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Global Promoters Report: The Baltic States

In the Baltics, a region caught between rock and a hard place, the live music business is reportedly booming. “The market in the Baltic States recovered from the pandemic very quickly,” says Renatas Načajus, partner at ISEG in Vilnius. “Most of the events that were rescheduled had bigger ticket sales than we usually would have before the pandemic.”

ISEG are toasting recent successes with tours around Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by OneRepublic, James Arthur, LP, and GusGus among others, and they’re not alone. Top Baltic promoters such as Medusa Concert, L Tips, and 8 Days A Week have all benefited from a post-pandemic bounce- back, while Live Nation has seen a roaring trade for shows by Slipknot, Dua Lipa, Sting, Eurovision breakout sensation Måneskin, and Rammstein, who sold a mammoth 66,000 tickets at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in July.

“We see bigger demand for arena and stadium shows after the pandemic,” says Live Nation’s Deividas Afarjanc. “There is a strong demand for foreign shows, with significant sales power in all three markets. People are willing to come back to live shows. The biggest challenge is to get artists here, as demand is much higher than they have available dates on tour.”

“We believe that we‘ve emerged much stronger out of pandemic trenches,” says longstanding industry stalwart Giedrius Klimašauskas, MD of Stay Live, a talent buyer that operates through promotion sister companies including Bravo Events. This year, he’s celebrated sell-outs for shows by Calum Scott and Andrea Bocelli, as well as Lithuania’s 1000 Lanterns and 20,000-capacity Granatos Live festivals, and noticed a swift expansion in the market. “We are monitoring higher expenditures for leisure spending comparing to previous years, even prior to the pandemic.”

“Events that were right after the war started had a huge drop in ticket sales, and a lot of people did not attend events even though they had tickets purchased”

Demand is clearly through the roof in all three countries, although Klimašauskas notes slightly contracted markets in Estonia and Latvia compared to Lithuania, which opened up sooner and provided greater support for musicians. But there have also been surprising, and surprisingly positive, effects of the Ukrainian war on the local music scenes, too.

Initially the invasion put international acts off touring the region – usually a standard European stop-off between Finland and Poland – and fans from attending shows. “Events that were right after the war started had a huge drop in ticket sales, and a lot of people did not attend events even though they had tickets purchased in advance,” says Načajus. But, as it became clear that the war wouldn’t spread to the Baltics, demand for tickets rocketed, and an influx of young people fleeing the turmoil in neighbouring countries has created strong local fanbases for visiting acts from Ukraine and Belarus.

Older rock bands have seen a drop-off in the Baltics over 2022, and the region isn’t immune to the rising production costs caused by the exodus of technical personnel during the pandemic. “Production companies have lost quite a number of their people during the pandemic, therefore the prices for production services have skyrocketed,” says Klimašauskas. “In many cases, production costs have doubled, and the quality of the service has decreased. It’s the same for security, catering, hotels, marketing. It‘s a very painful reality in that sense, to see this service-quality deflation.”

Despite such challenges, the Baltics remain very favourable markets for visiting international stars and rising acts alike. International rap, electronic, and pop acts have proven strong, often thanks to the accessibility of relatively cheap TV advertising to complement digital, billboard, and radio campaigns. The region’s premier showcase festival, Tallinn Music Week, helps nurture a solid flow of fresh rising talent, particularly from the rap scene. And with the market in ascendence as it heads towards income parity with the EU, and healthy competition between promoters opening up castles, botanical gardens, and museums across the region as occasional music venues, the major promoters all expect strong growth over the coming years. Having weathered the worst of the storm, the Baltic future looks bright.


The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.To access all content from the current Global Promoters Report, click here.

In profile: Estonia’s Unibet Arena

Unibet Arena CEO Siim Ammon has discussed the challenges of bringing major tours to Estonia.

The 10,000-cap arena in Haabersti, Tallinn, which hosted the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest, has upcoming concerts with acts including Sabaton, Måneskin and Louis Tomlinson.

But speaking to IQ, Ammon says the limitations of the venue presents issues when it comes to attracting top artists on a consistent basis, especially compared to neighbouring markets.

“In terms of large arenas in Europe, we are still a very small venue,” he says. “Riga [Latvia] has an arena for 14,000 people and Finland has many bigger arenas, so our 10,000 capacity means that even though we are the go-to arena in Estonia, we are still losing a lot of acts that require a larger capacity, and maybe a larger market.”

“Because tours don’t come to Russia now, it makes it more expensive to come here”

While the arena has previously welcomed the likes of Bob Dylan, Muse, Rihanna, Iron Maiden, Sting, Pink, Elton John, Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue, the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine have presented additional complications.

“Promoters are telling us that agents are scared to come to this region because they feel like [Estonia] is also in the middle of the conflict, which it is not,” adds Ammon. “And because tours don’t come to Russia now, it makes it more expensive to come here.

“But one good thing is that in the UK, for example, you can take it for granted that you can see your favourite act, whereas people in Estonia really appreciate that someone famous is coming to play here and will go and see them. So while we have fewer shows, those shows are more special for audiences.”

Unibet Arena, which opened in 2021, was previously known as Saku Suurhall before striking a naming rights deal with Swedish betting company Unibet, which came into effect at the start of 2023.

“This deal is giving us more money to modernise the venue than the old sponsorship deal,” says Ammon. “Typically in the Estonian market, people come at the very last moment – the show starts at 8pm and they’re at the doors at 7.50pm – because we’d failed to get across the sense that you don’t just come for the show. So with Unibet and all the digital things we want to do in the venue, we hope to make it more attractive other than the show itself. That’s the biggest goal.”

“Most Estonians think that the venue was built for Eurovision, but it was not”

Ammon has been with the venue for six years and has been in charge of operations for just over a year. And he is keen to set the record straight about a certain urban legend.

“Most Estonians think that the venue was built for Eurovision, but it was not,” he points out. “That’s a myth, so if someone tells you or you read it on Wikipedia, it’s not true.

“Eurovision brought more money into the project and sped it up because, when we won Eurovision, it was halfway through the building phase. So Eurovision definitely helped, but we opened in October 2001 and Eurovision was May 2002.”

On occasion, the venue has also been headlined by domestic acts.

“For promoters, that is always a real challenge because the five or six artists that could sell out the arena usually play much smaller venues,” he notes. “For Estonian artists, a headline slot at our venue is like headlining Glastonbury.”

The country is also preparing to hold a couple of huge outdoor concerts this summer, with The Weeknd and Depeche Mode heading to Tallinn Song Festival Grounds this summer.

“The Weeknd has sold 55,000 tickets and Estonia has 1.3 million people,” adds Ammon. “So I can’t tell you off by heart, what the percentage is, but that’s huge. A lot of people are coming from overseas, and The Weeknd doesn’t have shows in neighbouring countries, but still, considering how small we are, that is huge. The city gets this overflow of people, it’s crazy.”


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Liveurope welcomes first Estonian and Baltic member

European venue association Liveurope has entered the Baltic region with its first member in Estonia, Sveta Baar.

Sveta Baar is located in the cultural hub of the capital city Tallinn and has strived to become a “platform and cultural centre to support and encourage the growth of local and international live music”.

Besides the 200 concerts Sveta Baar programmes independently each year, it is also one of the venues hosting the Tallinn Music Week.

With this new addition, Liveurope now reaches 22 internationally acclaimed music venues based in 22 European countries.

“It is an honour to be joining Liveurope as we celebrate our 5th anniversary,” says Roman Demtšenko, Sveta Baar’s artistic director.

“Liveurope’s support will be crucial in helping us present an even greater diversity of up-and-coming European acts”

“Liveurope’s support will be crucial in helping us present an even greater diversity of up-and-coming European acts to our audiences in the years to come. We are also looking forward to sparking curiosity and interest from the other venues for some fantastic acts that Estonia and the Baltics have to offer.”

Established in 2014 with funding from the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, Liveurope connects top European music venues that are committed to boosting the circulation of European talent.

The platform distributes grants to music venues in proportion to the amount of young European artists they book. This model has allowed the Liveurope venues to book on average 63% more new European talent pre-Covid-19 compared to before joining the platform.

Nearly 3,000 artists have benefited from the platform’s support including now-established names such as Christine and the Queens, Rosalía and MØ.


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European arenas battle soaring energy costs

A number of European arenas have told IQ that skyrocketing energy costs are emerging as the sector’s biggest challenge since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though many arenas are experiencing a boom time thanks to pent-up demand and rescheduled shows, venue heads are reckoning with the ballooning cost of electricity and gas amid wider inflation.

“We are facing massive price increases across all our markets, at unprecedented levels,” ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist tells IQ. “The market is incredibly volatile and continues to increase.”

According to Lindqvist, the prices for electricity and gas at ASM venues have quadrupled since the beginning of the year, with the UK being hit the hardest.

And it’s not just the country’s larger venues that are struggling; Music Venue Trust estimates that the grassroots music venue sector is looking at a potential £90 million in new energy-related costs, equating to 26% of the entire gross turnover.

On average, the annual cost of energy per venue is set to increase by 316%, according to the charity for grassroots music venues in the UK.

“[Rising energy prices] is probably our number one challenge right now,” Lindqvist continues. “However, the cost base, in general, is a huge challenge with pressure in all key cost lines such as labour cost inflation, event costs, food costs etc.”

“We are facing massive price increases across all our markets, at unprecedented levels”

In Estonia, inflation has risen by 22% in the last year, which is particularly felt in labour and administration costs. Siim Ammon, CEO of Saku Arena (10,000) in the capital Tallinn, says gas prices are now five times higher than at the same time last year.

“This means we are forced to find alternatives or a way to lessen consumption,” Ammon tells IQ. “Sadly, this is going to hit our promoters as well.”

Lindqvist is also weary of how increasing cost pressures could impact ASM’s guests and partners and says the company is trying incredibly hard to minimise the knock-on effect.

“The actions that we have in place will ensure that we are doing all that we can to do this,” she says. “We are also in constant dialogue with our partners to try to minimise show costs, in particular energy requirements for a show.”

In the Czech Republic, it has been reported that the inflation rate (which accelerated to approximately 17.5% in July) is having an impact on consumers’ ticket-buying behaviour.

“The overall rise in prices of services, energy, food, etc. in the country has made people more sensitive to buying entertainment and pickier about which concert to go to,” says Stanislava Doubravova from the O2 Arena, the country’s key venue for international acts.

“[Rising energy prices] is probably our number one challenge right now”

AEG-owned Barclays Arena (formerly the Barclaycard Arena) in Hamburg, Germany, is among the venues that have reported a “huge” increase in energy costs. In a bid to curb prices, the 15,000-capacity arena is exploring the use of alternative sources, such as wind power and solar energy.

“Since its construction in 2009, the Barclays Arena has a greywater recycling system on the roof that collects rainwater for the sanitary system,” says VP and MD Steve Schwenkglenks, adding that the venue is reducing waste and increasing recycling across its food and beverage offers.

“We have stopped ‘All you can eat’ offers in our premium boxes, because a lot of food had to be thrown away. This doesn’t mean that every one of our lodge partners won’t get enough to eat, it’s just that we are trying to dispose of as little food as possible. At the end of 2022, we will introduce a deposit cup system in the arena.”

Much like Barclays Arena, Poland’s Spodek Arena (cap. 11,000) is attempting to bridle the energy price hike through eco-friendly solutions.

“Sadly, this is going to hit our promoters as well”

“We have introduced a system to manage and optimise the use of electricity, heat, and water; installed a smart heating and ventilation management system at the ICC, and we have also implemented special processes for monitoring the use of lighting,” says Marcin Stolarz, CEO of the Katowice-based arena.

ASM is also leaning on technology to help monitor and reduce its carbon footprint and costs. “We are able to view our consumption in real-time so track usage every day with a view to becoming as efficient as we can be,” says Lindqvist.

“We are also further investing in new technology and working closely with Greener Arena and other experts in the field to continue to move forwards in this space. Finally, we are recruiting a head of sustainability whose sole role will be to support our business to achieve our carbon reduction targets and to support our venues to be as green as they can be.”

Read more about the opportunities and challenges facing arenas worldwide in IQ Magazine‘s Global Arena Guide 2022, published this September.

The Guide features over 250 interviews from arena professionals worldwide, as well as a comprehensive global directory.


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Estonia’s Station Narva welcomes international acts

The fourth edition of city festival Station Narva took place from Thursday 5 to Saturday 7 August, welcoming international acts including British DJs Roni Size and A Guy Called Gerald, Russian hip-hop duo Aigel and Finnish singer-songwriter New Ro to Estonia’s third-largest city.

Taking place at Narva’s 13th-century Hermann Castle (which also includes Narva Museum), Station Narva 2021 was the first music festival to utilise rapid testing and Estonia’s digital Covid-19 pass to ensure all 2,297 attendees were coronavirus-free. Of those who attended, 53% of visitors came with a digital Covid certificate and 47% with a negative rapid Covid-19 test taken on site. (No positive results were found.)

The festival, organised by Tallinn Music Week promoter Shiftworks, also featured 15 Estonian artists, as well as an urban art competition, talks and debates, a technology camp, creative incubator Objekt, and tours of Narva’s dacha district, Kudruküla.

“Everyone was smiling and giving off such a positive charge”

Aigel, whose Station Narva show was their first post-pandemic concert outside Russia, say: “Everyone was smiling and giving off such a positive charge. We really didn’t expect such a warm welcome, because we had no idea whether people knew our songs here or whether they would understand us. The reception was fantastic.”

The festival’s head of community affairs, Valeria Lavrova, adds: “It was great that this year we had to do a lot less explaining about what Station Narva is. Our people already know about the festival. Personally, I discovered that at its core there are two seemingly opposite concepts: experimentation and safety.

“This festival always experiments with something that hasn’t been tried before, from venues to programme parts and performers, but at the same time it is very safe. I’m not even talking so much about health and the now-important certificates and QR codes, but more about the festival atmosphere and the extent to which the organisation has been considered. For example, while the dacha owners were a bit cautious at first, on the day of the tour they were all in high spirits and they had a great time. It was a truly heartfelt experience.”


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Estonian gov confirms €42m aid package, €6m risk fund

The Estonian government has announced a €42 million aid package for the cultural sector, which includes a €6m ‘risk fund’ for large-scale events.

The government’s decision comes after 355 organisations from across the sector submitted a joint proposal to the government, emphasising the impact culture has on the economy and the population’s mental health, and underscoring its need for financial support.

The supplementary budget includes €21m to help cultural events organisers (such as promoters) cover the costs of labour hired with contracts under the law of obligations, as well as other unavoidable costs.

The organisers of international cultural and sports events will also benefit from the separate €6m risk fund, designed to support large-scale events with a ‘significant economic impact’ in the event that they are affected by cancellations, postponements or restrictions.

“The purpose of the risk fund is to encourage organisers to plan events in the second half of 2021 in order to restart the economy”

The supplementary budget also comprises €5.3m for cinemas, film production and film distributors, €6.7m to support freelance creative persons and €2.7m for sports.

“Today is a special day. The cultural sector proved that there is great strength in cooperation and the whole sector can continue work with more confidence. It is also significant that the members of government understand that culture supports both the economy as well as our citizens’ mental health,” says Helen Sildna of Tallinn Music Week festival.

“The purpose of the risk fund is to encourage organisers to plan events in the second half of the year in order to restart the economy, yet provide confidence that their expenses will be covered in changing circumstances. The sector’s next objective is to continue working together in order for culture to have a clear part in the EU relief packages as well.”

Ave Tölpt, from the country’s music export office, Music Estonia, says: “I am very glad that the cultural sector has been highlighted in the crisis packages as a sector with a much wider impact. I believe that thanks to the representatives of the sector coming together to formulate their message, the mechanisms of the cultural sector as a whole have become much more comprehensible in general as well. The necessary aid for survival in the crisis will help retain the diversity of the music sector and the related businesses in the future with a greater sense of hope.”

“The creation of a risk fund is forward-looking…this is a significant signal for those outside of Estonia as well”

Eva Saar, from Jazzkaar jazz festival, says: “Cultural organisations have an important role in restarting the economy after the virus situation improves and also as the providers of nourishment for the spirit. The decision that the government made today gives the sector a chance to survive and carry that weighty role in the future as well.

“The creation of a risk fund for large-scale events is forward-looking and encourages organisers to bring economically and imagologically important international events to Estonia – this is a significant signal for those outside of Estonia as well. Thank you to everyone who contributed and to the policymakers.”

Estonia is the latest market to announce an event cancellation fund for events, following closely behind Denmark which announced a DKK 500m safety net earlier this week.

In the northern hemisphere, other insurance pots include Germany’s €2.5bn potAustria’s €300m ‘protective umbrella’, the Netherlands’ €300m fundBelgium’s €60m festival cancellation pot and Norway’s €34m festival safety net.


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TMW’s world

Promoting TMW 2020 was by far the most challenging experience that our team has had in our 12 years of festival history. It is fair to say that organising events with huge financial risk, at times like this, can be done only by putting your organisation under a pressure it has never been under before.

Going ahead with an event is a tough decision for any company leader to make. He or she will need to analyse and decide whether it’s reasonable or sustainable to do so, and ensure that the event not only lands on its feet but bounces back afterwards. If the experience gained can then help to promote workable measures for the music industry, it was a necessary investment.

Greatest challenges

During the summer season, not a single case of Covid was registered at professionally organised events

What we discovered

Letting our governments base their decisions on venue capacity numbers alone will bankrupt the sector

Future considerations
The events and culture sector across Europe and the rest of the world should join forces to achieve the following:

TMW 2021 will take place 6–9 May. Passes via:


Helen Sildna is founder of Tallinn Music Week.

Sell-out shows for LN Finland’s post-Covid concert series

Live Nation Finland has expanded the programme of its Suvilahti Summer concert series “due to high demand and sold-out shows”.

The series, which began on 11 June and runs until the end of the month at Helsinki’s Suvilahti energy field, was announced as the Finnish government lifted restrictions on events of up to 500 people.

Following on from sold-out shows from Finnish acts Maustetutöt, Anssi Kela and Knip, Live Nation has added additional dates from Olavi Uusivirta Duo and Jesse Marki, as well as introducing new content from the likes of the Ida Paul & Kalle Lindroth duo, rock singer Tuomari Nurmio and YouTubers Elisa Malik, Joona Hellman and Nelli Orelli.

The series of events is being carried out in accordance with current official guidelines. Tables and chairs are set for groups of two to six people, with individual parties separated from each other at a safe distance.

The full schedule of shows, along with ticketing information, can be found here.

Finland is one of a number of countries, including Denmark and the Czech Republic, to reintroduce shows of up to 500 people, with nations including Austria and Estonia allowing 500-capacity shows to return next month.


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Classical music festivals to go ahead this summer

A number of classical music festivals are taking place in Europe this summer, as organisers find ways to work with social distancing requirements.

Austria’s Salzburg Festival and Grafenegg Festival are going ahead in August, with capacity reductions, checkerboard seating plans, sanitary regulations and testing systems in place.

Salzburg Festival, originally scheduled to start on 18 July, will now kick off on 1 August, when audiences of 1,250 will be permitted at outdoor events in Austria, and run to the end of the month. The programme, initially comprising 212 performances, will be scaled down to 90.

Capacity will be also be pared back at 50%, with the 1,500-seat Haus für Mozart capped at 800 and a maximum of around 700 tickets sold for the 1,400-seat Felsenreitschule. The festival had sold 180,000 of its total 230,000 tickets prior to lockdown restrictions, and is now limiting seats to around 70,000.

Only those who already bought tickets can still attend and there will be a limit of two tickets per person. Names of ticketholders will be printed on the tickets to enable contact tracing.

Near to Vienna, the Grafenegg Festival will start on 14 August in the grounds of the 32-acre Grafenegg castle.

A number of classical music festivals are taking place in Europe this summer, as organisers find ways to work with social distancing requirements

Organisers of the event released an updated programme on 3 June, consisting of predominantly domestic acts. Tickets are limited to two per person, per event and all attendees will be required to wear masks when not seated and keep “sufficient distance” from other guests.

In neighbouring Italy, where live shows are returning next week, large classical music event the Ravenna Festival is taking place from 21 June to 30 July in the towns of Cervia and Lugo, with the main stage at the open-air Brancaleone fortress in Ravenna itself.

Tickets, which go on sale on 11 June, will be limited to two per person. Capacity will be set at 300 for the events in the fortress and at a specially erected arena in Cervia, with the Pavaglione in Lugo holding up to 500 people. Much of the programme will also be streamed live online.

Those who purchased tickets before the suspension of sales and the announcement of the new program can obtain a refund by voucher, as per Italian legislation.

Opera festivals in Rossini, Torre del Lago, Martina Franca and Macerata have also adjusted their programmes in order to go ahead this summer.

In Estonia, where open-air shows of up to 1,000 spectators and indoor concerts of 500 can take place next month, Pärnu Music Festival is taking place from 16 to 23 July for audiences of 300. More details on the programme and running of the event will become available later this week.


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Refunds may lead to mass bankruptcies, warn EE promoters

The absence of a scheme to protect the concert industry from the financial impact of issuing refunds en masse could leave to a wave of insolvencies, leading Estonian promoters have warned.

In many countries in Europe, including Germany, Portugal and Italy, concert organisers are being allowed to offer ticket vouchers (ie credit) in lieu of cash refunds for cancelled events, while others, including Estonia’s Baltic neighbours, have extended the window in which refunds must be given (typically a year).

“In other countries, such as Latvia and Lithuania, solutions have been found,” says Live Nation Estonia’s Mart Eensalu, “and longer periods for the repurchase [refund] of tickets have been granted. But it hasn’t been done here.”

Estonia – which, along with most Europe, put the brakes on live events in March – ended its state of emergency and began easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions on 17 May, with shows of up to 1,000 people permitted from 1 July.

That 1,000-capacity limit (or 500 for indoor shows), of course, precludes major live music events, such as Rammstein’s highly anticipated performance in Tallinn, originally scheduled for July – for which 62,000 people will now be asking Live Nation for refunds, writes the Baltic Times.

“We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open”

Tanel Samm, of promoter Monster Music, says the Estonian government is not taking concert professionals’ concerns seriously. “The money entrusted to us by customers who have bought tickets does not belong to us if the event has not taken place,” he tells the paper. “We are effectively jobless, but we must keep our offices open to bring the rescheduled events to people next year.”

Samm says authorities must “finally enter into a dialogue with us” in order to ensure the survival of much of Estonia’s live music industry.

That long-overdue help may finally be coming in the form of culture minister Tonis Lukas, who recently met with promoters to discuss a way forward for the sector, Postimees reports.

Lukas urges both concertgoers and Estonia’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, to be patient with concert promoters. “My call […] is for us to be prepared to give concert organisers just over a year to return the money,” he says, “because when a concert is postponed by a year, organisers will be able to return to a normal cash flow then and then pay refunds.”

According to the Baltic Times, current Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority guidelines say customers should receive refunds for cancelled events within a month.


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