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IFF ’22: ‘Agents and promoters must stick together’

Top agents and festival promoters say that the spirit of collaboration cultivated during the Covid-19 pandemic must be maintained if the industry is to overcome the next set of challenges.

The discussion took place today at IFF (International Festival Forum) during the panel Festivals & Agents: Happier than ever?, which featured Nikolaj Thorenfeldt (Smash! Bang! Pow!, DK), Chris Payne (WME, UK), Adele Slater (Wasserman Music, UK), Rauha Kyyrö (Fullsteam Agency, FI) and Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool, ES).

Fullsteam’s Kyyrö told IFF delegates that the bright side of the pandemic was an increased sense of understanding and patience among colleagues in the business.

“What I’ve noticed during the summer and autumn is that none of the companies to me seem to be working 100% efficiently,” she said. “I think everyone’s still struggling a little bit with how to set up their business and how to work internally so this is making us a little bit more patient. I’m no longer getting so many angry emails about not responding right away. I might get a reminder, but it’s usually a kinder reminder.”

Wasserman Music’s Slater said the pandemic also gave promoters and agents the chance to get to know the person behind the email address, thus humanising business relationships.

“We all had to club together because no one really knew what was going on at any point,” she said. “With promoters, once you’d rescheduled your shows, you would check in on them and see if they were okay and actually get to know the person rather than asking for a pencil. You had time to get to know people. It helped relationships with people rather than [feed into] the whole agent versus promoter [thing].”

Thorenfeldt from Smash! Bang! Pow! agreed, adding: “Some of the best conversations I’ve had with various business partners was when we actually got to talk about stuff that’s not numbers of whatever. You actually started to get to know certain relationships a lot better, which I think has been incredibly fruitful in a lot of ways since we returned to business. You found out what’s important in some of your work relationships and got a better idea of what sort of pressure each of us is feeling in our everyday life.”

Mad Cool’s Castillo said she personally experienced this newfound empathy from industry peers when the promoter cancelled Mad Cool Sunset.

“I think we have become more willing to look for solutions when problems arise”

The festival was called off after organisers were unable to find a “suitable” replacement for Rage Against The Machine, who recently cancelled all forthcoming dates in the UK and Europe.

“Four or five years ago, the response probably would have been ‘You’re gonna pay me everything now’,” explained Castillo. “Now, 95% of people said ‘Okay, Cindy, don’t worry. We understand the situation. It’s a shame this has happened. Let’s look for a solution.

“I think we have become more willing to look for solutions when problems arise. Maybe a couple of years ago, there would have been more aggressive communication with people demanding what they want but now there’s understanding.”

And it’s not just the bonds between agents and promoters that have strengthened because of the pandemic, according to WME’s Payne.

“We’ve got closer as a team internally because we’ve had to help each other. It might be that one of my colleagues has got a show but I’ve got a better relationship with a promoter and I’ll go down and help a little bit. And hopefully, that’s happening in the promoter world as well. It makes you just run harder and faster and better together.”

The panel agreed that, going forward, different forces in the industry must continue to work as one in order to overcome issues such as soaring costs, staff shortages and talent drains.

“These are crazy circumstances and we need to try and compromise,” continued Payne. “So I’m hoping compromises are a bigger part of everyone’s conversations, from agents to promoters, because we’re in an ecosystem and you don’t have one without the other.”

Thorenfeldt from Smash! Bang! Pow! added: “We want to help great artists achieve their wildest dreams – that’s the mutual goal for all of us. I also think that if there’s a mutual problem we need to look at it together, as well.”


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IQ 110 out now: ILMC, Phil Bowdery, Fullsteam & more

IQ 110, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online and in print now.

The April issue sees IQ magazine return to physical print for the first time in two years. In what is possibly the biggest-ever issue, readers can view the full conference and events agenda for the in-person return of ILMC (International Live Music Conference).

Elsewhere, IQ celebrates Phil Bowdery’s half century career in live music, 20 years of Finland’s Fullsteam agency, and Hans Zimmer’s latest tour.

This issue also examines the world’s fastest-growing entertainment market, the Gulf States, and profiles ten new tech innovations.

For this edition’s columns and comments, Music Export Ukraine’s Alona Dmukhovska expresses her country’s passion for music and Semyon Galperin speaks of the Russian music sector’s support for their friends in Ukraine.

In addition, ASM Global’s Marie Lindqvist highlights the importance of supporting and bringing young people into the heat of the business as part of ILMC’s Bursary Scheme partnership.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next six weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Rauha Kyyrö, Fullsteam Agency

The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021. Catch up on the previous interview with Daniel Brown, event producer/programmer at Birmingham Pride, UK here.


Rauha Kyyrö
Head promoter, Fullsteam Agency
[email protected]

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
I definitely can’t take the credit for any of the production work required to make it happen, but in 2018 we built a 60-metre stage and a 30-truck production for the most popular Finnish artist, Cheek, on top of a lido located basically in a deep pit at the bottom of a ski-jumping stadium, and let’s just say that it was not uncomplicated. But the artist got what he wanted, and we sold out 60,000 tickets.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
When you notice a problem in your workplace, whether it is racism, discrimination or inequality of any kind, cis/heteronormativity, assumed monogamy, or anything that you are not comfortable with, speak up and ask for change. And if they don’t want to listen to you, start your own company – or come work for us!

“Hearing ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ these days makes me almost as sick as ‘Dear Sirs’…”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
I think people often have challenges with what they don’t understand. For example, they might judge you for your life choices and therefore not treat you with respect or give you what you deserve even if what you are doing has nothing to do with your work. When someone takes the risk to be open about their gender identity, sexuality or number of partners, etc., in an environment with so many fucked-up norms, it is usually not a phase.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
To start with, we could easily stop using binary and cisnormative language in all our communication. Hearing ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ these days makes me almost as sick as ‘Dear Sirs’. And what’s the deal with binary toilets still around at festivals and venues? Just make all the toilets unisex, that’s the easiest thing you can do to be more inclusive to trans people, and it helps with queues too!

“Make all the toilets unisex, that’s the easiest thing you can do to be more inclusive to trans people, and it helps with queues too!”

A cause you support.
Questioning norms.

What does the near future of the industry look like?

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
In my experience, people in the live music industry have been nicer, more understanding and more patient during the pandemic. Let’s keep that up. Nobody should have to be intimidated because of a gig.


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#PunksToo: #MeToo moment for Finnish industry

Finland’s major live music companies have condemned all forms of harassment and discrimination following a series of allegations posted on the Instagram account @punkstoo.

The #MeToo-inspired account, which has amassed more than 25,000 followers over the past week, collects anonymous accounts of alleged hate speech, violence and sexual harassment/assault in Finnish punk and rock circles.

Among those to confirm they have contributed their own experiences to the page are Anni Lötjönen from the band Huora, who has spoken of being subjected to violence in the industry, while the band Pää Kii, whose frontman has been linked to some of the allegations, have had a number of festival appearances cancelled.

In a statement, Fullsteam, the leading promoter, management company and record label, thanks those who shared their experiences and linked to a number of resources for those affected by the issues raised.

“The music industry still has a long road to take to eradicate all kinds of discrimination, harassment and violence. It’s overwhelming, but it’s also extremely important to hear how terrible things have been done in our field and how such activities have been repeatedly and constantly made possible,” says the company.

“Thank you to everyone who shared their experience. We hear, see and believe you,” the statement adds. “The problem is deep-rooted and we are not beyond it. We apologise to everyone who has ever been mistreated at our events or otherwise by us, our staff, our audiences, our partners or our artists, and we support every victim.

“Every person must be safe regardless of the situation and the situation, and that’s what each of us must work for. We will be doing everything we can in collaboration with other music industry players to make this happen.”

The company has also provided a link to a Google Form via which people can give anonymous feedback on Fullsteam’s “activities, artists and events”.

The country’s other major live music player, Live Nation Finland, also released a statement in response to the #PunkToo revelations, along with a similar call for feedback: “We would like to thank everyone who participated in the recent discussion and shared their experiences for your courage and openness. [I]t’s time for all of us to act so that nothing like this will happen again in the future.

“We take all harassment cases extremely seriously and will be doing things even better in the future so that everyone can be themselves and enjoy themselves safely at our events.

“It’s obvious that sexual harassment, violence, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and any other harassment is not acceptable under any circumstances. It’s not part of our events, nor our work environment.

“We are currently working on the prevention of harassment and creating an action model we will introduce in our upcoming events.”

“As a company, we commit ourselves to developing our own understanding and activities, so that we can be a part of a more tolerant and safe future for everyone,” the company adds. “You can leave us anonymously feedback regarding our events or the artists we represent. We will use the feedback we received to improve our activities and raise awareness: https://bit.ly/Avoinpalaute.”

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150,000 buy tickets for virtual Nightwish show

Finnish metal band Nightwish were joined by more than 150,000 fans from 108 countries for their recent virtual concert experience, An Evening With Nightwish in a Virtual World, which streamed on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 May.

Six months in the making, the show – a co-production of promoter Fullsteam Agency, VR studio Zoan and the band’s management company, Till Dawn They Count – follows Fullsteam and Zoan’s previous collaboration with the city of Helsinki, which attracted 1.4 million fans to a free virtual show by rap group JVG last May.

An Evening with Nightwish welcomed fans of Nightwish, Finland’s most successful musical export, to a 3D virtual world designed in partnership with the band, where they could watch the concert while also moving around and interacting with other concertgoers. Tickets for the show were priced between €25 and €109.

According to Fullsteam, that translates to ticket income in the seven figures (more than €1m), equivalent to a “large stadium-sized concert”.

“The key is to understand that we are not trying to replicate a live show here – it is a completely different thing”

“We all knew that there would be a lot of demand for this show, but honestly I was blown away by how great it turned out and how many tickets we sold,” says Fullsteam’s Rauha Kyyrö. “I think there is a huge potential for virtual shows that can be very unique experiences for fans.

“I think the key is to understand that we are not trying to replicate a live show here – it is a completely different thing and has to be designed to be enjoyed at home and on your portable devices. And I personally don’t think anything will ever replace the live experience anyway.”

A 30-person team – half of them Nightwish fans –  from technical producer Zoan was responsible for creating the virtual world, which included a virtual tavern, The Islanders’ Arms. Zoan used a combination of high-end technology, such as photorealistic scans, and the latest Unreal game engine to produce the experience.

“It feels amazing to have cracked the code on how to provide virtual live entertainment directly to the fans,” says Zoan CEO Miikka Rosendahl. “This is the beginning of an entire new segment in the music industry.”


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Finland’s festival season dramatically reduces

Finland’s 2021 festival season has dramatically shrunk with the cancellations of major festivals such as Ruisrock, Ilosaarirock, Provinssi and Sideways.

Though event cancellation insurance for organisers may be on the horizon, according to the Finish government’s newly unveiled exit strategy, restrictions on public events will be the last to ease.

A lack of certainty about the forthcoming festival summer is the primary cause for the second consecutive cancellation of Ruisrock (9–11 July 2021), the oldest festival in Finland and the second-oldest in Europe.

In a statement on the festival’s website, the organiser writes: “Our biggest wish this past year has been that we could organise Ruisrock again. The longing for the audience, performers and all of us for the festival has been hand touching and we did everything we could to have organised a party in Ruissalo after a hard year.

“There are no conditions for [gathering people] in the current uncertain situation”

“Ruisrock has gathered people together for over 50 years to experience unforgettable experiences. However, there are no conditions for this in the current uncertain situation, so it is with a broken heart that we have to cancel the summer festival.”

Martin Garrix, Major Lazer, Zara Larsson, Blackbear and Alan Walker were among the artists who would’ve played Ruisrock 2021. The festival will return between 8–10 July 2022 in Ruissalo, Turku.

The 50th-anniversary edition of Ilosaarirock  – the second longest-running festival in Finland – has also been cancelled due to ‘the rapidly changing and largely uncertain situation with Covid-19’.

“We believe that Ilosaarirock deserves to be celebrated at full throttle and a scaled-down version of it just will not do,” reads a statement on the festival’s website. “Since the current situation is so unpredictable, it is simply not possible to go ahead and organise an event of this size and scale.”

Organisers have said that by cancelling this year’s festival they are able to secure the future of Ilosaarirock.

“It is simply not possible to go ahead and organise an event of this size and scale”

Liam Gallagher, Yungblud and Sam Feldt were due to play the 2021 edition. The 2022 edition of Ilosaarirock Festival is slated for 15–17 July in Joensuu.

Elsewhere, Finnish promoter Fullsteam has pulled the plug on Provinssi (1–3 July, Seinäjoki), which debuted in 1979, and Sideways (17–19 June, Helsinki).

In similar statements, the organisers say they are ‘focusing our energy on next year’s festival’.

Sideways, which would have hosted artists including Kelis, Jarvis Cocker and Belle & Sebastian, will return between 16–18 June, 2022.

Povinssi, which would have been headlined by Korn, Pendulum Trinity and The Offspring, will be held between 30 June–2 July next year.

At the time of writing, Superstruct’s Flow Festival (13–15 August) and Live Nation Finland’s hip-hop event Blockfest (20–21 August), are still on.


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60% of Finnish businesses facing bankruptcy

More than 60% of Finland’s live events companies do not expect to survive the next six months, new research reveals.

A survey conducted in October by the recently launched Event Industry Association (Tapahtumateollisuus) – which incorporates all major Finnish concert businesses, including Fullsteam Agency, Live Nation Finland, Warner Music Live and CTS Eventim’s Lippupiste –  found that over 70% of businesses still have next to no work and nearly two thirds believe they will not survive until summer 2021.

“The companies in our sector are in an unprecedentedly difficult situation,” explains Kati Kuusisto, director of advocacy for the Event Industry Association.

“The constantly changing situation and recommendations weaken our customers’ confidence and willingness to buy [tickets], while compliance with the applicable restrictions increases the cost of organising events,” she adds.

According to the association, there are around 3,200 companies involved in organising live events in Finland, with the total value of the industry estimated at €2.35 billion. The sector employs 20,000 full-time, and 175,000 temporary, workers.

Kuusisto says the industry needs an “exit strategy” in the form of urgent financial support and increased cooperation with the authorities, as well as a campaign that reassure Finns they may return to shows safely.

“We need to restore customers’ trust and send them a message that participating in safe events is OK”

“Adequate financial support must be a priority, so that the damage to the ecosystem, which is vital to our sector’s activities, does not become permanent,” she continues. “Immediately thereafter, cooperation between [the industry], authorities and the government ministries should ensure that the [coronavirus] constraints and recommendations for events are at an appropriate level.

“All means available implement safe events, such as functional rapid testing, must also be widely deployed. At the same time, we need to restore customers’ trust and send them a message that participating in safe events is OK.”

In an open letter to the press written in late September, the Tapahtumateollisuus criticised media outlets for fuelling fears about Covid-19 by inaccurately pointing to major events as the source of an increase in infections in Finland.

“During the coronavirus epidemic, professional event organisers have made investments and taken comprehensive measures to make it possible to stage events safely,” the association said. “The loss of customers, and even entire events, caused by incorrect news coverage are already deepening the losses of companies in the sector and threatening the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.”


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700,000+ attend virtual May Day concert in Helsinki

At least 700,000 people – around 13% of the population of Finland – celebrated May Day (1 May) by watching a Fortnite-inspired virtual concert by Finnish rap duo JVG.

JVG, among the biggest hip-hop stars in Finland, were forced to cancel eight arena shows in April due to the impact of the coronavirus. The virtual concert – put together by the band’s promoter, Fullsteam Agency, virtual-reality studio Zoan and the city of Helsinki – was viewed by more than a million people simultaneously at its peak, while a further 225,000 people saw it online over the weekend, for a combined total audience of 1.4m.

“I have always thought that we are in the business of bringing people together, and it feels incredibly comforting to be able to do so in the middle of everything that is going on at the moment,” says Rauha Kyyrö, head promoter at Fullsteam, which has been forced to cancel or postpone over 500 shows this summer, including its festivals Provinssi and Sideways.

“It’s only love that gets you through, but it’s music that makes you move.”

“It feels incredibly comforting to be able to bring people together”

Utilising Zoan’s Burst Live and Virtual Helsinki platforms, the band performed against a green screen, while a virtual stage was set on Senate Square in Helsinki.

Inspired, says Zoan, by “the success of gigs in gaming platform Fortnite” (which also hosted a live performance, by Diplo, at the weekend), concertgoers were able to choose avatars and interact with the artist with different gestures and emojis. According to Google Analytics, the audience used the interaction features over 10m times during the one-hour show.

“The first of May is one of the most prominent public holidays in Finland. People have generations-long traditions of celebrating Vappu [Walpurgis Night] in large groups, outside, in restaurants and with picnics,” explains Jan Vapaavuori, the mayor of Helsinki.

“By combining Helsinki’s collaboration with Fullsteam, Zoan and our tradition for new technology experimentation we were able to create a virtual experience that brought together some of the traditional elements of Vappu to a new virtual reality.”


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Finland: No events over 500 people until end of July

Finland has extended its ban on major events until at least 31 July, forcing the cancellation of many of the summer’s biggest music festivals, including some of Europe’s oldest open-air events.

Among the festivals affected by the extension, announced following a government meeting yesterday (23 April), are Ilosaarirock (17–19 July) in Joensuu – the second longest-running festival in Finland – and Fullsteam’s Provinssi (25–27 June) and Sideways (11–13 June), as well as several smaller events.

In near-identical statements, Provinssi, which debuted in 1979, and Sideways (which would have been headlined by System of a Down and the Chemical Brothers, and Kelis and Belle and Sebastian, respectively) say they are “heartbroken” by the cancellations and hope to announce the first performers for 2021 soon.

Joensuun Popmuusikot-organised Ilosaarirock says it “understands the government’s decision and accepts it”, and plans to make its delayed 50th-anniversary event in 2021 “the best festival ever”. Tones and I, Yungblud, Machine Gun Kelly and Sam Fender would have played Ilosaarirock 2020.

Elsewhere, Ruisrock – the oldest festival in Finland and the second-oldest in Europe, after the Netherlands’ similarly cancelled Pinkpop – was cancelled earlier this month on the order of Turku city authorities. It would have featured performances from Khalid, DaBaby, Zara Larsson and more.

“The decision … is the only responsible option in the current situation”

“Cancelling the festival is an extremely difficult decision for the organisers. We have been working for almost a year to bring more joy and happiness to the world through Ruisrock, like in the previous summers,” says Ruisrock promoter Mikko Niemelä. “For us and thousands of others, this festival is the highlight of the year, and it is heartbreaking to imagine a summer without Ruisrock.

“However, the decision we have made is the only responsible option in the current situation. The coronavirus spreads when people get together, so now is not the time to gather tens of thousands of people in the same place.”

The new guidelines in Finland follow similar decisions taken by governments elsewhere in Europe, including the Netherlands, where large events are banned until 1 September, and GermanyBelgium and Denmark, where a ban is in place until 31 August – as well as slightly shorter bans in France (mid-July) Austria (end of June) and Luxembourg (31 July) – and is in line with European Union guidance. In neighbouring Sweden, meanwhile, events over 50 people are off-limits for the foreseeable future.

“As far as events in late summer and early autumn are concerned, an assessment will be made no later than the start of June,” reads a statement from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, announcing the new restrictions.

Those events include Superstruct’s Flow Festival (14–16 August) and Live Nation Finland hip-hop event Blockfest (21–22 August), both of which are still on at the time of writing.


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Ed Sheeran plays Finland’s biggest-ever concert

Ed Sheeran has broken more records, with two shows promoted by Fullsteam Agency in Finland attracting more visitors than any other live music event in the country’s history.

The Helsinki shows combined constitute the biggest concert event to take place in the country, surpassing the record of 104,000 attendees set by two U2 concerts at Helsinki Olympic Stadium in 2010.

The two Ed Sheeran shows were also attended by more people than Finland’s three-day Ruisrock festival, which brings in around 105,000 visitors each year, according to Fullsteam.

Sheeran previously beat ticket sales records in South Africa, selling 230,000 tickets across four dates as part of his multi-record breaking ÷ tour, which ended 2018 as the highest-grossing tour of the last 30 years.

Originally intended as a one-date show, all 60,000 tickets for the concert were snapped up in 20 minutes, with a second date later added to meet demand.

“The event was extraordinarily well planned and executed”

The concerts, which took place on 23 and 24 July, were the first-ever large-scale entertainment events to take place at Helsinki’s Malmi Airport.

“The event was extraordinarily well planned and executed and, from the City of Helsinki’s point of view, the collaboration was seamless,” comments the city’s deputy mayor for urban environment, Anni Sinnemäki.

“We warmly welcome other productions to Malmi Airport in the future.”

Fullsteam, part of the FKP Scorpio group, reported a record-breaking summer last year, with a combined attendance of more than 100,000 for the promoter’s festivals, Provinssi and Sideways. Provinssi saw a slight drop in attendance this year, down to 73,000 visitors from the previous year’s 76,000.

German metal band Rammstein are set to play two Fullsteam-promoted shows at the 32,000-capacity Ratina Stadium in Tampere, Finland, on 9 and 10 August. Tickets for the earlier date are still available, priced at €99.


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