developed new products and markets with committed, loyal and creative partners and employees, without whom this growth would not have been possible. Today, with over 600 employees in seven countries at 22 locations, DEAG is one of the world’s leading live entertainment companies with continuous annual sales of over €300 million.

“Our permanent focus on our customers, artists and guests will continue to be the benchmark of our work in the future.”

“We are sure that – with your continued support – we can look forward to an exciting and prosperous future”

DEAG’s supervisory board paid tribute to Schwenkow for his decades of entrepreneurial work.

“You can be proud of your life’s work,” said supervisory board chair Wolf Gramatke. “And we are sure that – with your continued support – we can look forward to an exciting and prosperous future.”

Kornett, who has been a board member since 2014, was appointed co-CEO alongside Schwenkow last summer. He will be responsible for the firm’s continued growth, together with fellow board members Moritz Schwenkow, Christian Diekmann and David Reinecke, as well as SVPs Stuart Galbraith, Benedikt Alder, Jacqueline Zich and Oliver Hoppe.

Founded in Berlin in 1978, DEAG’s core markets are Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark and Spain.

Click here to read IQ‘s recent profile of Schwenkow, looking back on his 50 years in the business.

 


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Touring power players enjoy stock market surge

Live music powerhouses have recorded big six-month gains on the stock market, with CTS Eventim sailing to its highest ever share price.

Shares in the German pan-European ticketing and live entertainment giant reached an all-time high of €77.90 yesterday (19 March) – representing a 13% upswing in the last month and a huge 40% rise on six months ago.

In its latest financial results, published last month, the company reported it had “significantly exceeded” its 2023 forecast thanks to a “very strong” Q4. It enjoyed a record year, attaining consolidated revenue of €2.359 billion – a 22.5% increase on the previous year’s €1.926bn.

“The CTS Eventim share has been in a long-term upward trend since January 24, 2024 and has gained +28.96% in value during this period,” reports Boerse.

Live Nation is also on a significant upward trajectory. Its current price of US$103.47 (€95.31) is 12% higher than a month ago and has leapt 27% over the last six months. The firm posted all-time highs for attendance, ticket sales and sponsorship activity in its financial results for full-year and Q4 2023.

“The live music industry reached new heights in 2023, and demand for live music continues to build,” Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino told investors at last month’s earnings call.

Furthermore, Madison Square Garden Entertainment shares have jumped 18.8% in half a year to their current price of $38.87, while shares in its Sphere Entertainment spinoff have seen a 28% uptick in the same period to $46.73.

German live entertainment power player DEAG postponed its return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange earlier this year

Sphere Entertainment encompasses the first Sphere venue in Las Vegas as well as MSG Networks and Tao Group Hospitality businesses. The company reported revenues of $314.2m for fiscal 2024 Q2, an increase of $154.6m on the prior year quarter, and an operating loss of $159.7m, (up from the prior year’s quarter $109.9m).

In addition, MENA streaming service Anghami, owner of Dubai-based event management company Spotlight Events, has climbed 63% in six months to $1.30, while music company ATC, which listed on the Aquis Growth Market in London in December 2021, has risen from 92.5p to 115p. The UK-based company announced in February 2024 that it had raised £2.3 million through a subscription of 2.2 million shares priced at 105p each.

And Roblox Corp, the company behind social gaming platform Roblox, is up 40.5% since September 2023 to hover at $36.88.

Meanwhile, German live entertainment power player DEAG postponed its return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange earlier this year.

The group was due to list in Q1 2024 with an offer consisting of a capital increase of €40-50 million, together with an additional offering of existing shares from the holdings of current shareholders. However, it announced that the management board has decided to continue conversations with investors at a later date as it is “currently in advanced conversations with several acquisition targets”.

The Berlin-headquartered firm first went public in 1998 and delisted in January 2021 in the wake of the pandemic after accepting a takeover offer from its largest single shareholder Apeiron Investment Group and its Malta-based subsidiary Musai Capital.

 


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Scottish festivals unite to launch new partnership

Scottish festivals Let’s Rock Scotland and Party at The Palace have joined forces for a new partnership.

The link-up unites the two brands, with the first joint “super-festival” to take place on 10-11 August in Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian, featuring the likes of Ali Campbell, Lulu, ABC, Heaven 17, Big Country, Go West, Skids, Toyah and Thereza Bazar’s Dollar.

Let’s Rock Scotland and Party at The Palace are working alongside Scottish music promoter Regular Music “to create a strong and compelling festival experience for audiences” across the two-day event.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Party at The Palace,” says Nick Billinghurst of UK Live, owner of Let’s Rock Scotland. “We discovered that our values align and that we put equal importance on what we feel festivals represent. Teaming up makes perfect sense, both organisationally and emotionally, and we’ll be bringing the very best of both festivals to Linlithgow this summer.”

“It is something that we have been wanting to do for a few years and we are very excited about what the future will bring”

Edinburgh-based Regular is Scotland’s longest established independent music promoter. German powerhouse DEAG announced the acquisition of a majority stake in the company in December 2022, having secured a majority stake in UK Live the previous year.

“We are delighted to bring a little of our knowledge and experience to help the dynamic duo in their quest to present the best party weekend in Scotland,” says Mark Mackie, CEO of Regular Music.

This year marks 10 years since the very first Party at The Palace.

“We are absolutely delighted to be teaming up with UK Live,” says Party at The Palace director John Richardson. “It is something that we have been wanting to do for a few years and we are very excited about what the future will bring. They have a vast wealth of experience and knowledge which we will no doubt benefit from.”

 


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Kilimanjaro Live trio hold court at Futures Forum

The team behind DEAG-owned UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live offered a few pearls of wisdom to the next generation in a keynote interview at Futures Forum.

The conference for young and emerging live music executives returned to London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel on Friday (1 March) to conclude the 2024 International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

The FF programme spanned the agency business, artist development, sustainability, the evolution of festivals and more, with speakers including Connie Shao (AEG Presents), Beckie Sugden (CAA), Louisa Robinson (FORM), Caroline Simionescu-Marin (WME), Lottie Bradshaw (TEG Live Europe), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent) and Jess Kinn (One Fiinix Live).

Rounding off the event, three of Kilimanjaro Live’s principals – Stuart Galbraith, San Phillips and Alan Day – were quizzed by IQ‘s Lisa Henderson about building a modern music company, what they’ve learned on the journey, and how they see both their company and the broader business developing.

Formed in 2008, the London-based firm currently works with artists including Simply Red, Ed Sheeran, Andrea Bocelli, Hans Zimmer, Stereophonics and Don Broco. Here is a selection of key talking points from the session…

“The ability to make a living out of music is getting more and more difficult”

Diversifying the business…
Stuart Galbraith:
“The ability to make a living out of music is getting more and more difficult. As a promoter, the risk versus return ratio is atrocious. If you talk to accountants who come into audit our books, they look at you as if you’re mad: ‘You risk this much money to make this much money?’ And if you look at us as a margin business by comparison to any other sector, it just doesn’t make sense – particularly as the world has become smaller and global deals are coming to play, those margins are even more tight.

“So we’ve deliberately in the last seven years diversified [into] more businesses where there is a better market. There is less risk. And it enables us to then justify running a concert promoting business that, to be quite frank, as a standalone business is suspect. However, the fact that you can send an email and say that we promote Ed Sheeran, or we promoted Live 8, or we work with Andrea Bocelli, opens so many doors, and it’s still a very, very crucial part of our business.”

Artist development…
Alan Day: “Some of our biggest acts we met at the very bottom. One of our colleagues, Steve Tilley, met Ed Sheeran supporting Just Jack at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.”

SG: “Which lost £3,500.”

AD: “Sabaton, the metal band, I met at South by Southwest. There were 40 people there [and I] gave them my number. Their first show I did in London was at the Garage, then Electric Ballroom, then Koko… While She Sleeps played Ally Pally recently, first gig Borderline. Don Broco, I met in a bar at a festival where they were playing to 50 people and now we’re in arenas. So that’s how we get there from the get-go.”

“It’s a way of life rather than just a nine-to-five job, seven days a week”

Work-life balance…
San Phillips: “Something that I say to people new to the industry and to the company is that gigs happen at the evenings and weekends. So maybe what do you want when you’re 20, aren’t things you want to be doing when you’re 40, so be mindful of the kind of goals that you want in life. We do what we need to do to get it done. But we love going to gigs. We go to a lot together and that’s what it’s about. You’re not going to necessarily work regular hours, and obviously when you’re launching something, of course it’s time consuming. I’m not going to lie about that. You can’t teach people stamina and I think stamina is one of the things that you really need.”

SG: “Promoting was one of the few jobs where quite literally the more hours you put in, the more successful you’re potentially going to be. And if you look at Alan or Steve, it’s a way of life rather than just a nine-to-five job seven days a week. And if you’re going to go on holiday, the manager still wants to talk to you.”

Challenges for the year ahead…
AD: “Rising costs – from PAs, to security, to crews, riggers, trucking…”

SG: “As a promoter we’re invariably a function of the bottom line, we’re a percentage of what’s left. And those rising costs are unfortunately, as we predicted during Covid, being met by increased ticket prices. So we’re seeing huge escalation in ticket prices that are way beyond anything that we would have expected two years ago. That’s fine if we’re on an indoor tour where we’re working in a finite environment, but when you then come to outdoors and you’ve booked either festivals or small outdoor shows, it becomes very, very scary.

“We run the festival in Scotland called Belladrum, which is now Scotland’s biggest camping festival and our costs at Belladrum in three years have increased by a million pounds. And I just can’t put the ticket price up to match that. With Belladrum, we’ve been able to get a margin increase in capacity, which has helped offset that cost, but we’re having to accept that that festival now can’t be as profitable as it used to be.”

“If we had a discussion, we probably would have avoided making the biggest mistake in Kili’s history”

Biggest career lesson…
SG: “I think our biggest lesson was making sure that within your opinion, because it can be absolutely crucial. When we took Kili private in 2012, within a week, we launched Sonisphere at Knebworth. Within three days, it became very evident that we’d made a huge mistake, and when we took a final decision to cancel it, Alan came up with the line which was, ‘I knew it wouldn’t work. I didn’t think it was a good idea.’

“From that day on, we said, ‘Well, if you have an opinion, then you must express it – particularly in a team environment, because Alan’s viewpoint was absolutely correct. And if we had had a discussion, then we probably would have avoided making what was then the biggest mistake in Kili’s history.

“It was a mistake because we were ahead of our time because we booked Queen with Adam Lambert as the lead singer and Queen fans had not embraced Adam Lambert at that point in time. Now, Queen sell more tickets with Adam Lambert as the lead singer that they used to with Freddie Mercury. But in that particular year, no one wanted to buy the tickets – and Alan knew that.”

SP: “Everybody gets their voice heard. Anybody can come up to you, whatever their position in the company, and say, ‘Oh no, what were you doing that for? Why haven’t we chosen to do this?’ And they’re not told off… Everybody in the company is a [music] fan, and we encourage them to say things.”

 


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The Deutsche entertainer: Peter Schwenkow

As Deutsche Entertainment AG eyes yet another record year, its founder and CEO, Peter Schwenkow, is celebrating some personal milestones of his own: 50 years in business and the small matter of his 70th birthday on 23 March. Gordon Masson learns about Schwenkow’s path to the top and his future ambitions for DEAG…

Blessed with an innate entrepreneurial spirit, thankfully it has been the live music industry that has mostly benefitted from Peter Schwenkow’s eye for a deal over the last five decades.

Indeed, his very first business, as a teenager, revolved around music. “When I was 12 or 13, I started to play the guitar,” he tells IQ. “I learned the Beatles songbook by heart, and I discovered that other people wanted to do the same, so when I was 16, I started teaching others. That was only successful to a certain point because after a couple of years, they could play better than I could. So I found out early that I was a good teacher and a good motivator but not the best musician.”

Nevertheless, Schwenkow was earning a significant chunk of money, enabling him to buy his first car, aged 18. “I had eight to ten students a week, paying me ten Deutsche Marks (DM) – so maybe €100 net, these days.”

Being able to afford his own transportation soon kick-started another business idea – this time more in line with his father who ran a large Citroen and Mitsubishi dealership. “I bought old cars, refurbished them, and sold them for twice the price,” says Schwenkow. “One guy who was working for Karsten Jahnke bought one of my cars, and before I knew it, they offered me a job as a driver for the company because Karsten’s company was (and still is) based in my hometown of Hamburg.

“And so, 50 years ago, my first job for Karsten Jahnke was to bring Deep Purple to the Easter Rock Meeting.”

It was not the easiest introduction to live music. “There was a curfew, and they had to stop the show, which made people really angry when we were leaving the venue – they were running over my car, shouting at the band that they should have played for longer. It was a bit of a catastrophe, but I didn’t get nervous. And for a few months, besides school, I was driving artists for Karsten, at the age of 20.”

“I did everything from picking up the phone, filling out money transfer certificates, and putting the posters into envelopes to send to the box offices”

That casual work turned into something more concrete once Schwenkow finished school, when he was offered a full-time position at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion. “I did everything from picking up the phone, filling out money transfer certificates, and putting the posters into envelopes to send to the box offices. This was long before Ticketmaster, Eventim, or others started, when we had to distribute tickets physically. But it allowed me to learn everything from scratch.

“It was all good training because later, whenever somebody was working for me, I knew how to do every part of the job and could help them learn.”

Schwenkow’s next step in the music business was with legendary promoter Fritz Rau, of Lippmann & Rau, for whom he toured with bands for about a year before relocating to Berlin – at that time a very different, isolated city, located behind the Iron Curtain.

“Fritz taught me to always make sure that the artists felt comfortable,” he reports. “You made sure that they all had their hotel rooms. And you also had the responsibility to count the tickets that came back, so if you had a capacity of 5,000 and only 3,000 tickets sold, you had to physically count the unsold 2,000 tickets to make sure everything balanced.”

Schwenkow looks back on those early days as some of the most interesting of his life. “I worked for an artist called Hanns Dieter Hüsch. Nobody knows him outside Germany, but he is still remembered fondly here. He toured with a big Hammond organ, and I was driving a Mercedes Benz 180 from 1958, which had a huge trunk, which the Hammond organ would fit in, so Hanns Dieter would sit alongside me and chat for hours and hours between cities, discussing politics or whatever. I loved the guy, because his brain was so sharp.

“In fact, it was because of him that I decided to make a career in the entertainment business. In my family, you could either become a doctor or a lawyer, but when I discovered you could meet people like Hanns Dieter Hüsch, this was the business I wanted to be in. Mind you, I never met anyone like him again. But it was through him that I ended up in Berlin. And then I met a girl and decided to move to the city for university, where I studied advertising and marketing.”

“When I discovered you could meet people like Hanns Dieter Hüsch, this was the business I wanted to be in”

Walled In
Determined to also keep building his live music credentials, Schwenkow ingratiated himself with local promoter Wolfgang Jänicke. “He had a kind of monopoly as he was the only promoter in Berlin, which was a very interesting city: 1.8 million inhabitants surrounded by a wall, so a closed market. When I started working for him, I made sure I was the first one there in the morning, at 6am, in the venue. I made sure that there were enough drinks and food for everyone because there were no catering companies in those days – I had to buy some bread, some ham, some butter. And I also made sure I was the last one to leave at two o’clock in the morning, after the show.

“I also had to make sure that they had the correct amount of electricity, so my second job was as a technical director. And I also took on the PR job, too.”

Enjoying learning as much as he could about the workings of the concert business, Schwenkow was living hand-to-mouth because of the working conditions instituted by his employer.

“I was working from home because Wolfgang Jänicke had a very small office. He paid me 1,000 DM, but my costs for the car and driving here and there were about 600 DM per month,” he recalls. “My apartment only cost me 95 DM a month but using the phone cost a lot – 23 pfennigs per call – so if I had to call ten journalists, this would quickly be a lot of money because I couldn’t reimburse the costs.

“Then, after two years, in spring 1978, he moved into a huge new office, but when I visited, it only had one desk, so when I asked, ‘where’s my desk?’ and he said we’d need to discuss this, I knew he had been cheating me. But I was not mad at him because I had learned everything: I knew how to promote, I knew how to set it up, I knew how to do the PR, etc, etc.”

“We invented the phone ticket service,” he says. “If you would send us the money, via cheque or postal order, we would send you the tickets”

Schwenkow had also perfected the complex logistics of bringing international artists into West Berlin – a tricky task given the city’s location behind the Iron Curtain. “The rich and famous would fly – you could only use Air France, Pan American, or British Airways. But most acts came in by car,” he explains. “It was quite a complicated ride because it took two or three hours at the border to get into the GDR on the autobahn. And if you’d been in Hamburg or Hanover, the truck with the backline might take seven or eight hours, maybe as long as ten. Berlin was a desert.”

But Schwenkow had also seen an oasis of opportunities during his time in the city. “In those days, as a fan, if you tried to find out whether there were still tickets available for a concert, you would call the promoter, to be told ‘call the box office.’ If people called the box office, they would say you had to visit the outlet. There was no service quality at all, and it was a marathon for fans to find out if there were still tickets available and how much they cost.”

Teaming up with another Lippmann & Rau colleague, Jochen Zanke, on 15 June 1978, Schwenkow launched Concert Concept and immediately tried to improve the ticketing situation for artists and fans alike. “We invented the phone ticket service,” he says. “You could call us, we would tell you what the price is, and we would tell you if there were still tickets available. If you would send us the money, via cheque or postal order, we would send you the tickets.”

It was revolutionary.

“Till this day, my focus has always been on the customer. So making it easier for the customer to get their ticket seemed a sensible first step, and it made us pretty much successful from the very beginning because our old, lazy competitor didn’t even pick up the phone.”

“Our first concert was Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, and The Flamin’ Groovies on 7 September 1978”

However, the new company’s first-ever show nearly turned out to be the last…

“Our first concert was Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, and The Flamin’ Groovies on 7 September 1978. It rained cats and dogs every day for three weeks, and we had to move the concert. But instead of selling the 15,000-18,000 tickets we expected, we sold only 1,000 tickets, and we were in partnership with Lippmann & Rau on an 80/20 deal.

“The capital of our company was 20,000 DM. And that first show, our share of the loss was 20,000 DM. After the show, Fritz Rau invited us for a very, very late-night dinner at the one restaurant in Berlin that was open 24 hours a day, The Turtle. We expected the worst, but Fritz said, ‘Listen, guys, I know you don’t feel very good at the moment. But I will tell you two things: one, in a market that had only one promoter, we are now in a market with two promoters. So you became famous within a few months with the first show. And the second point is, you don’t have to pay your share of the losses now. I will give you many concerts, and 50% of what you make can repay the loan and the other 50% you can keep.’

“It was a very good deal because we were young – I was 24 – we were hungry, and we worked 20 hours a day. Within 18 months, we had repaid the loan from Lippmann & Rau, we had the phone tickets service, and then, all of a sudden, the Berlin market exploded, and we were the biggest promoter in the city.”

Midweek Music
Growing exponentially, in 1981, Schwenkow pulled a masterstroke. “I did my first season at Berlin Waldbühne, and although we lost a fortune because of low attendance, we could see that the concept was a winner.”

“By 1983 or ’84, we had Stevie Wonder and Elton John, and for the very first time, the Waldbühne sold out and was on the European tour map”

Placing a roof over the stage at the outdoor venue, Concert Concept was able to offer artists such as The Who, AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, Simon Garfunkel, and many others, a weekday show for an audience of up to 20,000 people.

“The acts that played festivals could only play on a weekend because they needed the audience to come from 200, 300, 400 kilometres [away]. But in Berlin, there was 24-hour public transport. So, if an act played a weekend in Munich, and their next weekend was Copenhagen, I could offer a 20,000-capacity between those dates,” says Schwenkow explaining his strategy. “In the first years, the Waldbühne always played Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My offer was ‘When you travel from Munich to Copenhagen, stop by in Berlin. I have the infrastructure, I have a roof, I have sound, I have lights, I have power.’ It took a good two or three years, but by 1983 or ’84, we had Stevie Wonder and Elton John, and for the very first time, the Waldbühne sold out and was on the European tour map. And after that, we had 25 amazing years.”

Expansion
Loving the unique environment that allowed Concert Concept to flourish, Schwenkow’s ambitions were not to be confined to just one city.

“We had several companies,” he notes. “But because I was the local promoter in Berlin, I was dependent on other promoters to deliver the artists, so I could not compete as a touring promoter against them because then they wouldn’t give me their acts. As a result, in 1983, we had a second business set up to produce our own shows.”

That operation leant heavily, initially, on big-name magicians, as well as some other specialised content: “I promoted a fire theatre here in Berlin, with 400,000 people that showed up for fireworks, and we also started to do city marketing. Berlin wanted more tourists, for instance, and so did Hamburg, so we created the Berlin Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1984 and the Hamburg Summer in ’85.”

“We went into our own production and our own shows because we thought that owning the show was much better than just promoting for somebody else”

The company’s ticketing innovation had already involved a leap of faith, as the two Concert Concept founders had to employ staff to answer phones and fulfil ticketing orders. But they needed to widen the net. “It was getting bigger and bigger and better,” says Schwenkow. “So, we opened an office in Hamburg, where we promoted Michael Jackson and then Pink Floyd and that kind of stuff. But more and more, we went into our own production and our own shows because we thought that owning the show was much better than just promoting for somebody else.”

Indeed, it would take Schwenkow overseas. “Producing our own shows opened lots of doors – I did many shows with André Heller in New York, for instance,” he says.

Philosophical Growth
With a growing portfolio of interests, Schwenkow and Zanke created Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) as a holding company to oversee the different sectors of group business.

In 2024, those entities now include stakes in 25 live touring companies and 17 operations in its entertainment services division. Those companies are based across 22 locations in DEAG’s core markets of Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Ireland, and Denmark, while the company also recently launched its first JV in Spain.

“When we buy into, let’s say, a promoter in a country, most these days are still rock and roll promoters and wear their leather jacket all day long,” observes Schwenkow. ‘What we tell them is, ‘Listen, you can still be a rock and roll promoter, you can wear your leather jacket, you have your triple-A golden backstage pass, you have your parking spot next to the backstage entrance door, you can put your name on the poster. But please, why don’t you wear a suit in the morning and visit the director of your local botanical garden and tell them you want to do a light trail. And then, in the afternoon, you can change and put on your leather jacket again.’

“What they find out is that on the light trail, they can make twice as much money as on a concert, and everybody is happy that you are there: nobody will be yelling at you because there is one bottle of whiskey and ten towels missing.”

“We don’t do takeover deals; we go into partnership. It’s a matter of respect”

He continues, “If you can promote a concert, you can promote everything – you can promote an exhibition, a light trail, spoken word, you can promote jazz, rock, pop, you can promote everything. The proposition is that we will bring our product to you, and before you know it, your company will be worth twice or three times as much as when we first partnered.

“So, very simply, DEAG’s partnership deal usually means taking a 50% stake in your company, but we will make sure that in two or three years’ time, your remaining 50% stake will have the same value as 100% does now. That’s our M&A proposition.”

It’s a successful philosophy. “We have more demand for partnership than we can handle,” states Schwenkow. “We don’t do takeover deals; we go into partnership. It’s a matter of respect.

“We still have 75% of our revenues coming from rock and pop. But I would say more than half of our profits are coming from the other segments, which means that they are twice as profitable.”

Word Up
One of DEAG’s biggest emerging sectors is spoken word events.

“Three years ago, our spoken word revenues were zero. This year, they are €30m. Maybe next year, they go to €45m”

“Last year, we bought lit.COLOGNE, and we are projected to bring in €30m in revenues from events like Nigella Lawson’s American tour to Quentin Tarantino in front of 7,000 people telling them how to make a movie. This is a totally new segment that we love,” beams Schwenkow, noting that spoken word events are the fastest growing part of the DEAG portfolio.

“Three years ago, our spoken word revenues were zero. This year, they are €30m. Maybe next year, they go to €45m,” he adds. “Stuart Galbraith’s vision to partner with Alex Fane has been the catalyst for this new business sector.”

Among the company’s spoken word successes from 2023 were events by Fane in the UK featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, and Emma Dabiri, while the lit.COLOGNE gathering included talks with Daniel Kehlmann, Ian McEwan, Frank Schätzing, and David Sedaris.

In the coming months, Fane will be organising events for the likes of Bernie Sanders, Candice Braithwaite & Coco Sarel, Elizabeth Day, Nigella Lawson, and Gabor Maté. And the literature festival in Colohgne will welcome Saša Stanišić, Bernardine Evaristo, Han Kang, Didier Eribon, and Zeruya Shalev among many others.

Going Public
While many pioneers in live entertainment reach their 50th anniversary landmark, Peter Schwenkow has done so with a flourish, notching a number of industry firsts along the way – not the least of which was DEAG’s stock market flotation.

“We were the first company to go public. It was the 14 September 1998, and we were number 36 on the so-called new market in those days”

“We were the first company to go public,” states Schwenkow. “It was the 14 September 1998, and we were number 36 on the so-called new market in those days.”

Despite reversing out of that public flotation during the pandemic, he has no regrets. “It went pretty well. But it was an education process: people said, ‘Okay, you have the Rolling Stones next year. But what is after that?’ When we said that we don’t know yet, we can only tell you that the market is driven by demand, then it was about teaching people about the nature of live entertainment.

“But we were the first ones who opened our books and showed the transparency of our business, long before SFX or Live Nation or Eventim and the others. I loved it because I believed that this business could become an industry and become bigger and bigger and bigger. Because in the 60s, when the Beatles played live, the target group was 16 to 23. Ten years later, the target group was 16 to 33. Another ten years, it was 14 to 43, and these days, it’s six to 96.”

DEAG delisted in January 2021 in the wake of the pandemic, after accepting a takeover offer from its largest single shareholder, Apeiron Investment Group, and its Malta-based subsidiary, Musai Capital. However, the company recently revealed its intention to return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange once it has completed a planned series of acquisitions.

Savvy Policy
That deal to make DEAG a private entity once again had much to do with the difficult trading period caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But once again, while most of the live entertainment sector struggled during the Covid lockdowns, DEAG and its employees found themselves in a fortunate situation, with its losses covered by insurance.

“When the pandemic happened, we were fully covered for coronavirus. All thanks to Leonard Bernstein”

While many may have looked enviously at DEAG during that two-year shutdown, the reason behind the far-ranging policy was 30 years in the making and owed everything to the maestro himself, Leonard Bernstein.

Schwenkow explains. “My first big case with an insurance company was in 1990 when I had a European tour with Leonard Bernstein, and I had already paid the air charter company for the use of a 737 aircraft when Lenny died.

“The insurance company had a loss adjuster who said, ‘I think Mr. Bernstein had a pre-existing illness’ and they refused to pay, leaving me facing a 1.3m DM black hole, which would have been a killer. But my partner, Harry Kraut, who was Lenny’s manager, told me not to worry because he would make sure the insurance company paid me.

“It turned out that the New York hospital Lenny was in had been visited by these guys working for the loss adjuster, and they stole some of his medical records. So, Harry sued the insurance company for $50m. And, of course, they settled with me. Harry didn’t take them to court, and I got my money – we settled at 1.1m DM.

“But since that happened, I read every single line of an insurance contract. So, in 2018 when I read our new contract that listed 25 to 30 specific diseases, I asked ‘What happens if there’s a disease that is not on your list?’ They said I would not be insured. So I asked if I could be insured for diseases that were not on the list, and they said yes but it would cost, I think, 22% more. I took the deal. It was a three-year contract, but when the pandemic happened, we were fully covered for coronavirus. All thanks to Leonard Bernstein.”

“In the last 50 years, I have seen three or four economic recessions that very often come together with mental recession”

The unprecedented nature of the pandemic also saw Schwenkow leaning heavily on his knowledge as a former politician, placing him at the forefront of efforts to secure governmental support for the German live entertainment industry during the Covid situation. “I used my political contacts to make sure that we got subsidies. And the most support we got across the company was in Germany, which was satisfying.”

He adds, “Of our 400 employees, during Covid, only about 10% left, and we were able to pay everyone full money. It cost us a fortune, but we see everyone at the company as family, so it was a very good investment because when we were back, we were back with full 100% service.”

While the prolonged nature of the pandemic had peers around the world scrambling for solutions, Schwenkow believes that the recession that many countries now find themselves facing offers those in the live entertainment sector with opportunities for growth.

“In the last 50 years, I have seen three or four economic recessions that very often come together with mental recession,” he tells IQ. “When the future is not that bright and the sky is not that blue, the husband says to his wife, ‘Honey, let’s stay in this apartment. We’re not gonna buy a house. But here are two tickets for Elton John.’

“On the flip side, someone who decides to make that investment for the new house is a lost customer to us for many, many years. But at the moment, those people are more the exception than the rule, I believe.”

“In terms of territories, the plan is to be in ten European markets – and we are currently in six: Germany, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Spain”

He continues, “What we have at the moment is, I think, three things. Number one, it’s the recession spirit. [Number two,] people are angry with the bad politicians. They are mad about Brexit mistakes. They are furious about the German politicians that can’t get the budget right and a chancellor who can’t explain himself, because he thinks we are all idiots. And [thirdly,] they’re also frustrated about Ukraine and Israel. It’s both an economic recession and a mental recession. And to be honest, if you spend half of your day in front of a screen, you want to see real people, and I’ve always believed that live entertainment is the Parship [dating agency] of our days. And that’s also a reason all the financial investors are recognising live entertainment as the hot sector.”

Strategy 100
In addition to an imminent stock market return, Schwenkow and his colleagues are anticipating the busiest year in DEAG’s history as they work toward fulfilling something known internally at the company as Project 100.

“The 100 strategy gets its name from the goal that we want to offer ten different products in ten different countries,” Schwenkow tells IQ. “Our products are rock and pop; electronic dance music; classic and jazz; arts and exhibitions; family entertainment; public and B2B services; spoken word; public/private partnerships; festivals; and ticketing.

“In terms of territories, the plan is to be in ten European markets – and we are currently in six: Germany, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Spain. We’re hoping to launch in the missing four territories within the next 18 months. That will allow us to approach artists with deals where we can take them to ten key European markets.”

While Schwenkow remains tight-lipped on the target territories for DEAG, he is confident that the potential partners he is in conversation with will soon be adding to the group’s bottom line.

“There is a reason why we are so successful with our acquisitions,” he states. “Although we have about 450 employees, we still try to operate in a family spirit, and we always try to support and be transparent. We reward people if they help their colleagues, while other companies seem to reward people if they make their colleagues struggle.”

“If you join this company, you can become almost anything – you can even get my job in ten or 20 years. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit”

He adds, “We have a saying in Germany that I don’t have to be Mr. Smith everywhere. I can be Mr. Smith, but I don’t need a golden triple-A backstage pass. Because if this happens, then everybody wants to speak to me. But I want them to speak to Oliver Hoppe or whoever the relevant person is. If DEAG people make wrong decisions, then they make wrong decisions. I do it every day. But the structure here is that if you join this company, you can become almost anything – you can even get my job in ten or 20 years. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Succession
Having built DEAG from a two-person operation to a stock market-listed entity with more than 600 employees – and more to join in the coming months – Schwenkow is acutely aware that having a plan ready to cover all eventualities is important.

“If lightning strikes me on the golf course, then Detlef Kornett will take over – that’s the reason we appointed him as co-CEO,” he says. “But we also have five, six, seven people that the company relies on to run efficiently, so I’m confident that DEAG is in very safe hands. In the end, it‘s all about the team

“I have a responsibility, not only for the people that are working for DEAG and for the artists that trust in us, but also to the shareholders that invest their money. We’ve all worked hard to make sure that we have an organisation with a set-up that will always allow you to lose people – even if it’s yourself.”

With wife Inga travelling extensively through her work as as journalist for Die Welt, it will be a rare occasion when the entire family gathers under one roof for Schwenkow’s 70th birthday. Of his five children (Moritz, Max, Nini, Anna, and Joey) four are following in their father’s footsteps in some shape or form. As chief ticketing and technology officer, Moritz is on the DEAG board; Max heads up the company’s graphics department; Nini has interited her father’s interest in real estate; and Anna is in charge of all of DEAG’s red carpet events.

“Regrets? Looking back over my career, I probably spent the first 25 years regretting almost everything”

No Regrets
With two big anniversaries on the horizon, Schwenkow has allowed himself time to reminisce about the ways in which he has matured during his seven decades on the planet.

“Regrets? Looking back over my career, I probably spent the first 25 years regretting almost everything: I regretted that I didn’t get certain artists; I regretted that I couldn’t do all the joint ventures I wanted to; I was regretting that I couldn’t sell my company to Universal; I was regretting this, that, and everything.

“And then, probably for the next ten or 15 years, I was regretting my mistakes – maybe that I invested in the wrong sector or whatever. But now, and for the past ten years or so, I realised I have no regrets – zero – because any opportunity that I missed, a new door opened. Any mistakes I made, I learned from – and I still learn from new mistakes every week. But building up a company of this size, without any complaints, lawsuits, or fines has been a big achievement, and I’m very proud of that.”

Schwenkow pauses. “Actually, that’s not quite true – I did have to pay one court fine, but it was the best money I ever spent. I was fined 40,000 DM for promoting a Pink Floyd concert in 1988 because it was too loud. Not only could it be heard in the whole of East Berlin, but the windows were shaking.”

A vehement opponent of the Soviet regime that oppressed those living in the East of Berlin – and hundreds of millions elsewhere – Schwenkow delighted in using every tool at his disposal to embarrass the authorities on the other side of the wall.

“This is why I did Michael Jackson and David Bowie in front of the Reichstag in 1987 – probably the two most important events I ever did in my life, as well as Leonard Bernstein on the 26 December 1989,” he says.

“We had to do a test run on the afternoon before the concert where the authorities on both sides of the [Berlin] wall were checking decibel levels”

Detailing the reasons behind his Pink Floyd legal woes, Schwenkow recalls, “There was a lot of pressure from the government in East Berlin against the government in Bonn, because they didn’t want to allow the Pink Floyd concert. Basically, they were afraid of how loud it would be and the power their music might carry. So I was given permission for the show under the condition that only a certain number of loudspeakers would be used.

“We had to do a test run on the afternoon before the concert where the authorities on both sides of the wall were checking decibel levels. But, when they signed off and I had my final permission to do the show, I had another eight trucks bringing in every available loudspeaker I could find.

“When I explained what I had done to the judge in court, and my hatred of the GDR, she reduced my fine from 40,000 DM to 10,000 DM and allowed me to pay it over the next two years because she understood my mission against communism.”

Past, Present & Future
Looking back across his storied career, Schwenkow believes there have been two significant developments during his 50 years in business that have resulted in major game changers for the music industry: MTV and the internet.

“MTV helped create global stars – there were probably ten artists who were known globally in the 80s,” he notes.

“Imagine 30 years ago, anything that happened in Korea would have stayed in Korea… Now, K-pop is a global phenomenon”

The internet, he states, increased that number exponentially. “Imagine 30 years ago, anything that happened in Korea would have stayed in Korea. Anything that happened in Latin America would remain in Latin America. Now, K-pop is a global phenomenon, and Latin artists are exploding everywhere.”

Looking to the future, Schwenkow believes what is happening in the present could fundamentally change the way DEAG and other companies approach live entertainment sales and marketing.

“We are facing two important changes,” he opines. “Number one is with the internet and the importance of artists who can all of a sudden do their own customer relationship management directly with fans. And the second is social media, which can be used by those same artists to sell tickets. This is why we decided, in a market saturated with Ticketmaster, Eventim, and lots of local systems, we still could find business with myticket, because it’s no longer important how much data you have collected over the years; the game changer is social media.”

Using the 2023 tour of Lindemann as an example, Schwenkow reports, “When we went on sale, depending on markets, we’d use Gigantic or myticket.co.uk or myticket.de and sell exclusively on those platforms. Even though myticket is number four in Germany by size, we don’t need the big ticket market leaders anymore. Because if you go on the website of the artist who has millions of followers, then he, she, or they just has to push the myticket red button.

“I think this is the big change in distribution. It means that you should not own a ticket system unless you control the content: no inventory, no ticket system. But if you have the artist on board, everything changes.”

“I have five kids and eight grandchildren, but getting older means you get wiser, and one thing I have definitely got better at is time management”

Time for Tee
With his 70th birthday fast approaching, Schwenkow is looking forward to a gala celebration at iconic Berlin venue Wintergarten Varieté, an invite to which is proving to be one of 2024’s hottest tickets.

And while there’s no sign of Schwenkow stepping back from DEAG, he does admit he is looking forward to a new phase in his life, where family and hobbies will be given growing priority.

“I have five kids and eight grandchildren, but getting older means you get wiser, and one thing I have definitely got better at is time management,” he says. “For example, the birthday of a grandchild is a date that cannot be moved in my diary: whoever calls me that day, I don’t care – it’s a birthday party. That was sadly not the case 20 or 30 years ago.”

In terms of hobbies, Schwenkow has four main areas of interest. “My side projects, for a long time, have been art and real estate. I was fortunate enough to have a golden ten years on Majorca in the 1990s in the real estate game, and it’s still something that I deal in, both in Germany and Majorca to this day.

“My second hobby, which generates value but no money, is art. It’s very important to me. My father was a collector, and I think that’s where my passion started – I could always enjoy art without being jealous that I did not own it. And later on, when I’d had some success of my own, I started my own collections.”

A more recent interest is golf – a pastime that Schwenkow picked up later in life but is something that he confesses he would like to spend more time playing, especially in the sunshine of his second home, Majorca.

“The biggest privilege I have is that we are able to produce things that make people happy”

He continues, “My fourth interest remains politics. I was in parliament for five years, purely because I wanted to learn how politicians work – the relationships between them and how they communicate.”

And what did he learn during his stint, from 2006-11? “The world of politicians is a closed shop,” he responds. “The interesting thing is that 90% of what happens in parliament is just for show. In the end, the politicians go to the pub and have a beer together, and they’re a lot closer than their political parties would have you believe.”

Schwenkow admits that he covets many of his political friendships and still enjoys the machinations of seeing how diplomacy works.

But when it comes to how he spends the majority of his time, working in live entertainment thankfully remains his biggest commitment.

“The biggest privilege I have is that we are able to produce things that make people happy,” he states. “I am living a very privileged life, and I think it’s important to remain humble – and thankful – to enjoy a life like the one I have. “My father and my mother both turned 90, so I think my genes could give me another 20 years, and I want to enjoy those, which means a little bit of work, a little bit of golf, a little bit of arts and exhibitions, and a little bit of family.”

“My final goal is that when I go on a golf course, I really do turn off my cell phone, rather than just telling people not to bother me… I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer.”

 


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Team Kilimanjaro Live for Futures Forum keynote

Futures Forum has announced a keynote interview with the team behind Kilimanjaro Live, one of the most successful live music promoters in the UK.

The conference for young and emerging live music executives will return to the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on Friday 1 March 2024 as part of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

For the final session of the day, three of Kilimanjaro Live’s principals  – Stuart Galbraith, San Phillips and Alan Day – will take to the stage to discuss building a modern music company, what they’ve learned on the journey, and how they see both their company and the broader business developing.

Formed in 2008, the London-based firm currently works with artists including Simply Red, Ed Sheeran, Andrea Bocelli, Hans Zimmer, Stereophonics and Don Broco.

Three of Kilimanjaro Live’s principals will take to the stage to discuss building a modern music company

With the Kili team now setting the bar in comedy, spoken word, theatre and exhibitions, the company’s growth and development have been seismic.

Just yesterday (22 February), the firm launched a new parent company to support its “major expansion”. The company’s 16 live entertainment brands will now operate under the new umbrella company KMJ Entertainment, owned by parent group DEAG.

News of the keynote comes days after Futures Forum unveiled the full speaker lineup for panels, which will span the agency business, artist development, sustainability, the evolution of festivals and more.

Speakers include Connie Shao (AEG Presents), Beckie Sugden (CAA), Maddie Arnold (Live Nation), Louisa Robinson (FORM), Caroline Simionescu-Marin (WME), Lottie Bradshaw (TEG Live Europe), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent) and Jess Kinn (One Fiinix Live).

Limited passes are available for Futures Forum for just £125+VAT, which includes all of the above, a five-star lunch, refreshments, drinks, and networking opportunities. For more information or to purchase passes, click here.

 


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Kilimanjaro Live launches new parent company

UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live has launched a new parent company to support its “major expansion”.

The company’s 16 live entertainment brands will now operate under the new umbrella company KMJ Entertainment, owned by parent group DEAG.

KMJ companies deliver a wide range of events, including music tours, in-conversation shows, theatrical productions, comedy, and family attractions.

The group also has its own ticketing platforms and owns and operates the Arches at London Bridge exhibition and event space in central London.

The establishment of KMJ Entertainment will allow its brands to continue to reach new heights, according to a release.

“Expansion became a natural and healthy evolution for Kilimanjaro Live”

The news comes after a prolonged period of rapid growth for Kilimanjaro Live in the entertainment sector following the pandemic and expansion into new ventures such as ticketing, festivals, spoken word, immersive experiences and theatrical.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of KMJ Entertainment, says: “Expansion became a natural and healthy evolution for Kilimanjaro Live as we stepped out of the pandemic and into a new landscape of live entertainment.

“Kilimanjaro Live was originally formed to provide the best live rock and pop entertainment across the UK, but as a group, we’ve now expanded into new areas and needed an umbrella name that represents and supports our growing family of companies across the live entertainment world. I’m very proud to see our evolution into KMJ Entertainment, with the support of our parent company, DEAG.”

Brands that will now operate under KMJ Entertainment are live music promoters Kilimanjaro Live, Regular Music, FORM and Singular Artists; spoken word producers Fane and How To Academy; theatrical companies Flying Music and JAS Theatricals; ticket companies Gigantic, Myticket and Tickets.ie; festivals Belladrum Tartan Heart, Let’s Rock and Pennfest; exhibition venue Arches London Bridge and production company Kontour.

KMJ’s brands operate across the UK, Ireland and beyond and sell four million tickets per year.

 


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