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Just Like Heaven: Inside The Cure’s European tour

Having entertained millions of people on their 2019 festivals tour, a headline outing the following year was very much on the cards for The Cure, before the pandemic halted every act with such ambitions. But determined to reconnect with fans following the enforced lay-off, the band are currently in the midst of their biggest-ever European tour.

With most dates already sold out weeks in advance, bar some last-minute production holds and restricted-view tickets, the tour is an unmitigated success. But the planning involved to get the band back out on the road has been gruelling, with agent Martin Hopewell confessing it has been the hardest tour he has worked on in his 50-year career.

“Robert Smith and I started talking about this tour not long after the 2019 festival run. Originally, we were looking at stuff for 2020, so effectively, this tour has been two years in the planning,” says Hopewell.

“When the pandemic hit in 2020, things that were due to happen that summer got moved to the autumn. In the autumn, those postponed shows and the scheduled autumn shows got moved into the spring of 2021. And then, when it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen, stuff from the spring of 2021 got moved to the autumn of 2021 on top of the stuff that was already planned for the ultimate 2021. It was like blowing leaves: you just end up with a bloody great pile of them somewhere! And in this case, it was five touring periods that got moved and ended up on top of each other in autumn 2022.”

“Trying to get availabilities was just a screaming nightmare…this is probably the most difficult tour I’ve ever booked”

However, as it became clear that Smith and the band were adamant about pressing ahead with a tour, Hopewell and his Primary Talent International colleague, Charlie Renton, rolled up their sleeves for what proved to be a mammoth exercise.

“Trying to get availabilities was just a screaming nightmare,” says Hopewell. “This is probably the most difficult tour I’ve ever booked. Putting something together during the pandemic was unbelievably challenging, and it took a big piece out of everybody involved in trying to put it together.”

He continues, “The biggest problem that we had was deciding when might be a safe time to do it. That, and the fact that every act in the world seemed to be planning tours in 2022 and had pencilled in holds at venues to the point where you might be 6th or 8th in line for any one particular date!”

Unperturbed, Hopewell and Renton hatched a plan. “Charlie and I collected the availabilities and made these monstrous spreadsheets, so that in the end we had six tours on hold: two for the autumn of this year – one starting in September, one starting in October; my favourite one was starting in the spring of next year – we had three different schedules lined up for next year; and we also put together an outdoor proposal for a summer 2022 tour with a whole load of beautiful parks and lakes and stadiums and castles in case there were still indoor restrictions.”

Charlie Renton tells IQ, “Not knowing what the Covid restrictions would be in certain countries was difficult, hence the reason we planned six different options, which is the most I’ve ever done – plus this is the biggest tour I’ve ever been involved in, so it was a huge challenge.”

“We’re playing 46 shows, which is the longest European tour that The Cure have ever done”

That drawn-out process allowed the agents and Robert Smith – who is the band’s de facto manager – to have a conversation about a number of different touring possibilities. “And, of course, he chose the trickiest one,” laughs Hopewell.

The routing sees the band travel roughly 12,000 miles across 19 European countries before finishing with the UK’s four home nations – Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. That schedule should see them entertaining more than 500,000 fans, thanks to a hardworking clique of European promoters who Hopewell affectionately refers to as ‘The Cure team.’

“We’re playing 46 shows, which is the longest European tour that The Cure have ever done,” states Hopewell. “Even then we weren’t able to include everything in the routing, but it was good to be able to put shows into some places the band haven’t played for a while – along with some new ones. We’d never been to the Baltic States before, so it was great to kick off the tour in Latvia. Our promoters did a great job at a very difficult time.”

Into the Dark
Production manager Phil Broad first worked with The Cure in the 1980s when he was a rigger, but he’s been the chief for the three most recent tours – the 2016 arena tour, the 2019 outdoor outing, and the current extravaganza.

Observing that many road warriors were a bit rusty when live music resumed, he says the early experience of tours being short-staffed seems to be resolving itself. “We’re not experiencing local crew shortages, really, but there are a lot of new people, so the crew situation definitely is not back to where it was,” he reports. “The Cure have a fairly sensible core crew of 32 people, so even where we’re turning up and there are inexperienced people on the local crew who are just there to make up the numbers, we can handle it pretty well.”

“The Cure don’t do production rehearsals, so there’s no room for error”

One complication is the band’s approach to touring, although given the history that most individuals on the crew have with the act, Broad takes it in his stride. “The Cure don’t do production rehearsals, so there’s no room for error,” he tells IQ. “Starting off a tour with them can be a bit nail-biting, as you need to have enough trucks, and there’s no point having one truck too many because it’s still going to cost you if you have to send it back. Basically, we arrived at the Arena Riga, loaded in, the band rehearsed that night, and then the next day we had the first show.”

…Happily Ever After
It’s not just the fans who had been clamouring for the band to restart their live activities. Promoters throughout Europe are reporting impressive ticket sales across the 22 territories the band are visiting.

“To be honest, I’d forgotten how extremely good The Cure are and how much I like them until they played the show in Stockholm,” says Thomas Johansson, Live Nation Nordics chairman. “They have some of the best pop songs ever written, and I noticed that they are attracting a younger element to their audience than ever before.

“The band are a true rock & roll outfit, and they do extremely well in our part of the world – they sold out in Norway and Copenhagen, and they were very close to selling out both the Avicii Arena and the Gothenburg shows in Sweden.”

In France, Alias Production founder Jules Frutos has eight sold-out dates. “I’ve been working with the band since before they even released their debut album Three Imaginary Boys [in 1979], so I’ve seen them play very small clubs in the likes of Orleans and Tours, right the way up to the venues they are doing now,” he says.

“To be honest, I’d forgotten how extremely good The Cure are…they have some of the best pop songs ever written”

Paying tribute to The Cure’s approach to the French market, Frutos notes that they have previously played all the venues they are visiting in 2022 – in Lyon, Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Strasbourg, Liévin, and Paris – but not all on the same tour. He adds, “They understood early on that the provinces are sometimes easier to play than Paris, where there are a limited number of venues, so the way they built their career in France has been very classical and special.”

Frutos also testifies to the band’s multigenerational appeal. “When they headlined Rock en Seine in 2019, that day of the festival sold out quicker than the others. The festival attracts a young audience, and when I went to see The Cure, it was very special – the people at the front, closest to the stage, were two or three generations of fans.”

Across the border in Spain, Live Nation’s Gay Mercader is also a long-time partner. “I’ve worked with the band for close to 40 years, and it has been a privilege – Martin Hopewell and the band have been incredibly loyal to all of their promoters over the years. It’s a big responsibility because when someone relies on you, you can never fuck up.”

Highlighting the band’s enduring – and growing – appeal, Mercader says, “I found out during the pandemic that many people in my life are massive fans of The Cure: my lawyer, some of the people who work on my estate. And they are not all ‘goth’ people. Cure fans are everywhere.

“I always sell out with The Cure. They last visited Spain in 2019 when they played Mad Cool Festival in Madrid, where their performance was televised on national TV, and they attracted the biggest audience of the whole festival.”

“The set is always crazily long – up to three hours – so they play literally every hit that’s out there: it’s an amazing show”

In Germany, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion has been working with The Cure since 1980. But it’s Ben Mitha, who has taken over as managing director of his grandfather’s business, who promotes the band. “I actually got involved on their 2016 tour,” says Mitha. “I did all the settlements regarding those shows, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the road with them for our seven shows in Germany.

“It’s gonna be fun. The set is always crazily long – up to three hours – so they play literally every hit that’s out there: it’s an amazing show.”

In Italy, Barley Arts founder Claudio Trotta has four dates lined up – Bologna, Florence, Padova, and Milan. He’s been the band’s promoter since the 1980s and is in awe of their work ethic. “Many years ago, I had a sold-out show at the Forum in Milano, and all the audience were already in the venue, but [bass player] Simon Gallup was feeling so sick that he couldn’t even stand up,” recalls Trotta.

“We were at the point when Barry Hunter was ready to play instead of him on bass, but Simon said clearly, ‘I will play even if I’m gonna die on stage.’ So he did the show seated because he was in such pain. And after the show, he was three or four months in hospital because of an infection. From that day [on he’s been] my hero. I mean, we’re talking about a great human being with a lot of passion and who has a lot of respect for the audience.”

And remembering another instance, where the band played an outdoor show near Venice, during a rain storm, Trotta adds, “Robert and the band didn’t give a damn – they were soaked, but they played the show to the end. In my heart and in my mind, The Cure are in a different league.”

“In my heart and in my mind, The Cure are in a different league”

While Trotta also reports healthy ticket sales, it’s not all plain sailing for every promoter. In Austria, Alex Nussbaumer, of al-x concert promoter GmbH, believes the cost-of-living crisis is preventing many fans from buying tickets. But still, The Cure’s date at the Marx Halle in Vienna pulled in a packed crowd of over 8,000 fans.

“I’m super impressed with how solid they are in the live discipline – it’s a two-and-a-half-hour show, so the fans definitely get value for money,” says Nussbaumer. ‘That’s maybe why when I walked through the audience, I saw lots of families with children aged eight, nine, ten. It was a great atmosphere for a legendary band.”

He adds, “The Cure are fantastic. They have remained very loyal to me on the touring side, for which I am very grateful because they bring with them a very smooth production, thanks to the same kind of set-up and the same people remaining in the tour party.”

Thankfully, the feedback from the road is overwhelmingly positive. “The fans are loving it and are having a great time, and so are Robert and the band, so we are very happy,” comments agent, Renton.

She notes that with Covid cases on the rise again as the seasons change, the touring party are taking their own precautions against the virus. “The band and the core crew are in a bubble, and there are no aftershows on this tour, to try to mitigate against the virus. It’s worked well so far, so the plan is just to be sensible to hopefully avoid any issues.”

“Robert is the only artist I know in the world who discusses ticket prices, sightlines, scalings with every promoter”

The Perfect Boy
Revealing the depth of Robert Smith’s involvement in the band’s career, Mitha tells IQ, “Robert is the only artist I know in the world who discusses ticket prices, sightlines, scalings with every promoter – it was the same with the 2016 tour. So, when you send over scaling plans with those colour seating maps and everything, he literally goes into every detail and changes the colours. It must be crazy time-consuming for him, but he’s very involved.”

Spanish promoter Mercader comments, “They care deeply about the ticket prices – the only other act I can think of who care to the same extent is AC/DC. Robert wants sensible prices to make it as affordable as possible for all fans.”

It’s something that Hopewell knows well. “Promoters will put forward a ticket price they think is achievable and a lot of the time Robert will come back and say thank you very much, but I think the prices should be lower,” he says. “He’s also very keen to see ticket scales that are neatly structured rather than appearing to be haphazard from the fans’ point of view.”

Production manager Broad notes the positives, “Robert is like management. He wants to know the sales numbers, how everything looks, where everything is – he is very hands on. It actually has its advantages: if anyone asks ‘Why do you do X?’ we can answer, ‘Because Robert wants to!’ And that’s the end of the conversation.”

Another anomaly is that Smith is also very particular when it comes to the direction of travel. “Robert is a perfectionist when it comes to routing,” discloses Hopewell. “If you join up the dots on a map and there are any loops in there, he hates it. That makes it fun finding routings that will work, but it makes sense. After all it’s not us office-types who actually have to go out and do it.”

“Robert is a perfectionist when it comes to routing”

Out of This World
Transport suppliers Transam are certainly impressed with the ‘no loops’ policy. “The routing and schedule is very good considering the length of the tour – the agents did a really good job,” says Transam Trucking director Natasha Highcroft.

With ten trucks involved on the tour (nine for production and one for merchandise), Highcroft reports that Transam has had longer to plan for the tour than normal, such has been the extended Covid situation.

“The first quote we did was in April 2021, and we booked it last November, so we were well-prepared,” she says. “In fact, we’ve only had to use relief drivers in one spot on the entire tour, and that was so our drivers could take a mandatory 24-hour break. Otherwise, we’ve been organising our own shunt drivers, where necessary, because we’re trying to avoid the need for hiring local drivers, as productions are telling us that is proving problematic at the moment.”

Bryan Grant, at audio specialists Britannia Row, tells IQ that he has been working with The Cure since 1979, and they are one of his favourite clients. “They did some long stints in the 80s and 90s, but 46 arena shows in Europe is a significant tour by anyone’s standards,” he observes of the current tour.

Grant continues, “The tour is all going smoothly, but that doesn’t surprise me because they have a longstanding and loyal crew of key people who they can rely on. The crew are treated very well, and a plus point is the band and their music, which helps make it an enjoyable experience for all.”

“I’ve been working with [The Cure] for the last 44 years, and it’s genuinely been one of the great privileges of my life”

And he agrees with the ‘perfectionist’ description given to Smith. “Robert looks at every detail and communicates very well with the people who work with the band,” says Grant. “He constantly listens to the previous night’s performance to hone things. He’s the consummate professional and a meticulous planner. He would make a top-notch production manager.”

On stage, The Cure rely on PRG for lighting and video screens. While elsewhere on the road, Phoenix Bussing are providing the means for personnel travel, with Eat Your Heart Out keeping everyone fed and watered and Freight Minds ensuring the band’s equipment gets safely from A to B to Z.

Never Enough
At IQ’s press time, The Cure are roughly halfway through their 46-date run, but such is the following that they are continuing to build that enquiries are already circulating about future live plans.
Despite the financial restraints, Nussbaumer sums up promoters’ hopes by voicing his desire for the band to be back in Austria before too long. “All the talk is that they will be doing something next year, as we’re expecting there might be a new album,” he says.

“They played four new songs during the gig here in Vienna, so we’ll have to wait to see what their plans are.” Noting that he’s looking forward to seeing the tour finale at Wembley, Bryan Grant states, “The Cure have quietly become one of the best performing bands on the planet. They don’t make a lot of media noise, but the production is very creative and quirky but not over-elaborate –
they don’t have to rely on style over substance.”

He adds, “[lighting director] Angus McPhail has been there from the beginning and always has an interesting look for the production. At the same time, the audio has to be excellent, but it’s not there to mask anything – it’s simply to amplify whatever the band do on stage.”

Hopewell admits that the fact the band is on the road at all in 2022 is something of a miracle. “We have half a million fans going to see The Cure – about 11,000 people on average per night – which considering it’s just after a pandemic, people have less money than before, and have less confidence that shows are actually going to happen… it’s really humbling,” he says.

“I’m finding it hard to believe that we did it, because when you’re setting it up, there’s just a handful of us involved – in this case all working from home on laptops and cell phones during the lockdowns. And then bizarrely, this monster tour comes out of it and actually happens. After the last couple of years, I think I can be forgiven for feeling it’s all a little surreal at the moment.”

He concludes, “Personally, I’m always very aware of the debt that I owe to Robert Smith, especially for his loyalty over all these years. I stumbled across The Cure when we were all painfully young and started trying to help out with some club gigs in London. And now I’ve been working with them for the last 44 years, and it’s genuinely been one of the great privileges of my life.”


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The Weeknd expands After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour

The Weeknd is continuing his After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour with newly announced legs in Europe and Latin America.

The Canadian singer-songwriter-producer (real name Abel Tesfaye) recently concluded his record-breaking North America leg, which grossed over US$130 million to date.

The next leg of the After Hours Til Dawn Tour will kick off 10 June 2023 at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium in the UK, with stops in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and more before wrapping up in Santiago, Chile, on Sunday 15 October at Estadio Bicentenario de La Florida. Additional 2023 dates will be announced soon.

Kaytranada and Mike Dean will join the CAA-repped singer on all European dates. The outing is in support of The Weeknd’s 2020 album After Hours, as well as his critically-acclaimed album Dawn FM, which was released in January this year.

The Weeknd’s global After Hours til Dawn tour was originally scheduled in 2020 (when it was just the After Hours tour) to hit 105 arena dates beginning June 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic – first to 2021 then January 2022 and then summer 2022.

The singer recently concluded his record-breaking North America leg, which grossed over US$130 million to date

In October 2021, the singer/producer broke the news that he was nixing the 104-date arena trek in favour of stadiums, saying “I want to do something bigger and special for you which requires more stadiums”.

For the second leg of the After Hours Til Dawn Tour, Tesfaye – a United Nations World Food Programme Goodwill Ambassador – will once again partner with the U.N. World Food Programme to contribute funds from the second leg of the tour to the XO Humanitarian Fund, which supports the organisation’s response to the global hunger crisis.

One Euro from each ticket sold across Europe, £1 in the UK and the $1 equivalent in countries across Latin America will go to this important cause. The fund raised money during the North American leg of the tour through ticket sales, proceeds from an exclusive tour t-shirt, and a $500,000 donation directly from The Weeknd.

The Weeknd’s corporate partners, tour venues, World Food Program USA board of directors and supporters also stepped up to contribute, as well as tour sponsor Binance, who contributed US$2m to the fund. The first grant of $2m will be going to provide emergency food and nutrition assistance to the most food-insecure regions of Ethiopia.

The After Hours Til Dawn tour is powered by Binance, the global blockchain ecosystem behind the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, bringing Web 3.0 technology to concert-goers worldwide.

Ticket holders receive souvenir NFTs in addition to access to an exclusive NFT collection for The Weeknd’s tour, in collaboration with HXOUSE, a think-center and community incubator for creative entrepreneurs. Five percent of the sales from the upcoming tour NFT collection will be donated to the XO Humanitarian Fund.


Sat Jun 10 – Manchester, UK – Etihad Stadium

Wed Jun 14 – Horsens, Denmark – Nordstern Arena

Sat Jun 17 – Stockholm, Sweden – Tele2 Arena

Tue Jun 20 – Oslo, Norway – Telenor Arena

Sat Jun 24 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Johan Cruijiff ArenA

Wed Jun 28 – Dublin, Ireland – Marlay Park

Sun Jul 2 – Hamburg, Germany – Volkspark Stadium

Tue Jul 4 – Dusseldorf, Germany – Merkur Spiel Arena

Fri Jul 7 – London, UK– London Stadium

Tue Jul 11 – Brussels, Belgium – King Baudouin Stadium

Fri Jul 14 – Frankfurt, Germany – Deutsche Bank Park

Tue Jul 18 – Madrid, Spain – Cívitas Metropolitano

Thu Jul 20 – Barcelona, ​​Spain – Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium

Sat Jul 22 – Nice, France – Allianz Riviera

Wed Jul 26 – Milan, Italy – Ippodromo La Maura

Sat Jul 29 – Paris, France – Stade de France

Tue Aug 1 – Bordeaux, France – Matmut Atlantique

Fri Aug 4 – Munich, Germany – Olympic Stadium

Sun Aug 6 – Prague, Czech Republic – Letnany Airport

Wed Aug 9 – Warsaw, Poland – PGE Narodowy

Sat Aug 12 – Tallinn, Estonia – Tallinn Song Festival Grounds


Fri Sep 29 – Mexico City, Mexico – Foro Sol

Wed Oct 4 – Bogotá, Colombia – El Campín Stadium

Sat Oct 7 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Nilton Santos Engenhão Stadium

Tue Oct 10 – Sao Paulo, Brazil – Allianz Parque

Fri Oct 13 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – San Isidro Racetrack

Sun Oct 15 – Santiago, Chile – La Florida Bicentennial Stadium


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Animal Collective axe UK/European tour dates

Animal Collective have pulled the plug on their forthcoming UK and European tour, citing “inflation, currency devaluation, bloated shipping and transportation costs”.

The US band were due to kick off their outing on 2 November in Ireland, with dates in Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and London before moving on to Europe.

Last night (10 October) the quartet issued a lengthy statement saying they are “choosing not to take the risk to our mental and physical health with the economic reality of what that tour would have been”.

“We simply could not make a budget for this tour that did not lose money even if everything went as well as it could,” the statement read.

“We have always been the kind of people to persevere through the difficult times and get on stage unless our health prevented it… we hope you understand and that you know we would not make a choice like this lightly.”

“We are choosing not to take the risk to our mental and physical health with the economic reality of [the] tour”

Currency devaluation is a growing concern in the touring industry and was noted in a recent IQ interview with AEG Presents UK chief Steve Homer.

“One of the biggest things that’s causing us concern is the pound-to-dollar rate at the moment [the pound hit a record low against the dollar last month but has since rallied 10%],” he said. “We were almost on parity, which has not been something we’ve been familiar with for a long, long time. And it’s really biting in terms of artists touring over here – it becomes far more expensive for them to do it and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts going forward.

Animal Collective’s statement comes after a slate of tour cancellations from SantigoldArlo ParksShawn MendesSam Fender, Russ, Wet Leg, DisclosurePlacebo, alt-J, Pale Waves and Anthrax, all of whom cited mental health and/or logistical difficulties as the reason.

At the same time, huge tour announcements are stacking up for 2023, with Pink, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lizzo, The 1975 and Dead & Company among the latest artists to confirm major tours.

Read Animal Collective’s full statement below.


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Harry Styles announces 2023 European stadium run

Harry Styles will continue his current Love on Tour outing with a run of stadium shows in Europe next spring and summer.

The newly announced 2023 leg, which includes two more nights at London’s Wembley Stadium, will be the British superstar’s first full stadium tour of the region.

Kicking off on 13 May at Denmark’s CASA Arena, Love on Tour will visit Munich, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Warsaw, Vienna, Barcelona, Madrid and more, before wrapping at Reggio Emilia, Italy, on 22 July.

Wet Leg will be joining Styles on all European tour dates, with Inhaler performing on 10 June 2023 in Slane, Ireland.

The former One Direction star has also announced additional shows for his current US run, taking the Live Nation-produced world tour up to 83 dates across 22 countries.

The North America run has gained an extra night at Austin’s Moody Center on 3 October and another at Chicago’s United Center on 15 October, totalling six shows in each city.

Wet Leg will be joining Styles on all European tour dates, with Inhaler performing on 10 June 2023 in Slane, Ireland

After wrapping up the NA tour dates on 15 November 2022, the 28-year-old will head to Latin America, with a final show added in São Paulo, Brazil at Allianz Parque on 13 December.

His 29 November show in Lima, Peru, has received a venue upgrade due to high demand and will now take place at Estadio Nacional (cap. 43,086), elsewhere in the capital city.

The tour will then move to Australia and New Zealand for a seven-date stadium run between 20 February and 7 March 2023, as previously announced, before heading to Europe.

Earlier this summer, Styles returned to Europe for the first time since the pandemic, selling out two nights at London’s Wembley Stadium on 18 and 19 June with a total of 147,269 tickets grossing $14.8 million, according to Pollstar.

Other highlights from his 2022 European leg included two nights at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester on 15 and 16 June, selling 99,526 tickets and grossing $9.5m.

That comes after Styles last year was named 2021’s top worldwide ticket seller in Pollstar‘s year-end rankings after selling 669,051 tickets for his Love on Tour arena dates, generating $86,723,984 (€76,916,720).

See the European 2023 dates for Love on Tour below.

Sat May 13 – Horsens, Denmark – CASA Arena

Wed May 17 – Munich, Germany – Olympiastadion

Mon May 22 – Coventry, UK – Coventry Building Society Arena

Fri May 26 – Edinburgh, UK – BT Murrayfield Stadium

Thu Jun 1 – Paris, France – Stade De France

Mon Jun 5 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Johan Cruijff Arena

Sat Jun 10 – Slane, Ireland – Slane Castle

Tue Jun 13 – London, UK – Wembley Stadium

Wed Jun 14 – London, UK – Wembley Stadium

Tue Jun 20 – Cardiff, UK – Principality Stadium

Sat Jun 24 – Werchter, Belgium – Festival Park

Tue Jun 27 – Dusseldorf, Germany – MERKUR SPIEL-ARENA

Sun Jul 2 – Warsaw, Poland – PGE Narodowy

Wed Jul 5 – Frankfurt, Germany – Deutsche Bank Park

Sat Jul 8 – Austria, Vienna – Ernst Happel Stadium

Wed Jul 12 – Barcelona, ​​Spain – Lluis Company Olympic Stadium

Fri Jul 14 – Madrid, Spain – New Mad Cool Space

Tue Jul 18 – Lisbon, Portugal – Alges Maritime Tour

Sat Jul 22 – Reggio Emilia, Italy – RCF Arena


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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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Major Scandi festivals hail bumper comebacks

Last week saw some of Scandinavia’s best-known festivals welcome back record numbers of music fans.

Norway’s Øya Festival (Øyafestivalen) reported a total attendance of 88,000 over four days (or 22,000 per day) at this year’s sold-out edition, smashing its previous record of 80,000 in 2019.

The Superstruct-backed festival returned to Oslo’s Tøyen Park last week (9 and 13 August) with headliners Gorillaz, Florence + the Machine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

“The festival was fantastic,” Jonas Prangerød, press manger for Øya, tells IQ. “Artists, staff, volunteers and, of course, the audience enjoyed Øya finally being back. People came very early to the festival area and there was a good crowd for every band and artist.

“Both new talent and the big, established favourites impressed. I think a lot of people have got a few new favourite acts now. The warm weather suited Øya’s comeback really well. The whole week was as good as we could hope for.”

Sweden’s Way Out West also broke its own attendance record, drawing 50,000 unique visitors over three days (11–13 August) to its 2022 edition.

The Luger-promoted festival once again took over Gothenburg’s Slottsskogen city park, offering performances from the likes of Tame Impala, Beabadoobee and Fontaines D.C.

“The whole week was as good as we could hope for”

“Way Out West 2022 could not have ended up better,” Filip Hiltmann, marketing and communications manager for Way out West, tells IQ.

“After two years of silence, it felt great to finally be back in Slottsskogen doing what we do best. The sun was out the whole weekend (a rare phenomenon in Gothenburg!) and we experienced first-class sets from the likes of Burna Boy, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, First Ait Kit, Fred again… and many more. We can’t wait to be back next year, mark down 10–12 August 2023 in your calendars.”

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Finland’s Flow Festival celebrated an attendance record of 90,000 over two days (12–14 August) or 30,000 per day.

The Superstruct-backed festival took place in the Finnish capital of Helsinki this past weekend (12–14 August), with performances from more than 160 acts including Jamie xx, Princess Nokia, Bikini Kill, MØ and Fred Again.

Notably, Gorillaz’s performance at Flow was the band’s first-ever appearance in Finland.

Next year’s Flow dates have already been set for 11–13 August, 2023, and a limited number of Super Early Bird tickets went on sale yesterday (15 August).

Other festivals that took place over the weekend, elsewhere in Europe, include Superstruct’s Sziget (Hungary), Follow The Step’s Fest Festival (Poland) and Boomtown Fair (UK).


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Giddings on Lady Gaga’s seminal stadium run

John Giddings has told IQ how the European leg of Lady Gaga’s rescheduled worldwide stadium tour triumphed over prevailing issues.

More than 280,000 tickets sold for the six-date leg of The Chromatica Ball, which wrapped last weekend with two sold-out shows at Tottenham Hotspur stadium (cap. 62,850) in London.

The Live Nation-promoted tour, which also visited stadiums in Germany, Sweden, France and the Netherlands, marked the first-ever public live performances of Gaga’s #1 selling and Grammy-award-winning album Chromatica (2020).

“The show is incredible and everyone was blown away,” says Giddings, who worked as the European tour coordinator for Live Nation. “She’s proved herself to be a world-class superstar and this is her coming of age.

“Selling 280,000 tickets is fantastic,” he continues. “After the pandemic, you’re a) worried about selling tickets and b) worried that the people who have bought tickets either won’t come or will ask for a refund because they’ve got Covid. So it was a fantastic success to have all these people turn up.”

While Gaga’s packed venues bucked the no-show trend that some tours are still experiencing, the Solo boss says the European leg faced some of the same challenges, from staff shortages to illnesses to production costs.

“The problems of touring are two or three times worse than they were before the pandemic”

“First of all, you’ve got Brexit, so you have to import and export to each country,” he explains. “Then there’s the pandemic to go with it because – remember – countries like Germany are still a bit behind and you have to wear masks on planes and things like that.”

Countering the ongoing prevalence of Covid-19, the tour required crew to take a test and put on a mask before going backstage. “It was like the old days in the UK when you couldn’t walk down the road without taking a test first,” he says.

Add in the rising cost of fuel (which Giddings says costs at least a third more than it did pre-pandemic) and uncertainty around cancelled planes and trains, and The Chromatica Ball became a triumph over adversity.

The outcome, Giddings says, was an “incredibly successful tour” which garnered glowing reviews across the board. VICE said Gaga’s London show was “a once-in-a-lifetime artist playing a once-in-a-lifetime show” while NME hailed it “a thrilling, high-concept return from pop’s finest” and Evening Standard says it was “as perfect as a performance gets”.

The tour even broke some personal records for Gaga, who performed for her largest audience to date – 78,500 attendees – at Paris’ Stade de France.

But it was the shows at Tottenham Hotspur stadium that proved to be the standout dates for the Isle of Wight boss. “I have to give a gold star to Tottenham Hotspur stadium because it was fantastic and they really looked after us well,” says Giddings. “There was brilliant sound and the production looked incredible in there. The way it was built is perfect for a show.”

The Chromatica Ball tour continues across North America and Asia for 14 more shows with stadium stops in Canada, the US and Japan.


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TEG announces formation of TEG Europe

Australasian live entertainment powerhouse TEG has announced the formation of TEG Europe, consolidating the company’s UK-based operations into a single entity.

Based out of London and Bristol, TEG Europe comprises five different divisions: TEG Live Europe, TEG Venues, Propaganda, Ticketek and Ovation.

TEG Live Europe includes the former TEG MJR touring business, which has worked with artists including Snoop Dogg, Sia, Hans Zimmer, 50 Cent, Tom Jones, and Culture Club.

TEG Venues includes 10 owned, operated, co-promoted, and programmed venues throughout the UK, including Tramshed (cap. 1,000) in Cardiff, XOYO (800) in London and The Mill (1,000) in Birmingham.

Propaganda, the UK’s leading indie rock & roll nightclub brand, includes fifteen weekly events across the country, as well as promoted events in the US, Australia, Brazil and Ibiza.

Ticketek, which has 40+ years’ experience ticketing major international events and partnering with some of the world’s best venues, was introduced into the UK in 2020 and already works with some of the country’s premier venues.

“Today’s news represents a crucial milestone in the expansion of TEG and positions us for further growth across Europe”

And Ovation, TEG’s data science and analytics business, provides sports organisations, venues, promoters, content creators, media and tech partners with analytics, data science, research, personalisation, and advanced digital marketing.

TEG already has a significant presence in the UK and Europe, having acquired Bristol-based promoter and venue operator MJR Group in 2019. According to TEG, the company already promotes more than 2,000 shows annually in the country and on the continent.

TEG CEO Geoff Jones says: “Today’s news represents a crucial milestone in the expansion of TEG’s successful integrated live entertainment model into the vibrant UK market and positions us for further growth across Europe.

“By combining these businesses into a single customer-focused operation, we are well positioned to work with new and existing industry partners in the UK and Europe to help grow their businesses while continuing our own growth in the region.”

Concert promotion, ticketing and technology firm TEG operates out of seven countries worldwide with offices in Australia, New Zealand, south-east Asia and the UK.

The group includes TEG Live, TEG Sport, TEG Experiences, TEG Dainty, SXSW Sydney, TEG MJR, TEG Van Egmond, Laneway Festival, TEG Rockefeller, Handsome Tours, Qudos Bank Arena, Ticketek, Softix, TicketCharge, TicketWorld, Ticketek Singapore and Ovation.


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Major festivals enjoy record sell-outs for 2022

Austria’s Nova Rock is the latest festival to report a record sell-out, as the sector embarks on its first full season since 2019.

The event’s promoter, Nova Music Entertainment, says a total of 225,000 visitors are expected to attend the four-day festival in Nickelsdorf this June, which marks a new attendance record.

“We are so happy and proud,” says Nova Music Entertainment, which is part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Music.

After two consecutive cancellations, the annual hard rock event will return to Pannonia Fields between 9–12 June with acts including Muse, Placebo, Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Rock am Ring recently announced that a record 90,000 weekend tickets had sold for its 2022 edition, while twin festival Rock im Park shifted more than 70,000 tickets.

Both of the eventimpresents/DreamHaus’s events took place last weekend with acts including Green Day, Muse, Volbeat, Placebo, Måneskin.

Elsewhere, events such as Rock Werchter and Rock in Rio have sold out their typical allocation of tickets, but in record time.

“Event-goers are now spending up to three times more on their event trips than even pre-Covid levels”

Around 1 million people registered for the chance to buy tickets to Rock in Rio’s Brazil event, which runs over two weekends from 2–4 and 8–11 September and hosts 100,000 fans per day at the Cidade do Rock.

The 4 September date, starring Justin Bieber, was the fastest sell out at a record 12 minutes, followed by days headlined by Coldplay (27 minutes), Post Malone (59 minutes), Dua Lipa (64 minutes), Green Day (104 minutes) and Guns N’ Roses (285 minutes). The remaining 2 September date, topped by Iron Maiden, has also now sold out.

Rock Werchter, meanwhile, sold out months ahead of when it typically would, with 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets flying off the shelf by the beginning of February.

Elsewhere in LN Belgium’s stable of events, Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel was expanded from 50,000 capacity to 52,000 after most tickets sold out in early November.

Top promoters and ticketing firms including DEAG, Dice, Event Genius and The Ticket Factory have all confirmed the pent-up demand for events, saying that current ticket sales are even higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“Such is the demand for events and experiences – both domestically and abroad – event-goers are now spending up to three times more on their domestic and international event trips than even pre-Covid levels,” Event Genius’s CEO Benjamin Leaver told IQ.

Further evidencing a bumper festival season to come, an unprecedented number of new festivals are launching this year.

Promoters including FKP Scorpio, Goodlive, AEG, Goldenvoice and Live Nation have all added to their stable of festivals, as most prepare for their busiest festival season on record.


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AEG Europe names Kylie Taylor first VP of comms

The European arm of AEG has appointed former Getty senior comms figure Kylie Taylor to a new position overseeing comms across the continent.

Taylor takes the role of VP of communications at AEG Europe, which operates venues including The O2 and Eventim Apollo in London and festivals such as American Express BST Hyde Park and All Points East in London.

AEG Europe said that in her new role, Taylor becomes an advisor to the European operation’s senior leadership team and oversees all aspects of external and internal comms, providing strategic and creative communications leadership.

“From media relations to global partnerships, to working across the company’s sustainability agenda, which is at the forefront of the industry, the role has also been appointed to deliver the company’s inclusive culture programme in collaboration with the people team,” the company stated.

“It’s rare that you fall in love with both a role and a company – I’m pinching myself”

It’s the first time AEG Europe has had someone in place to lead comms for the overarching company, although some venues such as the O2 have their own comms teams.

Taylor says: “It’s rare that you fall in love with both a role and a company – I’m pinching myself and am beyond thrilled to be joining the team. The business already has such amazing initiatives and a great framework in place which jumped out at me as unique during the interview process; I’m really excited to help bring this to life.”

She joins AEG Europe from Getty Images, where she had worked for more than 11 years, most recently as senior director, global corporate communications.

AEG Europe’s other venues include the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, the Mercedes Benz Arena in Berlin and the Accor Arena in Paris.


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