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Euro festival bosses preview ‘challenging’ 2024 season

European festival bosses have reflected on mixed fortunes for the 2024 festival season.

While some events have reported bumper sales and speedy sellouts, others have been forced to take a break or call it quits altogether.

Regardless of boom or bust, the challenges of staging a festival in the current climate are being felt across the board.

In 2024, organisers are grappling with a laundry list of problems, from extreme weather to spiralling costs and a lack of headliners to unpredictable ticket sales.

“Sales are okay but not outstanding compared to 2022 or 2023,” says Christof Huber, director of festivals at Gadget in Switzerland and chair of European festival association Yourope.

“There are a little less stadium shows compared to 2023 which helps”

“There are a little less stadium shows compared to 2023 which helps, but it’s also needed for this festival season.”

Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, adds “The overall conditions of the festival market remain very challenging. Frankly, it has become very challenging to promote festivals in a way that keeps pushing things forward and is economically viable.”

Skyrocketing costs have been a primary concern for festival organisers and, according to Thanscheidt, that’s not set to change.

“Tight margins are by far our biggest challenge,” he tells IQ. “The costs in virtually every area of festival production have risen considerably since the pandemic with no signs of slacking off.

“Exploding costs in all areas paired with cautious purchasing behaviour are keeping all promoters on their toes. Of course, we do not want to simply pass these costs on to our guests. Music and culture must stay as affordable as possible, and I consider it our duty to find ways to mitigate this troubling development, both by cross-financing as well as using synergies across our group.”

“People rewarded our booking efforts with a high demand”

Whilst acknowledging spiralling costs, Jim King, CEO of European Festivals for AEG Presents, urged festival organisers to “concentrate more on value than they do on cost”.

“The first natural reaction when costs go up is to have fewer stages and smaller production,” he told delegates during February’s ILMC 36.

“But if you reduce the value, you reduce the experience and then you’re on a downward spiral. If you look at the most successful festivals, they’re actually adding more value to the ticket. We worry too much about ticket price and not enough about the value of the ticket.”

Indeed, festivals that have adopted the “go big or go home” attitude with booking lineups and enhancing experiences have prospered in the challenging climate.

“It’s great to see that strong festival brands like Paléo Festival Nyon or Lowlands, which have created great lineups and also are famous for their unique experiences, have sold out right after going on sale,” says Huber.

“The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue”

FKP Scorpio’s Southside and Hurricane festivals are also set to sell out, thanks to blockbuster lineups led by Ed Sheeran, K.I.Z, Bring Me The Horizon, Avril Lavigne and Deichkind.

“People rewarded our booking efforts with a high demand,” he says. “Especially in these challenging times, I’m very grateful for the continued trust of our festivalgoers. We consider ourselves very lucky that our festival brands continue to be successful.”

Other festivals that have been rewarded for first-class lineups include Reading & Leeds, which has reported a sell-out Saturday headlined by Lana Del Rey and Fred Again.., as well as the 20th anniversary of Tomorrowland Belgium, the return of Germany’s Wacken Open Air, the Netherlands’ Down The Rabbit Hole and (of course) the UK’s Glastonbury Festival.

While these major festivals have delivered impressive lineups against all odds, securing headliners has been no mean feat.

“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent,” King said at ILMC. “When they’re prepared to confirm, how we can get that show announced and then the sales window that we’re dealing with. The shows we’re putting up are selling very strongly. The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue.”

“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent”

Download Festival boss Andy Copping has echoed those challenges, telling Planet Rock that the 2024 edition was the “hardest year” to secure a line-up, having approached 21 bands to find headliners.

Huber says the drought of headliners could be a symptom of increased domestic touring during the pandemic. “A lot of domestic artists took breaks after touring intensively after Corona,” he explains. “Therefore, the competition for international artists was quite intense.”

Another challenge that has become more prominent in recent years is the impact of extreme weather on festivals, which in turn has driven up insurance premiums.

In the last 12 months, a raft of major events have been hindered due to extreme weather including Primavera Sound Madrid, Awakenings in the Netherlands, Bluedot in the UK, Slovenia’s MetalDays, the UK’s Kaleidoscope, shows by Louis Tomlinson show and Ed Sheeran in the US, Burning Man, Taylor Swift in Brazil, Elton John in New Zealand, Wacken Open Air in Germany, Sol Blume in the US.

In the US, adverse weather coverage has “increased significantly” in the last five years, according to Jeff Torda from Higginbotham. Backing this point, a recent Billboard article claimed premiums in North America had tripled in recent years.

“There will be more shows that fail because the barrier to entry, financially, is so high and the risk point is so high”

While in the UK market, Martin Goebells at Miller Insurance says, “Today additional premiums for adverse weather are 50% higher than eight years ago.”

Another major source of cancellations has been the challenging economic climate, in the UK and Australia in particular.

In the UK, PennFest, 110 Above Festival, NASS Festival and Barn On The Farm have been called off due to financial challenges, while Connect Music Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division and Splendour were called off for varying reasons. A further 100 festivals are at permanent risk without action, according to trade body the Association of Independent Festivals.

Meanwhile, Australia’s festival sector is “in crisis” after cancellations from Splendour in the Grass, Groovin The Moo, Coastal Jam, Summerground, Vintage Vibes, Tent Pole: A Musical Jamboree and ValleyWays. A first-of-its-kind report found that only half of the country’s festivals are profitable.

King says that unfortunately festivals failing is part and parcel of the business: “The attrition rate is always going to be high. There will be more shows that fail because the barrier to entry, financially, is so high and the risk point is so high. I think it’s devastating. But that’s the direction of travel. I think it’s very difficult to change.”

The coming months may prove challenging for some but with the consistently high demand for live music experiences, many festivals are looking forward to their biggest and best editions yet.

 


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Gadget abc swoops for Swiss festival

Switzerland’s Gadget abc Entertainment Group has secured a majority stake in the Stars in Town festival.

The Swiss festival attracts around 60,000 visitors a year over two weekends to Schaffhausen’s Old Town. It will now become part of Gadget’s extensive festival portfolio, which also includes OpenAir St.Gallen, SummerDays Festival Arbon, Seaside Festival, Unique Moments at the National Museum Zurich and Radar Festival.

The companies have partnered for many years, with all contact partners, as well as management and company headquarters, set to remain unchanged in the wake of the deal.

Festival director and board member Adrian Brugger remains a shareholder of Stars in Town with a minority stake and will continue in his role.

“With the integration of Stars in Town, one of the highest-quality festivals in Switzerland, into the Gadget Group, the story that began together a long time ago will gain a new chapter,” says Christof Huber, director festivals & events at Gadget.

“We are very much looking forward to working even more closely with Christof Huber and the entire Gadget team”

Huber has been jointly responsible for booking Stars in Town for a decade and has been a board member since 2015.

“I warmly welcome Adi Brugger and his team to the Gadget family,” he adds. “Over the past few years, they have established Stars in Town as one of the most important festivals in Switzerland. I look forward to developing the festival together with them and to offering all Schaffhausen residents and guests even more exciting artists and an even more intense musical experience.”

Stars in Town will gain direct access to the Gadget network and benefit from expanded opportunities in booking, ticketing, marketing and sponsorship, among other areas.

“We are very much looking forward to working even more closely with Christof Huber and the entire Gadget team,” adds Brugger. “Thanks to this strong support, we will not only lead the festival into a successful future but also further strengthen Schaffhausen as a regional centre for culture and entertainment.”

The festival’s next edition will take place in Schaffhausen from 2-10 August, featuring acts such as Placebo, Passenger, Tom Odell, Status Quo and Editors.

 


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Promoters address Rammstein cancellation calls

Promoters have responded to calls to cancel Rammstein’s European tour, amid the flurry of sexual misconduct accusations made against the group’s frontman Till Lindemann.

The German metal band’s stadium tour has been marred by claims that multiple women were recruited to have sex with Lindemann, 60, at Rammstein shows. The selected women are said to have been given access to a so-called “Row Zero” – a restricted area directly in front of the stage.

Berlin police confirmed earlier this month that they were investigating Lindemann “relating to sexual offences and the distribution of narcotics” – allegations the singer’s legal team have dismissed as “without exception untrue”.

The wave of complaints came after a woman from Northern Ireland went public with her belief that she had been drugged by Lindemann at an afterparty in Vilnius, Lithuania on 22 May. However, the case is not being pursued after a subsequent investigation found “no objective factual evidence” that would prove she had been subjected to physical or mental coercion.

Nevertheless, DW reports that close to 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding the cancellation of Rammstein’s three sold-out concerts at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on 15-16 and 18 July. Around 150 protesters gathered outside the band’s gig in Bern, Switzerland, in mid June and a further protest has been organised ahead of their July shows at the Stadspark in Groningen, the Netherlands.

“There is no legal basis for a concert cancellation”

Gadget ABC, which promoted the group’s 17-18 June concerts in Bern, responded to an open letter from Swiss citizens’ movement JUSO Switzerland and Campax calling for the events to be called off.

“Such allegations of sexualised violence must be taken seriously,” said JUSO president Nicola Siegrist. “The organisers have to do the only right thing and cancel the concerts.”

In its response, published ahead of the dates and signed by Gadget’s Christof Huber, Eric Kramer, Oliver Rosa, Cyrill Stadler and Stefan Wyss, the company said it “disassociates itself from any form of violence and abuse and takes the current allegations very seriously”. It added that the current public discussion “raises very important questions” that promoters must engage with.

“The allegations levelled against the band are serious,” it continued. “Gadget does not want to participate in prejudice. We have no knowledge of that band or a band member has been proven to have committed a criminal offence. Against this background there is no legal basis for a concert cancellation vis-à-vis our contractual partner. A breach of contract would have consequences that would not be compatible with our sense of responsibility towards our employees, suppliers and partners.”

Regarding the “so-called ‘Row Zero'”, Gadget stressed that no guests beyond “security services, photographers, etc,” would be permitted to enter the zone.

“We have a structural problem in the concert scene that is now finally being talked about”

Groningen City Council also announced that promoter Greenhouse Talent had confirmed there will be no “Row Zero” for fans to stand, nor an afterparty, for the group’s upcoming shows in the Dutch city.

German trade association BDKV recently added its support to the Alliance against Sexism in the wake of the allegations. The Alliance against Sexism coalition is led by family minister Lisa Paus, who has proposed changes for the music business including protective areas for women at concerts and the use of “awareness teams” to regularly check what is happening backstage.

“Without prejudging the specific case, the way I perceive the discussion, we have a structural problem in the concert scene that is now finally being talked about,” Paus told Bild am Sonntag.

The Rammstein Stadium Tour, which is due to wrap up in Belgium later this summer, resumes in Padova, Italy this Saturday (1 July). It will then stop in Groningen, Budapest, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Chorzow, before concluding with three nights at Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium from 3-5 August.

In an Instagram post to fans earlier this month, the band asked not to be prejudged.

“The accusations have hit us all very hard and we take them extremely seriously,” read the statement. “To our fans we say: It is important to us that you feel comfortable and safe at our shows – in front of and behind the stage. We condemn any kind of assault and ask you: Do not participate in prejudgments of any kind toward those who have made accusations. They have a right to their point of view. But we, the band, also have a right — not to be prejudged either.”

 


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André Béchir to operate new Eventim Live company

André Béchir will operate a new company under the Eventim Live umbrella, in collaboration with Swiss-French promoter TAKK.

Béchir was acting as a senior advisor to CTS Eventim-backed Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG under a three-year contract that ended last year.

He will continue to co-operate with Gadget abc on shows such as Bruce Springsteen, Herbert Grönemeyer and Eros Ramazzotti.

With his new company, Béchir will stay part of Eventim Live promoter network and collaborate with TAKK, using its infrastructure and team for the new shows to come.

Sebastien Vuignier’s TAKK and Gadget abc have collaborated for the last five years on concerts for Muse, Sam Smith, Bon Iver and others.

“I am very proud to now work side by side with André, a pioneer and internationally recognised market leader”

“I have known Seb since he was at Paleo Festival,” says Béchir. “Through his passion for music and his sense of business, he could establish his name and his company TAKK as a leading international promoter. I am very happy to be collaborating with him, with Théo and the whole TAKK team.”

Vuignier adds: “I met André Béchir more than 20 years ago. I was his local partner in the French-speaking part of Switzerland while I was working at Paleo Festival. I learned a lot and could always count on support from André, working on my first arena and stadium shows at that time. I am very proud to now work side by side with this pioneer and internationally recognised market leader.”

Théo Quiblier, who joined TAKK last September, comments: “When André promoted The Rolling Stones in Lausanne in 2007, little did he know 11 years old Théo was attending his very first show with his father and fell in love with the magic of shows. André has always been an inspiration for me and I cannot wait to work with him and learn from him. Nothing but huge respect on my side for his illustrious career. Bring on the shows!”

Béchir’s abc Production was amalgamated with Gadget and Wepromote by CTS Eventim just a month or two before the pandemic hit. The newly formed Gadget abc Entertainment Group is 60%-owned by Eventim, with the rest held by the Swiss partners.

 


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The New Bosses 2022: Daytona Häusermann, Gadget ABC

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with David Nguyen, booker at Rock for People in the Czech Republic. The series continues with Daytona Häusermann, agent at Gadget ABC in Switzerland.

Häusermann started working for Gadget in 2016, as an intern doing mostly preproduction for promoting shows, as well as domestic artists. After her internship, she was able to build up her own roster of domestic artists, from newcomers to more established talent.

Besides working as an agent, Häusermann is responsible for the artist production of Radar Festival, booking the concert series ANTE, as well as Gadget’s new hip-hop festival SPEX launching in Berne 2023.

Before joining Gadget, she worked for a small event agency and an indie label, amongst other things. She was always attracted by the experience of a live show, growing up around Rote Fabrik in Zürich where her mother worked as a sound engineer.

 


Your mother was a sound engineer. Did that influence your choice to find a career in live music?
I guess it just showed me that a career in this industry is an option. Having the possibility to see behind the curtain of the live industry probably just put it on a plate for me.

Lots of people are trying to find a job in the music industry. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a foot in the door?
The Swiss market is kind of small so there are not a lot of jobs on the market. Sending your application proactively to all the companies you could imagine working for is a way to get their attention. Often doing an internship is the way into the industry – but you must be able to afford this, which is not self-evident.

As a young person working in the highly competitive Swiss market, how do you try to find an edge over your rivals – are there particular events or forums you rely on to help you connect and network with agents, for example?
I attend the international showcase festivals like Reeperbahn, ESNS, The Great Escape, etc and try to be present at as many events as possible in Switzerland – always on the hunt for new talented acts and to keep my network strong.

Do you have any mentors you can turn to for advice?
I would love to name a woman – but unfortunately there isn’t one in my career path. I hope this will change in the future.

“I would love to name a woman [mentor] but unfortunately there isn’t one in my career path”

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
To keep people working in this adventurous and stressful industry happy and healthy, I feel like it is important to invest in a good HR department and be sensitive about employees’ needs and individual career planning, especially for women.

What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
Still waiting for the moment to see Cher live from the pit! I had many highlights. It’s always very rewarding seeing the growth of an artist or seeing a project like a festival working out!

What are the biggest lessons that you learned during the Covid pandemic that you can use to help with your career going forward?
That I need more sleep and more relaxation. Spoiler: I was not able to keep this up.

What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to find a job in live music?
Keep yourself informed about the market, new acts, trends, attend concerts, festivals, and find out which field in this diverse industry really interests you the most. And try your luck!

 


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The New Bosses: Introducing the class of 2022

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine‘s New Bosses can now be revealed, highlighting 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

New Bosses 2022 inspired the most engaged voting process to date, with hundreds of people taking the time to submit nominations. The final 20 comprises executives working across agencies, promoters, ticketing companies, charities and venues in 12 different countries.

In no particular order, the New Bosses 2022 are:

Benji Fritzenschaft, DreamHaus (DE).
Clara Cullen, Music Venue Trust (UK).
Dan Rais, CAA (CO).
David Nguyen, Rock The People (CZ).
Daytona Häusermann, Gadget ABC (CH).
Grant Hall, ASM Global (US).
James Craigie, Goldenvoice (UK).
Kathryn Dryburgh, ATC Live (UK).
Resi Scheurmann, Konzertbüro Schoneberg (DE).
Seny Kassaye, Fort Agency (CA).
Agustina Cabo, Move Concerts (AR).
Sönke Schal, Karsten Janke Konzertdirektion (DE).
Steel Hanf, Proxy Agency (US).
Steff James, Live Nation (UK).
Stella Scocco, Södra Teatern (SE).
Vegard Storaas, Live Nation (NO).
Lewis Wilde, DICE (UK).
Zoe Williamson, UTA (US).
Jonathan Hou, Live Nation (US).
Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step (PL).

Subscribers can read shortened profiles of each of the 2022 New Bosses in issue 114 of IQ Magazine, which is out now. Full-length Q&As will appear on IQ in the coming days and weeks.

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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Gadget abc delivers pro-vaccination concert series

Swiss powerhouse Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG has been enlisted by the federal government to organise and produce an ‘information and concert series’ to encourage the unvaccinated to get their jabs.

The ‘Back on Tour’ series comprises five open-air concerts, taking place during national vaccination week (8–13 November) in cantons with low vaccination rates.

Swiss artists Dabu, Danitsa, Kunz, Stefanie Heinzmann and Stress, as well as the special guests Anna Rossinelli, Baschi and Sophie Hunger, will perform in Thun, Lausanne, Sion, St. Gallen and Lucerne.

Each concert will admit 500 people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, who snapped up one of the 2,500 free tickets. Vaccination buses will be parked at each site.

The concerts are subject to the current coronavirus regulations which say that outdoor events without a certificate or seat requirement can take place with a maximum of 500 people. The organisers hope such restrictions will help to ‘arouse the audience’s longing for normalcy’.

“[This] will remind us of how we all went to concerts two years ago without any reservations or limits”

“[The ‘Back on Tour’ concert series] will remind us of how we all went to concerts two years ago without any reservations or limits and enjoyed our social and cultural life without any restrictions,” says Marco Meroni, member of the management team at Rod Kommunikation, the agency that implemented the entire vaccination campaign on behalf of the Federal Office of Public Health.

Oliver Rosa, managing partner and director artists and brands at Gadget, added: “In this varied and challenging project, we were able to benefit from the experience and our network as the largest organiser and leading management agency in Switzerland.”

The company says it was given a lead time of just four weeks to put together the ‘Back on Tour’ concert series.

“The pandemic has been paralysing our industry for almost two years. We want to get involved and show our colours to get out of there as quickly as possible. The informative component of the vaccination week with a wide variety of concerts combining Swiss artists made sense to us,” added Rosa.

Last year, CTS Eventim acquired a majority stake in Gadget, uniting André Béchir’s abc Production with the wepromote consortium of companies.

The wepromote joint venture was formed four years ago by a group of Swiss promoters including Gadget Entertainment, Incognito Productions, wildpony, OpenAir St Gallen, SummerDays Festival, Seaside Festival and wepromote Live.

 


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