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FKP Scorpio Ent announces major expansion plans

FKP Scorpio is expanding its exhibition, family entertainment, comedy, spoken word and special projects business under the newly upgraded FKP Scorpio Entertainment (FKPE) umbrella.

The company structure includes a rebranding of its German FKP Scorpio Show Creations company, which will become part of the new wider FKPE business model moving forward. It has also announced the acquisition of Sweden’s Nordic Exhibitions.

Headquartered in London, the international operation will be led by president James Cassidy and senior promoter Barry Campbell, who launched FKP Scorpio UK in 2018 with the BBC Studios Blue Planet II Live in Concert arena tour.

“Under James and Barry’s fantastic leadership, our FKP Entertainment company has had an amazing start in this exciting new growth sector,” says FKP owner and CEO Folkert Koopmans. “We are not only acquiring great partners and content but are delivering results which we aim to emulate in all our key European markets. We will be investing heavily into this space and have also just acquired experienced events promoter Nordic Exhibitions & Events AB to add to our growing portfolio”

Formed in 2022, FKPE’s first project, in partnership with the Luna Entertainment Group, was the 2023 Jurassic World: The Exhibition at London ExCeL Centre, which sold 314,000 tickets in just over four months. Working in partnership with the ExCeL team, FKPE have secured an exclusive tenancy deal to 2027.

“We hope that FKPE will become the first call for any global IP or event producers”

FKPE is currently promoting Semmel Exhibition Disney 100: The Exhibition, which has shifted more than 240,000 tickets to dates and will run until 23 June. It will follow D100 with both London and multi-territory European presentations of Formula 1: The Exhibition, as well as investing in and promoting a new experiential exhibition with a major global gaming IP, with details to be announced later this year.

“Barry and I love what we do, if it’s a quality exhibition, family event or special project, then we are prepared to put our necks on the line to deliver results,” says Cassidy. “We hope that FKPE will become the first call for any global IP or event producers. Our FKP European teams have a wonderful network of offices and talented staff, so we hold no fear in presenting FKPE as the ultimate one stop UK and European solution for quality projects”

Also joining the FKPE London team are Nathan Birch as head of ticketing, Daisy Parry as special events co-ordinator, Suzy Bryant as marketing consultant and promoter Ollie Catchpole. Other hires will be announced soon.

Norrköping-based Nordic Exhibitions, founded by promoter and CEO Stefan Papangelis in 2016, will now be part of the FKP Scorpio Group and renamed FKP Scorpio Entertainment Nordic. The company has sold approximately 700,000 exhibition tickets in the Scandinavian markets.

Under the new operation, Papangelis and his team will work closely with Bozo Rasic, MD of FKP Scorpio Sweden, as well as reporting directly into FKPE London and responsible for developing the growth of exhibitions and special events in all Nordic markets.

“We really look forward to combining forces to make great successes in the Nordic markets and beyond”

“It’s truly fantastic to be part of the FKPE family, a perfect fit for us and we really look forward to combining forces to make great successes in the Nordic markets and beyond,” says Papangelis.

The development of the non-music economy has also been fuelled in Germany by FKP’s recent successes in the German comedy market. Headed by promoter Thilo Elsner, FKP has staged over 365 comedy shows in the last two years with more than 250,000 tickets sold.

In addition, FKPE is on schedule to complete the renovation and build of its own 8,000 square metre exhibition venue in Oberhausen, Germany.

Earlier this year, live music promoters FKP Scorpio UK and Communion Presents merged to form Communion ONE.

Koopmans, Cassidy and Campbell share more details on FKPE’s expansion plans in the 2024 Touring Entertainment Report (TER), which comes out next week.

“As you can probably tell from our activities, we’re extremely confident about the future,” they tell TER. “There are now so many more exhibitions and special project events for people to go to these days, and FKPE can’t wait to be at the heart of it.”

 


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FKP Scorpio UK to merge with Communion Events

UK promoters FKP Scorpio UK and Communion Presents have announced they are merging with immediate effect to form Communion ONE.

Communion ONE’s team has promoted artists such as Ed Sheeran, Noah Kahan, Sam Fender, Lewis Capaldi, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, TEMS, The War on Drugs and Laufey.

The merged firm will be led by a board including managing directors Daniel Ealam, Mazin Tappuni and Scott O’Neill. The non-executive leadership team is formed by Communion Music’s MD Jamie Emsell, Communion co-founders Kevin Jones and Ben Lovett, FKP Scorpio CEO and founder Folkert Koopmans, and promoter Carlo Scarampi as a partner.

In addition, the Communion ONE team will include Carly Rocket as head of operations, and Julie Morgan, Olly Goddard, Rich Cheetham, Mike Werbowy and Jack Dedman as heads of marketing, ticketing, production, finance and venue programming, respectively.

“We believe that Communion ONE is creating an even more compelling proposition for our existing and future clients”

“Bringing our two brilliant teams together and combining our shared experience, resources and perspectives, is the most natural thing in the world,” says a joint statement by Ealam, Tappuni and O’Neill. “In doing so, we believe that Communion ONE is creating an even more compelling proposition for our existing and future clients. We’ve all had amazing success so far, but in many ways, we’re only just getting started.”

Sam Laurence’s promoter imprint, Dollop, also joins the newly unified company, with Eve Thomas and Hayley Moss completing the promoter team.

Other acts to have worked with the two companies or Dollop include Michael Kiwanuka, Self Esteem, Maggie Rogers, Holly Humberstone, Ben Howard, Olivia Dean, Dermot Kennedy, Jamie xx, The Lumineers, Bastille, Maisie Peters, George Ezra, Gabriels, Hauser, Greentea Peng, Jungle, The Reytons, Kelela and Calum Scott.

Hamburg-headquartered FKP Scorpio, which sold four million tickets across Europe in 2023, hired concert promoters Ealam and O’Neill from DHP Family in 2020 to head up and grow its then nascent UK touring business.

Communion ONE will also produce a new three-night night event series at Bristol’s 15,000-cap Queen Square

Communion ONE will plug into FKP Scorpio’s European touring network, with offices in 11 European countries, and will also produce a new three-night night event series at Bristol’s 15,000-cap Queen Square from 2025.

It will also continue to book TVG Hospitality’s UK portfolio and affiliates Lafayette, Omeara, The Social, along with its new partnerships with Village Underground and EartH. The firm also plans to expand its outdoor portfolio over the coming year.

Exhibitions specialist FKP Scorpio Entertainment, led by James Cassidy and Barry Campbell, and Communion Presents’ sister companies, Communion Records and Communion Publishing, will continue to operate independently of Communion ONE.

PHOTO (L-R): Daniel Ealam, Mazin Tappuni, Scott O’Neill & Carlo Scarampi

 


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FKP Scorpio appoints tour leadership team

FKP Scorpio has promoted company veterans Inga Esseling and Ben Rodenberg to lead its tour department.

The two experienced employees will both serve as director touring, tasked with continuing to drive forward the portfolio and strategic direction of the division both internally and externally.

Esseling has been working at German-headquartered FKP since 2010. Starting as an assistant promoter, she now coordinates the core team around MD and founder Folkert Koopmans and is responsible for tours by artists including Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones.

“I am looking forward to continuing the successful work of the tour department together with Ben and to setting new trends in the future,” says Esseling. “We are part of a great team that we are both only too happy to be responsible for.”

“With Inga and Ben at the helm, we are ideally positioned for the future”

Rodenberg, who joined the group in 2017 when his Gastspielreisen agency became part of FKP Scorpio, will retain the management of Gastspielreisen and his roster of acts such as Moka Efti Orchestra, Kat Frankie, Betterov and Bulgarian Cartrader in his new role.

“We would like to thank our managing directors Folkert and Stephan [Thanscheidt] for their successful and cordial cooperation, and of course for the trust they have placed in us for this new role,” says Rodenberg.

Koopmans adds: “With Inga and Ben at the helm, we are ideally positioned for the future. Both have often proven that they can provide new impetus and meet the high demands of this industry. I am personally very pleased that many employees have been with us for such a long time and have the opportunity to develop further as a part of our team.”

Last week, it was revealed that FKP Scorpio UK has applied for a premise licence to stage a series of 15,000-cap live music events in Bristol’s Queen Square.

PHOTO (L-R): Stephan Thanscheidt, Ben Rodenberg, Inga Esseling and Folkert Koopmans.

 


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FKP Scorpio boss: ‘We partly play for an elite’

FKP Scorpio boss Folkert Koopmans discussed rising ticket prices, future acquisitions and competing with Live Nation in a keynote interview at the Reeperbahn Festival.

The European conference and showcase festival is taking place this week (20 and 23 September) across Hamburg, Germany.

The opening day of the event saw the FKP Boss sit down with MusikWoche journalist Manfred Tari in the Schmidt Theater, proclaiming “If you want to become an event organiser and expect a work-life balance, all I can say is: Don’t do it!”

On the subject of rising ticket prices, and the possibility that more and more fans will be priced out of concerts, Koopmans said: “Yes, we partly play for an elite who can afford such prices. The live business is not a social business. But as long as there are people who pay such high prices, the system will not change.”

Discussing market power and competition, Koopmans explained that although FKP cannot compete with Live Nation worldwide, they can in Europe, where the company is represented in eleven markets.

“As long as there are people who pay such high prices, the system will not change”

He also emphasised that he doesn’t work with companies but with people. “The music business is still a people’s business,” he said, revealing that a strong relationship with AEG Presents is how FKP has come to promote Taylor Swift’s German stadium concerts in 2024.

Koopmans also told delegates how investing in emerging talent has paid off for the company. “We don’t make any money at events in halls with a capacity of less than 1,000 people,” he said.

“For us, it’s more about building up artists with club gigs like this, who at some point might be able to fill stadiums like Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran has always remained loyal to FKP Scorpio and is also one of the artists who insist on a price cap for tickets.”

Rounding off the keynote, Koopmans told the audience that further acquisitions could be on the cards. “If the opportunity is right and I like the people we have there, we’ll take the opportunity,” he said, adding that his mantra for M&A is “no risk no fun”.

Reeperbahn organisers revealed that around 50,000 visitors and 4,000 delegates will have visited the four-day festival, by the time it closes tomorrow. While 475 concerts by 400 acts from 46 nations have taken place.

This year’s conference programme revolved around the theme of social sustainability, with discussions on monopolisation, AI, abuse of power and discrimination-free spaces, diversity, transformation processes, tomorrow’s perspectives, challenging a growth mentality and overcoming upheavals.

 


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FKP sees roaring presales after successful summer

FKP Scorpio boss Folkert Koopmans says the company is enjoying strong presales for its German festivals next year, despite price increases across the board.

The promoter wrapped up a successful 2023 festival summer with the Highfield Festival, organised with Semmel Concerts, which attracted 35,000 fans from 18-20 August.

Highfield featured acts such as Die Ärzte, K.I.Z, Marteria, SDP, RIN, Enter Shikari and Beatsteaks at the Störmthaler lake, just outside Leipzig. The presale has just begun for the 2024 edition, which will be held from 16-18 August.

The previous week saw the M’era Luna Festival take place before 25,000 fans in Hildesheim, featuring artists including Within Temptation and VV (Ville Valo). More than 60% of tickets for next year’s event, set for 10-11 August 2024, have already been sold. Acts will include ASP, Front 242, Saltatio Mortis, Lord of the Lost, Schandmaul, Die Krupps, Suicide Commando and Oomph!

Back in June, over 50,000 tickets were purchased on the first day of the presale for FKPs flagship Hurricane and Southside festivals, setting a new bar in the 20-plus-year history of the twin festivals in Scheeßel and Neuhausen ob Eck, respectively, which have a combined capacity of 143,000.

“We are still feeling the after-effects of the two pandemic years in many areas”

“The enormous popularity is the nicest confirmation for us,” says Koopmans. “We are still feeling the after-effects of the two pandemic years in many areas, especially in terms of price increases in all areas. And part of these costs, unfortunately, we have to pass on to the guests, even if we try to reduce this burden to a minimum.

“The fact that we have now organised successful festivals all around in the second year after the pandemic and that people have had a good time and trust us to offer them very special festival experiences again in 2024 makes us very happy.”

In addition, the 60,000-cap Deichbrand Festival sold out in 2023, and advance sales for next year have got off to a record-breaking start. The event will take place near Cuxhaven from 18-21 July.

“In a year in which many festivals and events have problems with advance ticket sales, to be completely sold out even before the festival begins is a terrific confirmation for us of the months of work and passion that everyone involved puts into the festival,” says festival MD Marc Engelke. “And after current record advance sales, more than 15,000 tickets have already gone through the store, which makes us extremely optimistic for the upcoming edition.”

“The positive feedback from our guests and the sensational advance sales inspire us”

FKP Scorpio CEO and head of festival booking Stephan Thanscheidt says further line-up details for next year will be revealed soon.

“My team and I are working flat out on the line-ups for 2024 and are sure we will be able to sign up great acts again and also reveal the first ones soon,” he adds. “The positive feedback from our guests and the sensational advance sales inspire us. We are very grateful for this appreciation and are already looking forward to the festival summer 2024!”

Speaking to IQ last month, Thanscheidt suggested the success of FKP’s festivals bucked the trend seen elsewhere in the country.

“Rising costs for virtually everything continue to take their toll,” he says. “Because of this, less demand and purchasing power, a lot of festivals are struggling, and we suspect their number to further decrease in the future. We consider ourselves very lucky that the demand for our remaining festivals such as Highfield and M’era Luna is stable, with the latter probably being sold-out shortly before the festival weekend.”

The company has tours later in the year with acts including The National and Queens of the Stone Age, and will also promote Taylor Swift’s Eras stadium dates in Germany next year.

 


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Reeperbahn secures keynote with FKP Scorpio boss

European conference and showcase festival Reeperbahn has announced a keynote speech with FKP Scorpio boss Folkert Koopmans on the current state of the festival market.

The news comes as Reepberbahn announces the first wave of names for this year’s event, taking place between 20 and 23 September across Hamburg, Germany.

This year’s conference programme will revolve around the theme of social sustainability, with discussions on monopolisation, AI, abuse of power and discrimination-free spaces, diversity, transformation processes, tomorrow’s perspectives, challenging a growth mentality and overcoming upheavals.

This year’s conference programme will revolve around the theme of social sustainability

Under that banner, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s CEO Ben Mitha will be exploring the market power of the music industry’s stars, while digital transformation expert Charlotte Stahl (head of music operations DACH, TikTok) will talk about the best ways musicians can exploit the opportunities of TikTok.

Kiki Ressler (CEO, KKT), e-commerce expert Iris Bögenholz (COO, white label eCommerce) and Rembert Stiewe (festival director, OBS, Glitterhouse) will be discussing the impact of models, such as dynamic pricing or social ticketing, on the ticket market.

Elsewhere, mental health will be the main theme covered by songwriter Clueso in conversation with his manager Dr. Olaf Meinking. The pair will discuss the challenges faced by artists dealing with the highs and lows of their careers as well as the special relationship that exists between artists and their managers.

A rundown of all the speakers confirmed so far for the conference programme at Reeperbahn Festival is available here.

 


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Arcadia Live hails ‘successful’ debut of Lido Sounds

Austria’s Arcadia Live has reflected on the successful premiere of open-air concert series Lido Sounds.

More than 66,000 fans flocked to Austria’s third-largest city, Linz, between 16 and 18 June to watch performances from 35 artists, across two stages.

International stars Florence + the Machine, Alt-J, Phoenix, Arlo Parks, Interpol, Anna Calvi, Ashnikko and Sleaford Mods topped the bill, with support from German-speaking acts.

FKP Scorpio, parent company of Vienna-based Arcadia Live, hailed Lido Sounds as “an exciting addition to our festival cosmos”.

“I see the potential to firmly establish this event as a prominent highlight in the city’s cultural calendar”

“I am happy that Lido Sounds’ first edition was such a great success and that our concept for a city festival in Linz is working out,” says Folkert Koopmans, CEO of FKP Scorpio. “The team has done a great job and I see the potential to firmly establish this event as a prominent highlight in the city’s cultural calendar.”

Arcadia Live managing director Filip Potocki added: “I see people’s faces and it seems that a lot of people liked it. We got great feedback from the artists. A lot of them couldn’t believe that this was the first time Lido Sounds was happening, because a lot of things already worked so smoothly and were well thought out.”

Potocki says that Arcadia Live will use the coming days and weeks to assess areas of improvement and discuss the future of the festival with city officials.

“The following weeks will decide how Lido Sounds can be constantly integrated into the FKP festival program and establish itself within the European cultural scene,” he adds.

In addition to music, Lido Sounds featured culinary offerings, emerging domestic talents and afterparties at the nearby concert hall Brucknerhaus.

The event’s location, on the left bank of the Danube river (Urfahrmarkt), was easily reachable from neighbouring Germany and the Czech Republic.

 


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FKP chief Folkert Koopmans talks supply and demand

FKP Scorpio chief Folkert Koopmans has given a new interview ahead of the promoter’s flagship Southside and Hurricane festivals in Germany this weekend.

Southside and Hurricane take place in Neuhausen ob Eck and the Eichenring motorcycle speedway in Scheessel, respectively, today until Sunday (16-18 June). Artists on the bill for the twin events include Muse, Die Ärzte, Placebo, Queens of the Stone Age, The 1975 and Loyle Carner.

Speaking to NDR, Koopmans says that ticket sales for the 78,000-cap Hurricane picked up strongly over the past few weeks.

“Friday will be sold out and Saturday and Sunday will be a little weaker,” he says. “But we’re talking about 1,000 to 2,000 tickets that are still missing. Compared to previous years, it was a bit unusual that we have still been able to sell very well, especially in the last few weeks. We didn’t expect that at the beginning of May.”

Koopmans defends the increase in ticket prices for Hurricane by €30 to €249 (Southside tickets have also gone up €10 to €259), pointing to rising production costs.

“The prices should be even higher if we look at the cost development”

“Actually, the prices should be even higher if we look at the cost development,” he argues. “But we’re also finding that people just don’t have more money, and it would probably hurt sales significantly if we took any more money. We always try to find a balance between income and expenses, and that becomes more difficult from year to year.

“I believe that with the Hurricane Festival we have a very strong brand that is also well established. But I believe that many smaller festivals in particular will suffer from this.”

He continues: “Ultimately, it is a supply-demand relationship. The ticket buyer ultimately has to decide what to spend on a ticket and must be very careful where to buy the tickets and at what premium. We will go on sale again next Tuesday with a price of €199 for a certain contingent and I believe that buyers will have quite an opportunity to buy these tickets at regular prices.”

Koopmans also doubles down on his recent claim that only 20% of festivals are still profitable, post-pandemic, partly attributing that forecast to artist fees.

“That partly has to do with the artists’ fees,” he says. “But you have to say that there was actually a relatively large turnaround about 10 years ago, because the artists no longer live on their [German performance rights organisation] GEMA income or the income they generate from record sales. Now it’s all the costs around it that make it up.”

 


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FKP boss laments ‘exploding’ festival costs

FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans has laid bare the post-pandemic financial struggles faced by festivals, estimating that only 20% are still profitable.

The company’s flagship Hurricane festival returns to the Eichenring motorcycle speedway in Scheessel, Germany for its landmark 25th edition from 16-18 June with acts such as Muse, Die Ärzte, Placebo, Queens of the Stone Age, The 1975 and Loyle Carner.

But in an interview with Kreiszeitung, Koopmans says the event lost money in 2022 despite selling out – and warns the sector is being “overwhelmed” by spiralling costs.

“The fact that we didn’t make any money with a sold-out Hurricane in 2022, but actually lost it, was of course also due to the fact that we had basically sold the tickets three years earlier,” he points out. “But since all festivals are now being overwhelmed by the costs, I believe that in the end only 20% of them will still be making money. This problem was already indicated in 2016/17, but after corona it got particularly bad.

“Of course, like our other festivals, we don’t want to give up the Hurricane, because ultimately they are important, they’re part of the portfolio and, in addition, they’re building up a lot of bands. But as I said, it’s a problem, and we’re monitoring further developments very closely in view of the growing demands everywhere.

“We’re struggling with it, trying to keep the costs under control. But it’s incredibly difficult. Of course, we also have an extremely high break-even point. And my company now earns money primarily from the big concerts, for example from the Rolling Stones or Ed Sheeran.”

“On average, we have a cost increase of 30% across the board – this also applies to groceries, leases and stages”

He adds that the days of top acts being able to generate more income from festivals than their own headline shows are over.

“It was just very interesting for a band to play at festivals,” he says. “That was the business where you made money. For example, the band played their own shows for €10,000, but then got €50,000 at the festival. Today it’s the other way around – we have to fight at the festivals while they make more money at their own shows.”

And while organisers have raised average ticket price to €249 for this year’s event, Koopmans says that was cancelled out by other factors.

“The price should have been much higher – and not just because of the more expensive bands,” he says. “On average, we have a cost increase of 30% across the board – this also applies to groceries, leases and stages.”

Koopmans says there is no chance of the 78,000-cap festival growing further, and was more likely to become smaller due to the diversification of the festival landscape.

“But of course I also have the cost pressure,” he adds. “Let’s assume that I would limit the festival to 70,000 visitors and thus sell 8,000 fewer tickets – then I would have the problem that I would lose 8,000 times the income. So it’s not that simple. So we’ll have to see where this all goes, whether, for example, more people are willing to spend even more money for more luxury and comfort. That might be the way.”

 


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IQ Tour of the Year 2022: Ed Sheeran + – = ÷ x

It’s 8.29 pm at Dublin’s Croke Park, 23 April 2022. The sense of anticipation among the 82,000 fans present – here to see Ed Sheeran kick off his fourth world tour, the +–=÷× Tour (AKA the Mathematics Tour) – is building to fever pitch; a giant red and yellow screen in front of the stage has been displaying a ten-minute count down, and there’s just one minute to go.

When it hits zero, the screens go up and Sheeran launches into Tide, the opening track of his fifth studio album, 2021’s =; a joyous frenzy and outpouring of celebration ensues.

“Magic” is how the Irish Examiner describes it; “a show that will live long in the memory,” adds the Independent. “When the music started, to hear and see the audience’s reaction and share their excitement, was really emotional,” says Helen Himmons, +–=÷×’s production manager. “To be standing there experiencing so many original, custom-designed elements all coming together for the first time in front of 82,000 people was exhilarating,” adds Bren Berry of Aiken Promotions, who was responsible for all ten of Sheeran’s Irish dates.

But that night was just the start; over 53 more shows in 2022 Sheeran wowed fans and critics alike and truly put on a show for the ages. From the sheer number of fans that he entertained to some of the groundbreaking production elements and the success of touring such a mammoth show in the challenging post-Covid environment, it’s no surprise that we have awarded Sheeran and his team IQ’s Tour of the Year award for 2022.

Galway Girl(s and Boys)
The anticipation in Dublin wasn’t just because Sheeran is one the world’s biggest pop stars and musical icons or that he has a particularly passionate fanbase in the Emerald Isle (in total he sold 410,000 tickets in Ireland, incredible for an island with less than 7 million inhabitants). It was also the first major outdoor concert in Ireland in three years, following the Covid-19 pandemic. “We sold 225,000 tickets in the first hour,” says Berry, “and if the dates had been available, we could have sold extra shows in Limerick and Belfast.”

But being the first large, outdoor event post-Covid also brought challenges. “The venue, local council, and suppliers all had different opinions about what should happen regarding Covid-19,” adds Berry. “There was also quite a bit of debate in the media about conditions that should be applicable for what was really the first big show in Ireland for three years.” The show – and the tour so far – went off without a hitch though; no mean feat considering its scale.

“We sold 225,000 tickets in the first hour and if the dates had been available, we could have sold extra shows”

And the numbers themselves are mind-boggling. Over 3.1m tickets sold, generating over £200m in revenue. 125 crew spread over three separate teams (plus 80 local crew at each venue); 84 trucks hauling over 56 tonnes of gear; a unique, custom-built stage design that had never been toured before; brand-new, state-of-the-art pyro effects; and even discussions with the UK government at Cabinet level.

Chief architects behind the tour, alongside Sheeran, are artist manager Stuart Camp and agents Marty Diamond from Wasserman Music for North America and Jon Ollier from One Fiinix Live for Europe and the rest of the world.

Revealing the detailed planning for the Mathematics production, Camp says, “We were talking about this show before we completed the Divide tour in the summer of 2019. The in-the-round idea has been knocked back and forth for several years, but this was the time to take the plunge – although the pandemic did throw a curveball, so we did consider going to a more standard end-on show given the uncertainties regarding what touring would look like.”

Explaining why the tour visited the markets and venues that it did across Europe, Ollier tells IQ, “You can only do what you do in the short season of weather window for stadium shows, and that’s sort of what dictated our tour routing in 2022. Certainly, there were no ‘filler’ dates or markets on the European tour leg.”

Turning to the actual show itself, Camp says, “We just wanted to do something that we hadn’t done before…to make the show as special and unique as we could.”

That remit fell upon the shoulders of production designer Mark Cunniffe, who notes, “It’s a huge show in terms of industrial presence, but it has a very theatrical feel and attention to detail that give it its unique look.”

But the complexity of the production was daunting, and Sheeran’s agent discloses that the core team initially worked on two concepts, just in case the more ambitious option would not work. “The caution on our part was in our expectations as we emerged from the pandemic,” says Ollier. “Our attitude was simply to have a good crack at it to see what we could achieve.

“We just wanted to do something that we hadn’t done before…to make the show as special and unique as we could”

“We worked on the ‘plan B’, involving a traditional end-on stage, in parallel, flipping between the two concepts as we worked out what was feasible financially as well as logistically and from an engineering perspective. The watershed moment was when Ed decided that he had to deliver the best show possible to the fans because everyone had endured such a lot during the pandemic, and he wanted to give them something they could remember for the rest of their lives. So that’s the moment we dumped the idea of the end-on stage and put all our efforts into the show being in-the-round.

“What everyone has put together is the most ambitious tour I’ve ever worked on; the fact we were trying to pull it off while we were in the pandemic made it all the more complicated but also all the more satisfying.”

And hinting at the groundbreaking nature of the setup, artist manager Camp adds, “By far the most extraordinary feature of the show is the structural cable net system. Whist it’s an existing architectural principle, it has never been toured before and is rightly considered to be the first of its kind in the touring entertainment industry.”

Beautiful People
The complexity of that system was developed over the course of 12 months, with Sheeran’s team working with Cunniffe and Himmons to come up with the initial concept before approaching Jeremy Lloyd at Wonder Works to see if it was possible from an engineering perspective. They then engaged Stage One to see if it could be constructed in such a way to make it tourable – could it be put together in the four days they had at each venue prior to the show, then dismantled and removed within 24 hours?

It was a tough challenge.

“I’ve always wanted to present Ed in the round, as I believe that’s the perfect way to get him closer to as many people in the audience as possible,” says Cunniffe. “Once he was happy with that concept, I busied myself designing a show that didn’t have the obligatory use of a four-post roof system, as that would have obscured the artist’s view of the audience. After a great deal of blue-sky thinking, I came up with a structural support with a cable net system that was as aesthetically pleasing as it was functional. It was also a unique design that hadn’t been toured before.”

Such cable net systems are usually supported by some form of permanent structure, typically a roof. Team Sheeran’s challenge was creating an in-the-round setup with no supporting pillars for the stage, screens, or PA – essentially trying to suspend 56 tonnes of equipment on a temporary rig, and one that was relatively quick to build and dismantle. Thanks to some clever engineering, a lot of innovation, and the construction of many custom elements, Cunniffe and co. made it a reality.

“The watershed moment was when Ed decided that he had to deliver the best show possible to the fans because everyone had endured such a lot during the pandemic”

“What we have is a central round stage with a circular ‘halo’ of video and lighting that rises up from the stage floor and suspends in the air,” says Himmons. “It’s held there by a complex cable net system, which is tensioned between six red ‘masts’ – these masts provide a rigging opportunity for plectrum-shaped IMAG video screens and audio hangs and the bases of them are also used as satellite stages for the band members.”

“To make the show efficiently tourable, an important part of the production design was to ensure that as many processes as possible could occur concurrently,” adds Lloyd. Thus, once the masts and cables were installed, along with some advance equipment, production worked in two teams, on opposite masts, ensuring the structure was loaded as evenly – and as quickly – as possible. Similarly, while all this was going on, the stage was constructed off to one side; when the cable net was done, the stage was simply rolled into place.

The resulting show was the event of the summer for millions of fans – and that will be the case for millions more in 2023, 24 and 25, according to Camp.

“2023 will see us go to Australia and New Zealand – a place so close to our hearts and always a joy to tour in – though also the first shows we have done there since the passing of Michael Gudinski, so it will be very poignant,” states Camp.

“Then we are onto the Americas: North America from April to September before we go for some shows into Central and South America. 2024 will hopefully see us go through southeast Asia and the European markets we weren’t able to visit this year, and I envisage the tour coming to a close in summer 2025.”

That’s music to the ears of the many promoters and partners involved in Sheeran’s career.

Afterglow
Salomon Hazot, of Saloni Productions, has worked with Sheeran “since his first show in a club” and is constantly impressed by how “he does all that is required to make things work.”

His two shows at the Stade de France could have been three, he says, but adding another was logistically impossible – the stadium was booked. But the show was, Hazot says, “really unbelievable. There was such a buzz, many French industry people came to the show to see how it worked.”

Steve Tilley of Kilimanjaro Live first promoted Sheeran back in 2009, and says, “The production was next level and really spectacular – they rewrote the rules on what can be achieved in terms of the way they designed and built the whole setup. Every night, I stood and watched in awe.” He adds that it’s an “absolute joy and an honour to be part of the team and work with Ed – everyone involved behaves with pure class and professionalism.”

“They rewrote the rules on what can be achieved in terms of the way they designed and built the whole setup”

FKP Scorpio chief Folkert Koopmans notes that despite Covid and “the extreme circumstances our society and economy find themselves in, this was probably his best-selling tour ever. The enormous ticket demand ensured the list of concert dates grew longer and longer – there was at least one extra show in almost every tour city.” He adds that the tour was “really something very different and special – working with him and his team feels like travelling with family. He’s never stopped being ‘just Ed,’ which is why his story as an artist is relatable – and he’s worked very hard to be where he is right now.”

In Switzerland, Johannes Vogel, owner and director of AllBlues Konzert AG, says that within hours of the first show going on sale, they announced a second – both sold out incredibly quickly (47,500 for both nights). “The production was not just huge and spectacular – it was made to help Ed deliver the best shows possible,” he says. “The level of intimacy for a stadium show and how close he was to the fans was extraordinary – it felt like being in a club with 50,000 others!”

In Austria it was a similar story – 130,000 over two nights, with 70% of the fans in Vienna being female. “The whole concept was incredible,” says Ewald Tatar of Barracuda Music, “and he’s one of the friendliest artists we have ever met. It’s always very professional working with Ed and his team, and we are very proud to be part of this ‘family’ for Austria.”

“It’s quite extraordinary how Ed beats his own sales records every time, and these shows were no exception, with four shows gone in about 48 hours,” says Xenia Grigat of Denmark’s Smash!Bang!Pow! “It’s spectacular to do an in- the-round show – it’s a treat for fans – but this one was in a different league. And the fact that there’s a lot of the same people working with Ed as when he first started out says a lot about the artist and the work environment he has created – everyone on the team is a pleasure to work with.”

“The production was genuinely incredible,” adds Simon Jones of AEG, who has worked with Sheeran for over 11 years. “It’s an engineering masterpiece, and by going to an in-the-round setup, he reached more people – it lent itself so well to the way he performs, which is so inclusive.” Jones also touches on another important element for the +–=÷× Tour – ticketing. “Ed’s main mantra is to protect his fans from unscrupulous touting and from being taken advantage of. So, we always put stringent anti-secondary measures in place, which require an extra couple of layers prior to purchasing.”

“It’s quite extraordinary how Ed beats his own sales records every time, and these shows were no exception, with four shows gone in about 48 hours”

“I think there’s a real legacy to this tour in terms of the ticketing strategy,” says FKP Scorpio’s Daniel Ealam. “We felt that in a post-pandemic world, there really needed to be a way of doing ticketing at this level in a regimented digital way, so we set about writing a comprehensive Ticketing Principles document with various rules for our ticketing partners to adhere to, to protect Ed’s fans. Our ticketing partners in the UK at Ticketmaster, Eventim, See, Gigantic, and AXS really bought into the idea that our tickets needed to stay with the person who bought it, unless sold through an official face-value reseller. This was rolled out throughout Europe and ran really smoothly.”

To fulfil that wish, CTS Eventim’s EVENTIM. Pass was put to the test, with its digital and personalised ticket abilities. “We used EVENTIM.Pass exclusively for the first time in ticket sales for Ed Sheeran’s European tour,” says Alexander Rouff, CTS Eventim’s COO. “After the start of presales, more than 1m digital tickets for the tour were sold in eight countries within a very short time.”

He explains, “The ticket purchased via EVENTIM.Pass can only be accessed on the smartphone using the EVENTIM.App – it is securely stored there, and the associated individual QR code for admission authorisation is only displayed shortly before an event. This and other security features largely prevent unauthorised resale, forgery, and misuse.”

The new system worked “100%” claims Rouff.

Indeed, there was only one attempt at fraud, and “it was detected and prevented by the missing security features of the ticket.” For fans of paper tickets, the company also offered EVENTIM. Memory Tickets. “The Memory Ticket for Ed Sheeran’s tour design was very well received by fans,” adds Rouff.

The A Team
Taking such a mammoth production on the road demands that Sheeran has two advance systems – basically the six red masts, cable net systems, and the satellite stages for the band. These leapfrog each other, so each advance team prepares every other venue. “But there was only one version of the universal production – sound, lights, video, automation, performance stage – so that was loaded in and out for every show,” adds Himmons.

Making sure the production equipment gets from A to B to Z is Global Motion who have been working with Sheeran since he first started playing arenas a decade ago.

“Getting back to work, post-Covid, has been great, but it’s been a bit of a nightmare in terms of finding people who want to work – it’s still not back to normal,” says Global Motion director Adam Hatton. “However, for a huge tour like this, the solution is all in the planning and thankfully team Sheeran are fantastic at that.”

Hatton reports that while for most clients concerned about sustainability, the advice is to simply take less gear on the road, for the huge spectaculars, like Mathematics, that isn’t always possible. “We decided to sign up to DHL’s sustainability programme which offers ways to offset carbon, as well as using electric trucks, etc, where possible.”

“For a huge tour like this, the solution is all in the planning and thankfully team Sheeran are fantastic at that”

And applauding the brains behind the Mathematics Tour, Hatton adds, “The show is extremely impressive – seeing a stadium show in the round is amazing. There were huge logistical issues to overcome to get this show on the road, but when you see the result, it makes everything worthwhile, and it’s been a pleasure to be involved with everyone who has made the tour possible.”

Working hand-in-hand with Global Motion were the trucking partners, who arguably faced the tour’s biggest dilemmas thanks to Brexit making the landscape even more complicated in what was already a Covid-challenged environment.

For the universal production element, KB Event were once again entrusted – the company has been working with Sheeran since 2012. In total, 27 Mega Box Artics and 5 Mega Curtain Side Arctics were required, each with a lead driver and two support leads. But with the tour starting in the Republic of Ireland, moving into the UK, and then touring for three months in mainland Europe, registrations and permits proved tricky to coordinate.

“Because of the Cabotage issues and the solutions we managed to agree with the UK government, all of the trucks on the tour had to be EU-registered vehicles,” says KB Event CEO, Stuart McPherson. “This gave the added complication that all the experienced UK drivers that had worked on previous Sheeran tours had to be sent to Ireland to sit their EU DCPC qualifications before the tour started. This also meant that replacement, standby, and substitute drivers all had to hold EU qualifications, too. This is an issue we have never had to deal with before and presented serious challenges and expenses getting everything in place before the tour started up.”

The proposed routing and show schedules also presented numerous logistical issues, again due to Brexit and the many new rules and regulations now in force regarding cross-border working. To get around this, KB engaged with the UK government and DfT, alongside trade association LIVE and the Road Haulage Association.

After months of negotiation, the UK government decided they would consider a duel registration option, where a company that has registered businesses in the EU and the UK (as long as both held a valid operator’s licence) could switch their EU trucks onto and off a UK operator’s licence. But with this not coming into law until August or September 2022, and the tour starting in April, things looked bleak.

“It’s an engineering masterpiece, and by going to an in-the-round setup, he reached more people”

The power of Sheeran – and the hard work of his transport suppliers – prevailed when a solution was proposed that would see the UK authorities adopt a short-term, temporary fix to get the industry through the summer. “This was accepted and pushed through cabinet just four weeks before the tour started,” says McPherson. “And I can tell you, we all slept a lot better that night!”

With KB Event handling the universal production, the two advanced systems were transported by Pieter Smit. They also faced challenges. “It was extremely difficult to get new trucks in Europe,” reports Steve Kroon, head of sales and relations. “We were lucky that through our extensive network, we found several brands that could deliver trucks with the highest emission class (Euro 6) – we had DAF, MAN, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz.” Kroon reveals it’s the first time the company has toured such a big production using renewable diesel. He adds, “We’re proud to be the first trucking company to have actually entered Sunderland’s Stadium of Light by truck and trailer combination – it was close and narrow, but we did it.”

There were plenty of other issues to solve for an outdoor, temporary, in-the-round setup. To ensure that no waterproofing or covers were required, everything – be it video, lighting, staging, or special effects – had to be IP65 rated. “A lot of time was spent sourcing, and in some cases, manufacturing from scratch, equipment that fulfilled this particular brief,” says Cunniffe.

Furthermore, the nature of stadium pitches or open, soft ground provided another challenge to overcome. “With the outer perimeter of the stage revolving, the entire performance stage has to be completely level in order for it to move,” says Himmons. “As we were not working on flat arena floors this was a challenge, specifically on the greenfield sites we played. And the floors also had to be able to take the weight of the show – some stadiums had underground car parks, directly beneath the pitch, so we had to look at our build process and crane movements, making sure we kept weight evenly distributed during the build, as well as consulting on how to support the floor from below because of the void underneath.”

I See Fire
Pyro was another element where the production and design team wanted to add something new. Tim Griffiths of Pains Fireworks was brought in to create some exciting effects; he didn’t disappoint. The brief, he says, was to “create something spectacular that could be repeated each night within the confines of the set. The incredible floating LED halo was the obvious place for us to mount close-proximity pyros, but the most exciting idea was trying to create a moment at the beginning of the concert using daylight effects. We decided to go for coloured, daylight smoke mines, which are the latest innovation of the past few years. They look stunning when fired in bright daylight and created an incredible rainbow feature four times at the start of each show.”

“Ed has set the bar high now, and I genuinely believe this is the most spectacular and ambitious live show on Earth”

Griffiths also utilised eleven of the latest liquid flame heads from German manufacturer, Galaxis. “The new Galaxis L-Flame was only released last year, and we had ordered the first batch in the UK, used them last summer, and knew that they would look fantastic built into the revolving stage,” he says. “The flame pumps sit under the stage and feed the heads with liquid IPA. The biggest challenge initially was to refine the flame heights and get a consistent flame using smaller nozzles than those supplied to reduce the height and avoid burning the lighting rig.”

Perfect
Although the sell-out tour could have added extra dates in key cities, Camp admits the approach was a little more cautious than it may normally have been. “The live industry was still re-finding its feet when we put our shows on sale for ’22,” says Camp. “I think it was the first stadium tour to go up post pandemic, and we did the same level of business here in Europe as the last tour.”

Confirming the total of 3.1m ticket sales across Europe during 2022, agent Ollier reveals the next tour leg in Australasia will account for another 700,000 tickets. He says, “Of course, a production of this size doesn’t come without its challenges and there are always going to be bumps on the road and nuances, but Ed has set the bar high now, and I genuinely believe this is the most spectacular and ambitious live show on Earth.”

Talking of Sheeran’s development as an artist, Camp adds, “He really has just simply grown in ability and confidence. This is the first tour we have used a band – albeit only for a quarter of the set – but it has bought another dimension and enabled Ed to perform songs that were previously tricky with just one man and a loop pedal.”

Mathematics’ added element of supporting musicians was just one of multiple surprises to entertain and enthral millions of fans.

The emotion and ambition of that opening show in Dublin rolled all over Europe and is set to be repeated across four additional continents before returning to Europe in 2024. As Bren Berry says of that opening night: “You go all in, roll the dice, hold your breath, and hope you hit the jackpot, which of course Ed and his brilliant team have done with this incredible, ground-breaking show. The opening night worked like a dream – the in-the-round atmosphere was electric, and Ed absolutely smashed it out of the park. I can still see the utter delight on his face coming off the stage.” It’s a sight that sets to be replicated a few more times as the rest of the world gets to experience the +–=÷× Tour in all its brilliance and glory.

 

 


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