ILMC 36: Festival heads discuss headliner drought
European festival organisers came together at ILMC 36 to discuss the sector’s biggest challenges, including the lack of available headliners.
Cindy Castillo, Mad Cool (ES), Jim King, AEG Presents (UK), Jess Phillips, Untitled Group (AU), Jan Quiel, Wacken Open Air (DE) and Annika Hintz, Superbloom (DE) took the stage for Festival Forum: Headline Topics, moderated by UTA’s Jules De Lattre.
“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent,” said King. “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.”
Castillo added: “The most difficult thing this year has definitely been booking headliners and being able to deliver a good lineup. The time between sending our first offer and getting a headliner confirmed was the longest period ever. This is due to many circumstances: the cost, production, dates, not wanting to tour, saturation of the market.”
“The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue”
De Lattre suggested the lack of headliners was partly down to the boom in arena and stadium tours.
“Major artists have less of a financial incentive to play festivals since the headline touring business is more rewarding than ever,” he said. “You’ve got higher income on a headlining tour, you’ve got better routes and full control of your production.”
King added: “More acts need to tour festivals and that’s the most urgent issue we have to address.”
Phillips, from Australian promoter Untitled Group, added that it’s not just the availability of headliners that’s an issue but the “astronomical” cost of bringing them to her country. “The problem with that is our breakeven just skyrockets,” she said.
Phillips believes this is the reason why festival cancellations in Australia are mounting: “What we’ve seen recently is festivals putting all their money into securing a good headliner and then collapsing eight days after going on sale because they can tell from that they’re not going to get anywhere near that breakeven.”
“We worry too much about ticket price and not enough about the value of the ticket”
While rising costs are still an ongoing concern in the sector, panellists said they were determined to find solutions.
“There are bits and pieces to cover those costs,” said Jan Quiel. “We’ve been doing VIP packages and making a little extra on glamping, which we only started doing a couple of years ago.”
Castillo adds: “The only possible solution is to get creative about it and face new challenges with new solutions. We can’t control the situation because it’s a world thing, not a local thing.”
King argued that festival organisers should be “concentrating more on value than they do on cost”.
“We need to convince people that going to a festival will be just as much of an enriching experience as going on holiday”
“The first natural reaction when costs go up is to have less – less stages and smaller production,” he said. “If you reduce the value, you reduce the experience and then you’re on a downward spiral. I think 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.”
“That doesn’t address the attrition rate, which 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.”
Phillips agreed, adding that the value of a festival needs to match that of a holiday: “It can’t just be a stage and a hotdog stand, fans need to see an immersive experience. We need to convince people that going to a festival will be just as much of an enriching experience as going on holiday or spending your money on something else.
“We project the message that live music is just one element of our festivals and that there are many other activities. We want to deliver a whole other world, like a holiday destination. And that’s what we’re seeing is the most successful outcome.”
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The Deutsche entertainer: Peter Schwenkow
As Deutsche Entertainment AG eyes yet another record year, its founder and CEO, Peter Schwenkow, is celebrating some personal milestones of his own: 50 years in business and the small matter of his 70th birthday on 23 March. Gordon Masson learns about Schwenkow’s path to the top and his future ambitions for DEAG…
Blessed with an innate entrepreneurial spirit, thankfully it has been the live music industry that has mostly benefitted from Peter Schwenkow’s eye for a deal over the last five decades.
Indeed, his very first business, as a teenager, revolved around music. “When I was 12 or 13, I started to play the guitar,” he tells IQ. “I learned the Beatles songbook by heart, and I discovered that other people wanted to do the same, so when I was 16, I started teaching others. That was only successful to a certain point because after a couple of years, they could play better than I could. So I found out early that I was a good teacher and a good motivator but not the best musician.”
Nevertheless, Schwenkow was earning a significant chunk of money, enabling him to buy his first car, aged 18. “I had eight to ten students a week, paying me ten Deutsche Marks (DM) – so maybe €100 net, these days.”
Being able to afford his own transportation soon kick-started another business idea – this time more in line with his father who ran a large Citroen and Mitsubishi dealership. “I bought old cars, refurbished them, and sold them for twice the price,” says Schwenkow. “One guy who was working for Karsten Jahnke bought one of my cars, and before I knew it, they offered me a job as a driver for the company because Karsten’s company was (and still is) based in my hometown of Hamburg.
“And so, 50 years ago, my first job for Karsten Jahnke was to bring Deep Purple to the Easter Rock Meeting.”
It was not the easiest introduction to live music. “There was a curfew, and they had to stop the show, which made people really angry when we were leaving the venue – they were running over my car, shouting at the band that they should have played for longer. It was a bit of a catastrophe, but I didn’t get nervous. And for a few months, besides school, I was driving artists for Karsten, at the age of 20.”
“I did everything from picking up the phone, filling out money transfer certificates, and putting the posters into envelopes to send to the box offices”
That casual work turned into something more concrete once Schwenkow finished school, when he was offered a full-time position at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion. “I did everything from picking up the phone, filling out money transfer certificates, and putting the posters into envelopes to send to the box offices. This was long before Ticketmaster, Eventim, or others started, when we had to distribute tickets physically. But it allowed me to learn everything from scratch.
“It was all good training because later, whenever somebody was working for me, I knew how to do every part of the job and could help them learn.”
Schwenkow’s next step in the music business was with legendary promoter Fritz Rau, of Lippmann & Rau, for whom he toured with bands for about a year before relocating to Berlin – at that time a very different, isolated city, located behind the Iron Curtain.
“Fritz taught me to always make sure that the artists felt comfortable,” he reports. “You made sure that they all had their hotel rooms. And you also had the responsibility to count the tickets that came back, so if you had a capacity of 5,000 and only 3,000 tickets sold, you had to physically count the unsold 2,000 tickets to make sure everything balanced.”
Schwenkow looks back on those early days as some of the most interesting of his life. “I worked for an artist called Hanns Dieter Hüsch. Nobody knows him outside Germany, but he is still remembered fondly here. He toured with a big Hammond organ, and I was driving a Mercedes Benz 180 from 1958, which had a huge trunk, which the Hammond organ would fit in, so Hanns Dieter would sit alongside me and chat for hours and hours between cities, discussing politics or whatever. I loved the guy, because his brain was so sharp.
“In fact, it was because of him that I decided to make a career in the entertainment business. In my family, you could either become a doctor or a lawyer, but when I discovered you could meet people like Hanns Dieter Hüsch, this was the business I wanted to be in. Mind you, I never met anyone like him again. But it was through him that I ended up in Berlin. And then I met a girl and decided to move to the city for university, where I studied advertising and marketing.”
“When I discovered you could meet people like Hanns Dieter Hüsch, this was the business I wanted to be in”
Determined to also keep building his live music credentials, Schwenkow ingratiated himself with local promoter Wolfgang Jänicke. “He had a kind of monopoly as he was the only promoter in Berlin, which was a very interesting city: 1.8 million inhabitants surrounded by a wall, so a closed market. When I started working for him, I made sure I was the first one there in the morning, at 6am, in the venue. I made sure that there were enough drinks and food for everyone because there were no catering companies in those days – I had to buy some bread, some ham, some butter. And I also made sure I was the last one to leave at two o’clock in the morning, after the show.
“I also had to make sure that they had the correct amount of electricity, so my second job was as a technical director. And I also took on the PR job, too.”
Enjoying learning as much as he could about the workings of the concert business, Schwenkow was living hand-to-mouth because of the working conditions instituted by his employer.
“I was working from home because Wolfgang Jänicke had a very small office. He paid me 1,000 DM, but my costs for the car and driving here and there were about 600 DM per month,” he recalls. “My apartment only cost me 95 DM a month but using the phone cost a lot – 23 pfennigs per call – so if I had to call ten journalists, this would quickly be a lot of money because I couldn’t reimburse the costs.
“Then, after two years, in spring 1978, he moved into a huge new office, but when I visited, it only had one desk, so when I asked, ‘where’s my desk?’ and he said we’d need to discuss this, I knew he had been cheating me. But I was not mad at him because I had learned everything: I knew how to promote, I knew how to set it up, I knew how to do the PR, etc, etc.”
“We invented the phone ticket service,” he says. “If you would send us the money, via cheque or postal order, we would send you the tickets”
Schwenkow had also perfected the complex logistics of bringing international artists into West Berlin – a tricky task given the city’s location behind the Iron Curtain. “The rich and famous would fly – you could only use Air France, Pan American, or British Airways. But most acts came in by car,” he explains. “It was quite a complicated ride because it took two or three hours at the border to get into the GDR on the autobahn. And if you’d been in Hamburg or Hanover, the truck with the backline might take seven or eight hours, maybe as long as ten. Berlin was a desert.”
But Schwenkow had also seen an oasis of opportunities during his time in the city. “In those days, as a fan, if you tried to find out whether there were still tickets available for a concert, you would call the promoter, to be told ‘call the box office.’ If people called the box office, they would say you had to visit the outlet. There was no service quality at all, and it was a marathon for fans to find out if there were still tickets available and how much they cost.”
Teaming up with another Lippmann & Rau colleague, Jochen Zanke, on 15 June 1978, Schwenkow launched Concert Concept and immediately tried to improve the ticketing situation for artists and fans alike. “We invented the phone ticket service,” he says. “You could call us, we would tell you what the price is, and we would tell you if there were still tickets available. If you would send us the money, via cheque or postal order, we would send you the tickets.”
It was revolutionary.
“Till this day, my focus has always been on the customer. So making it easier for the customer to get their ticket seemed a sensible first step, and it made us pretty much successful from the very beginning because our old, lazy competitor didn’t even pick up the phone.”
“Our first concert was Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, and The Flamin’ Groovies on 7 September 1978”
However, the new company’s first-ever show nearly turned out to be the last…
“Our first concert was Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, and The Flamin’ Groovies on 7 September 1978. It rained cats and dogs every day for three weeks, and we had to move the concert. But instead of selling the 15,000-18,000 tickets we expected, we sold only 1,000 tickets, and we were in partnership with Lippmann & Rau on an 80/20 deal.
“The capital of our company was 20,000 DM. And that first show, our share of the loss was 20,000 DM. After the show, Fritz Rau invited us for a very, very late-night dinner at the one restaurant in Berlin that was open 24 hours a day, The Turtle. We expected the worst, but Fritz said, ‘Listen, guys, I know you don’t feel very good at the moment. But I will tell you two things: one, in a market that had only one promoter, we are now in a market with two promoters. So you became famous within a few months with the first show. And the second point is, you don’t have to pay your share of the losses now. I will give you many concerts, and 50% of what you make can repay the loan and the other 50% you can keep.’
“It was a very good deal because we were young – I was 24 – we were hungry, and we worked 20 hours a day. Within 18 months, we had repaid the loan from Lippmann & Rau, we had the phone tickets service, and then, all of a sudden, the Berlin market exploded, and we were the biggest promoter in the city.”
Growing exponentially, in 1981, Schwenkow pulled a masterstroke. “I did my first season at Berlin Waldbühne, and although we lost a fortune because of low attendance, we could see that the concept was a winner.”
“By 1983 or ’84, we had Stevie Wonder and Elton John, and for the very first time, the Waldbühne sold out and was on the European tour map”
Placing a roof over the stage at the outdoor venue, Concert Concept was able to offer artists such as The Who, AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, Simon Garfunkel, and many others, a weekday show for an audience of up to 20,000 people.
“The acts that played festivals could only play on a weekend because they needed the audience to come from 200, 300, 400 kilometres [away]. But in Berlin, there was 24-hour public transport. So, if an act played a weekend in Munich, and their next weekend was Copenhagen, I could offer a 20,000-capacity between those dates,” says Schwenkow explaining his strategy. “In the first years, the Waldbühne always played Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My offer was ‘When you travel from Munich to Copenhagen, stop by in Berlin. I have the infrastructure, I have a roof, I have sound, I have lights, I have power.’ It took a good two or three years, but by 1983 or ’84, we had Stevie Wonder and Elton John, and for the very first time, the Waldbühne sold out and was on the European tour map. And after that, we had 25 amazing years.”
Loving the unique environment that allowed Concert Concept to flourish, Schwenkow’s ambitions were not to be confined to just one city.
“We had several companies,” he notes. “But because I was the local promoter in Berlin, I was dependent on other promoters to deliver the artists, so I could not compete as a touring promoter against them because then they wouldn’t give me their acts. As a result, in 1983, we had a second business set up to produce our own shows.”
That operation leant heavily, initially, on big-name magicians, as well as some other specialised content: “I promoted a fire theatre here in Berlin, with 400,000 people that showed up for fireworks, and we also started to do city marketing. Berlin wanted more tourists, for instance, and so did Hamburg, so we created the Berlin Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1984 and the Hamburg Summer in ’85.”
“We went into our own production and our own shows because we thought that owning the show was much better than just promoting for somebody else”
The company’s ticketing innovation had already involved a leap of faith, as the two Concert Concept founders had to employ staff to answer phones and fulfil ticketing orders. But they needed to widen the net. “It was getting bigger and bigger and better,” says Schwenkow. “So, we opened an office in Hamburg, where we promoted Michael Jackson and then Pink Floyd and that kind of stuff. But more and more, we went into our own production and our own shows because we thought that owning the show was much better than just promoting for somebody else.”
Indeed, it would take Schwenkow overseas. “Producing our own shows opened lots of doors – I did many shows with André Heller in New York, for instance,” he says.
With a growing portfolio of interests, Schwenkow and Zanke created Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) as a holding company to oversee the different sectors of group business.
In 2024, those entities now include stakes in 25 live touring companies and 17 operations in its entertainment services division. Those companies are based across 22 locations in DEAG’s core markets of Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Ireland, and Denmark, while the company also recently launched its first JV in Spain.
“When we buy into, let’s say, a promoter in a country, most these days are still rock and roll promoters and wear their leather jacket all day long,” observes Schwenkow. ‘What we tell them is, ‘Listen, you can still be a rock and roll promoter, you can wear your leather jacket, you have your triple-A golden backstage pass, you have your parking spot next to the backstage entrance door, you can put your name on the poster. But please, why don’t you wear a suit in the morning and visit the director of your local botanical garden and tell them you want to do a light trail. And then, in the afternoon, you can change and put on your leather jacket again.’
“What they find out is that on the light trail, they can make twice as much money as on a concert, and everybody is happy that you are there: nobody will be yelling at you because there is one bottle of whiskey and ten towels missing.”
“We don’t do takeover deals; we go into partnership. It’s a matter of respect”
He continues, “If you can promote a concert, you can promote everything – you can promote an exhibition, a light trail, spoken word, you can promote jazz, rock, pop, you can promote everything. The proposition is that we will bring our product to you, and before you know it, your company will be worth twice or three times as much as when we first partnered.
“So, very simply, DEAG’s partnership deal usually means taking a 50% stake in your company, but we will make sure that in two or three years’ time, your remaining 50% stake will have the same value as 100% does now. That’s our M&A proposition.”
It’s a successful philosophy. “We have more demand for partnership than we can handle,” states Schwenkow. “We don’t do takeover deals; we go into partnership. It’s a matter of respect.
“We still have 75% of our revenues coming from rock and pop. But I would say more than half of our profits are coming from the other segments, which means that they are twice as profitable.”
One of DEAG’s biggest emerging sectors is spoken word events.
“Three years ago, our spoken word revenues were zero. This year, they are €30m. Maybe next year, they go to €45m”
“Last year, we bought lit.COLOGNE, and we are projected to bring in €30m in revenues from events like Nigella Lawson’s American tour to Quentin Tarantino in front of 7,000 people telling them how to make a movie. This is a totally new segment that we love,” beams Schwenkow, noting that spoken word events are the fastest growing part of the DEAG portfolio.
“Three years ago, our spoken word revenues were zero. This year, they are €30m. Maybe next year, they go to €45m,” he adds. “Stuart Galbraith’s vision to partner with Alex Fane has been the catalyst for this new business sector.”
Among the company’s spoken word successes from 2023 were events by Fane in the UK featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, and Emma Dabiri, while the lit.COLOGNE gathering included talks with Daniel Kehlmann, Ian McEwan, Frank Schätzing, and David Sedaris.
In the coming months, Fane will be organising events for the likes of Bernie Sanders, Candice Braithwaite & Coco Sarel, Elizabeth Day, Nigella Lawson, and Gabor Maté. And the literature festival in Colohgne will welcome Saša Stanišić, Bernardine Evaristo, Han Kang, Didier Eribon, and Zeruya Shalev among many others.
While many pioneers in live entertainment reach their 50th anniversary landmark, Peter Schwenkow has done so with a flourish, notching a number of industry firsts along the way – not the least of which was DEAG’s stock market flotation.
“We were the first company to go public. It was the 14 September 1998, and we were number 36 on the so-called new market in those days”
“We were the first company to go public,” states Schwenkow. “It was the 14 September 1998, and we were number 36 on the so-called new market in those days.”
Despite reversing out of that public flotation during the pandemic, he has no regrets. “It went pretty well. But it was an education process: people said, ‘Okay, you have the Rolling Stones next year. But what is after that?’ When we said that we don’t know yet, we can only tell you that the market is driven by demand, then it was about teaching people about the nature of live entertainment.
“But we were the first ones who opened our books and showed the transparency of our business, long before SFX or Live Nation or Eventim and the others. I loved it because I believed that this business could become an industry and become bigger and bigger and bigger. Because in the 60s, when the Beatles played live, the target group was 16 to 23. Ten years later, the target group was 16 to 33. Another ten years, it was 14 to 43, and these days, it’s six to 96.”
DEAG delisted in January 2021 in the wake of the pandemic, after accepting a takeover offer from its largest single shareholder, Apeiron Investment Group, and its Malta-based subsidiary, Musai Capital. However, the company recently revealed its intention to return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange once it has completed a planned series of acquisitions.
That deal to make DEAG a private entity once again had much to do with the difficult trading period caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But once again, while most of the live entertainment sector struggled during the Covid lockdowns, DEAG and its employees found themselves in a fortunate situation, with its losses covered by insurance.
“When the pandemic happened, we were fully covered for coronavirus. All thanks to Leonard Bernstein”
While many may have looked enviously at DEAG during that two-year shutdown, the reason behind the far-ranging policy was 30 years in the making and owed everything to the maestro himself, Leonard Bernstein.
Schwenkow explains. “My first big case with an insurance company was in 1990 when I had a European tour with Leonard Bernstein, and I had already paid the air charter company for the use of a 737 aircraft when Lenny died.
“The insurance company had a loss adjuster who said, ‘I think Mr. Bernstein had a pre-existing illness’ and they refused to pay, leaving me facing a 1.3m DM black hole, which would have been a killer. But my partner, Harry Kraut, who was Lenny’s manager, told me not to worry because he would make sure the insurance company paid me.
“It turned out that the New York hospital Lenny was in had been visited by these guys working for the loss adjuster, and they stole some of his medical records. So, Harry sued the insurance company for $50m. And, of course, they settled with me. Harry didn’t take them to court, and I got my money – we settled at 1.1m DM.
“But since that happened, I read every single line of an insurance contract. So, in 2018 when I read our new contract that listed 25 to 30 specific diseases, I asked ‘What happens if there’s a disease that is not on your list?’ They said I would not be insured. So I asked if I could be insured for diseases that were not on the list, and they said yes but it would cost, I think, 22% more. I took the deal. It was a three-year contract, but when the pandemic happened, we were fully covered for coronavirus. All thanks to Leonard Bernstein.”
“In the last 50 years, I have seen three or four economic recessions that very often come together with mental recession”
The unprecedented nature of the pandemic also saw Schwenkow leaning heavily on his knowledge as a former politician, placing him at the forefront of efforts to secure governmental support for the German live entertainment industry during the Covid situation. “I used my political contacts to make sure that we got subsidies. And the most support we got across the company was in Germany, which was satisfying.”
He adds, “Of our 400 employees, during Covid, only about 10% left, and we were able to pay everyone full money. It cost us a fortune, but we see everyone at the company as family, so it was a very good investment because when we were back, we were back with full 100% service.”
While the prolonged nature of the pandemic had peers around the world scrambling for solutions, Schwenkow believes that the recession that many countries now find themselves facing offers those in the live entertainment sector with opportunities for growth.
“In the last 50 years, I have seen three or four economic recessions that very often come together with mental recession,” he tells IQ. “When the future is not that bright and the sky is not that blue, the husband says to his wife, ‘Honey, let’s stay in this apartment. We’re not gonna buy a house. But here are two tickets for Elton John.’
“On the flip side, someone who decides to make that investment for the new house is a lost customer to us for many, many years. But at the moment, those people are more the exception than the rule, I believe.”
“In terms of territories, the plan is to be in ten European markets – and we are currently in six: Germany, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Spain”
He continues, “What we have at the moment is, I think, three things. Number one, it’s the recession spirit. [Number two,] people are angry with the bad politicians. They are mad about Brexit mistakes. They are furious about the German politicians that can’t get the budget right and a chancellor who can’t explain himself, because he thinks we are all idiots. And [thirdly,] they’re also frustrated about Ukraine and Israel. It’s both an economic recession and a mental recession. And to be honest, if you spend half of your day in front of a screen, you want to see real people, and I’ve always believed that live entertainment is the Parship [dating agency] of our days. And that’s also a reason all the financial investors are recognising live entertainment as the hot sector.”
In addition to an imminent stock market return, Schwenkow and his colleagues are anticipating the busiest year in DEAG’s history as they work toward fulfilling something known internally at the company as Project 100.
“The 100 strategy gets its name from the goal that we want to offer ten different products in ten different countries,” Schwenkow tells IQ. “Our products are rock and pop; electronic dance music; classic and jazz; arts and exhibitions; family entertainment; public and B2B services; spoken word; public/private partnerships; festivals; and ticketing.
“In terms of territories, the plan is to be in ten European markets – and we are currently in six: Germany, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Spain. We’re hoping to launch in the missing four territories within the next 18 months. That will allow us to approach artists with deals where we can take them to ten key European markets.”
While Schwenkow remains tight-lipped on the target territories for DEAG, he is confident that the potential partners he is in conversation with will soon be adding to the group’s bottom line.
“There is a reason why we are so successful with our acquisitions,” he states. “Although we have about 450 employees, we still try to operate in a family spirit, and we always try to support and be transparent. We reward people if they help their colleagues, while other companies seem to reward people if they make their colleagues struggle.”
“If you join this company, you can become almost anything – you can even get my job in ten or 20 years. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit”
He adds, “We have a saying in Germany that I don’t have to be Mr. Smith everywhere. I can be Mr. Smith, but I don’t need a golden triple-A backstage pass. Because if this happens, then everybody wants to speak to me. But I want them to speak to Oliver Hoppe or whoever the relevant person is. If DEAG people make wrong decisions, then they make wrong decisions. I do it every day. But the structure here is that if you join this company, you can become almost anything – you can even get my job in ten or 20 years. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Having built DEAG from a two-person operation to a stock market-listed entity with more than 600 employees – and more to join in the coming months – Schwenkow is acutely aware that having a plan ready to cover all eventualities is important.
“If lightning strikes me on the golf course, then Detlef Kornett will take over – that’s the reason we appointed him as co-CEO,” he says. “But we also have five, six, seven people that the company relies on to run efficiently, so I’m confident that DEAG is in very safe hands. In the end, it‘s all about the team
“I have a responsibility, not only for the people that are working for DEAG and for the artists that trust in us, but also to the shareholders that invest their money. We’ve all worked hard to make sure that we have an organisation with a set-up that will always allow you to lose people – even if it’s yourself.”
With wife Inga travelling extensively through her work as as journalist for Die Welt, it will be a rare occasion when the entire family gathers under one roof for Schwenkow’s 70th birthday. Of his five children (Moritz, Max, Nini, Anna, and Joey) four are following in their father’s footsteps in some shape or form. As chief ticketing and technology officer, Moritz is on the DEAG board; Max heads up the company’s graphics department; Nini has interited her father’s interest in real estate; and Anna is in charge of all of DEAG’s red carpet events.
“Regrets? Looking back over my career, I probably spent the first 25 years regretting almost everything”
With two big anniversaries on the horizon, Schwenkow has allowed himself time to reminisce about the ways in which he has matured during his seven decades on the planet.
“Regrets? Looking back over my career, I probably spent the first 25 years regretting almost everything: I regretted that I didn’t get certain artists; I regretted that I couldn’t do all the joint ventures I wanted to; I was regretting that I couldn’t sell my company to Universal; I was regretting this, that, and everything.
“And then, probably for the next ten or 15 years, I was regretting my mistakes – maybe that I invested in the wrong sector or whatever. But now, and for the past ten years or so, I realised I have no regrets – zero – because any opportunity that I missed, a new door opened. Any mistakes I made, I learned from – and I still learn from new mistakes every week. But building up a company of this size, without any complaints, lawsuits, or fines has been a big achievement, and I’m very proud of that.”
Schwenkow pauses. “Actually, that’s not quite true – I did have to pay one court fine, but it was the best money I ever spent. I was fined 40,000 DM for promoting a Pink Floyd concert in 1988 because it was too loud. Not only could it be heard in the whole of East Berlin, but the windows were shaking.”
A vehement opponent of the Soviet regime that oppressed those living in the East of Berlin – and hundreds of millions elsewhere – Schwenkow delighted in using every tool at his disposal to embarrass the authorities on the other side of the wall.
“This is why I did Michael Jackson and David Bowie in front of the Reichstag in 1987 – probably the two most important events I ever did in my life, as well as Leonard Bernstein on the 26 December 1989,” he says.
“We had to do a test run on the afternoon before the concert where the authorities on both sides of the [Berlin] wall were checking decibel levels”
Detailing the reasons behind his Pink Floyd legal woes, Schwenkow recalls, “There was a lot of pressure from the government in East Berlin against the government in Bonn, because they didn’t want to allow the Pink Floyd concert. Basically, they were afraid of how loud it would be and the power their music might carry. So I was given permission for the show under the condition that only a certain number of loudspeakers would be used.
“We had to do a test run on the afternoon before the concert where the authorities on both sides of the wall were checking decibel levels. But, when they signed off and I had my final permission to do the show, I had another eight trucks bringing in every available loudspeaker I could find.
“When I explained what I had done to the judge in court, and my hatred of the GDR, she reduced my fine from 40,000 DM to 10,000 DM and allowed me to pay it over the next two years because she understood my mission against communism.”
Past, Present & Future
Looking back across his storied career, Schwenkow believes there have been two significant developments during his 50 years in business that have resulted in major game changers for the music industry: MTV and the internet.
“MTV helped create global stars – there were probably ten artists who were known globally in the 80s,” he notes.
“Imagine 30 years ago, anything that happened in Korea would have stayed in Korea… Now, K-pop is a global phenomenon”
The internet, he states, increased that number exponentially. “Imagine 30 years ago, anything that happened in Korea would have stayed in Korea. Anything that happened in Latin America would remain in Latin America. Now, K-pop is a global phenomenon, and Latin artists are exploding everywhere.”
Looking to the future, Schwenkow believes what is happening in the present could fundamentally change the way DEAG and other companies approach live entertainment sales and marketing.
“We are facing two important changes,” he opines. “Number one is with the internet and the importance of artists who can all of a sudden do their own customer relationship management directly with fans. And the second is social media, which can be used by those same artists to sell tickets. This is why we decided, in a market saturated with Ticketmaster, Eventim, and lots of local systems, we still could find business with myticket, because it’s no longer important how much data you have collected over the years; the game changer is social media.”
Using the 2023 tour of Lindemann as an example, Schwenkow reports, “When we went on sale, depending on markets, we’d use Gigantic or myticket.co.uk or myticket.de and sell exclusively on those platforms. Even though myticket is number four in Germany by size, we don’t need the big ticket market leaders anymore. Because if you go on the website of the artist who has millions of followers, then he, she, or they just has to push the myticket red button.
“I think this is the big change in distribution. It means that you should not own a ticket system unless you control the content: no inventory, no ticket system. But if you have the artist on board, everything changes.”
“I have five kids and eight grandchildren, but getting older means you get wiser, and one thing I have definitely got better at is time management”
Time for Tee
With his 70th birthday fast approaching, Schwenkow is looking forward to a gala celebration at iconic Berlin venue Wintergarten Varieté, an invite to which is proving to be one of 2024’s hottest tickets.
And while there’s no sign of Schwenkow stepping back from DEAG, he does admit he is looking forward to a new phase in his life, where family and hobbies will be given growing priority.
“I have five kids and eight grandchildren, but getting older means you get wiser, and one thing I have definitely got better at is time management,” he says. “For example, the birthday of a grandchild is a date that cannot be moved in my diary: whoever calls me that day, I don’t care – it’s a birthday party. That was sadly not the case 20 or 30 years ago.”
In terms of hobbies, Schwenkow has four main areas of interest. “My side projects, for a long time, have been art and real estate. I was fortunate enough to have a golden ten years on Majorca in the 1990s in the real estate game, and it’s still something that I deal in, both in Germany and Majorca to this day.
“My second hobby, which generates value but no money, is art. It’s very important to me. My father was a collector, and I think that’s where my passion started – I could always enjoy art without being jealous that I did not own it. And later on, when I’d had some success of my own, I started my own collections.”
A more recent interest is golf – a pastime that Schwenkow picked up later in life but is something that he confesses he would like to spend more time playing, especially in the sunshine of his second home, Majorca.
“The biggest privilege I have is that we are able to produce things that make people happy”
He continues, “My fourth interest remains politics. I was in parliament for five years, purely because I wanted to learn how politicians work – the relationships between them and how they communicate.”
And what did he learn during his stint, from 2006-11? “The world of politicians is a closed shop,” he responds. “The interesting thing is that 90% of what happens in parliament is just for show. In the end, the politicians go to the pub and have a beer together, and they’re a lot closer than their political parties would have you believe.”
Schwenkow admits that he covets many of his political friendships and still enjoys the machinations of seeing how diplomacy works.
But when it comes to how he spends the majority of his time, working in live entertainment thankfully remains his biggest commitment.
“The biggest privilege I have is that we are able to produce things that make people happy,” he states. “I am living a very privileged life, and I think it’s important to remain humble – and thankful – to enjoy a life like the one I have. “My father and my mother both turned 90, so I think my genes could give me another 20 years, and I want to enjoy those, which means a little bit of work, a little bit of golf, a little bit of arts and exhibitions, and a little bit of family.”
“My final goal is that when I go on a golf course, I really do turn off my cell phone, rather than just telling people not to bother me… I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer.”
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FKP Scorpio promotes duo to international board
FKP Scorpio has bolstered its international operations with the appointments of Rauha Kyyrö and Rense van Kessel as presidents touring & artist development.
Founders of Finland’s Fullsteam and the Netherlands’ Friendly Fire, respectively, Kyyrö and Van Kessel have worked with more than 3,000 artists combined since entering the business in the early 2000s.
The duo have been appointed to FKP’s international board and will be in charge of developing the group’s artist booking and promoter activities across Europe.
“Rauha and Rense’s work has been a vital part of our success for several years now”, says FKP boss Folkert Koopmans and CEO Stephan Thanscheidt. “Their new roles as presidents touring & artist development are the next step in strengthening our natural growth and diverse portfolio, with the aim of being the best partner for artists and music fans alike.”
In addition, the firm has recently appointed new directors in Finland (Aino-Maria Paasivirta, head promoter, Fullsteam Agency), Netherlands (Lauri van Ommen, head of promoted shows and Age Versluis, head of touring, Friendly Fire) and Germany (Inga Esseling and Ben Rodenberg, directors touring, FKP Scorpio).
Founded by Koopmans in 1990, Germany-headquartered FKP is part of the global CTS Eventim Group and works with acts such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Noah Kahan, Foo Fighters, Sam Fender, Kraftwerk, Phoebe Bridgers, James Blunt, George Ezra and Mumford & Sons.
FKP is also expanding its collaboration with DreamHaus to co-promote the Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside festivals
Its domestic festival portfolio includes festivals such as Hurricane, Southside, Highfield, M’era Luna, Elbjazz and Deichbrand Festival, while international brands include Greenfield (CH), Syd For Solen (DK) , Best Kept Secret (NL), Lido Sounds (AT), Rosendal Garden Party (SE), Live Is Live (BE), Provinssi and Sideways (FI).
In other news, FKP will expand its collaboration with CTS stablemate DreamHaus by forming a strategic partnership to co-promote the Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside festivals together in the future. Previously, DreamHaus and FKP Scorpio had already jointly organised the Tempelhof Sounds Festival in Berlin in 2022.
“We have always valued FKP Scorpio as a partner and are very much looking forward to further expanding our trusting cooperation,” says DreamHaus CEO Matt Schwarz.
The operational planning and implementation of the respective twin festivals will remain unchanged. FKP Scorpio will continue to act as head promoter and main contact at Hurricane/Southside and DreamHaus in cooperation with eventimpresents and Argo Konzerte at Rock am Ring/Rock im Park.
“We have worked closely with DreamHaus as equals from the very beginning,” adds Koopmans. “We face similar challenges at the festivals, and it is only logical that we use synergies to position ourselves even better on the market.”
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DEAG’s MyTicket installs commercial director
DEAG-owned Mytic MyTicket AG has announced the appointment of Sebastian Kahlich as commercial director.
Mytic MyTicket AG is the ticketing company behind its MyTicket.de and MyTicket.at ticketing platforms.
Kahlich previously spent four years as director of sales & marketing for Central Europe at Ticketmaster. In his new position, he will be responsible in particular for further expanding the areas of marketing, sales and brand partnership at the firm.
“Sebastian Kahlich is an excellent expert in the industry who has already achieved a great deal in the market,” says Moritz Schwenkow, member of the executive board and chief ticketing and technology officer of Berlin-headquartered DEAG.
“I am certain that with Sebastian Kahlich on board we will continue MyTicket’s extremely successful growth trajectory”
“We are delighted to have Sebastian join MyTicket as commercial director, as he is the perfect person for this responsible position thanks to his broad range of expertise and his excellent network. I am certain that with Sebastian Kahlich on board we will continue MyTicket’s extremely successful growth trajectory, which has made us a major player in the ticketing market in recent years, and that we will be even more successful.”
Kahlich, who began his career at Zomba Records in 2000 and has also held roles at RTL and Viacom, adds: “I have been observing MyTicket’s extremely successful and customer-oriented market presence for years and would like to thank MyTicket and DEAG for the trust they have placed in me.
“I am looking forward to the exciting challenge and the new tasks in a strong team and in an expanding company.”
German live entertainment giant DEAG recently postponed its return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The group was due to list in Q1 2024, but announced that the management board had decided to continue conversations with investors at a later date as it was “in advanced conversations with several acquisition targets in accordance with its growth strategy, particularly in the ticketing segment”.
IQ 125 out now: Peter Schwenkow, MVT, Gulf States
IQ 125, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.
The February/March edition sees DEAG founder Peter Schwenkow look back over 50 remarkable years as a live entertainment pioneer, while Derek Robertson talks to grassroots venue campaigners around the world as Music Venue Trust marks its tenth anniversary.
In addition, Lisa Henderson talks to female crew members and women backstage about the work they’re doing to pave the way for future generations, and Adam Woods shines a light on the burgeoning live entertainment markets in the Gulf States.
Elsewhere, we profile ten new festivals that are making their debut in 2024, and the full agenda for ILMC 36 is revealed.
For this edition’s comments and columns, IQ passes the mic to Cliff Fluet who previews his ILMC panel Artificial Intelligence: Moving at Light Speed, while ticketing guru Tim Chambers opines that the marriage between private equity and live entertainment has become too big to fail.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four 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 from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Wacken takes its metal culture to new market
The team behind Wacken Open Air are exporting their expertise to the Saxony region of Germany by launching a new three-day festival in May.
Chemnitz Metal Culture (CMC) was originally scheduled as a winter event, but the December 2023 event had to be shelved because of illness. However, Wacken, together with congress and event hall Kraftverkehr Chemnitz, have revealed plans for a 24-26 May festival, bringing metal fans to the former industrial venue.
With Chemnitz set to inherit the European City of Culture crown in 2025, the festival will be part of an impressive programme of events over the next couple of years, with festival organisers taking the opportunity to stage the semi-finals of the Wacken Metal Battle in the CMC line-up.
“Wacken and the Capital of Culture 2025: they fit together wonderfully. Especially in a hall that today shows all the technical refinements and that was once a real ‘metal’ hotspot as a historic bus repair facility,” comments Andreas Wöllenstein, owner of Kraftverkehr Chemnitz.
The final day of the event, the Wacken Foundation Family Day, will offer free admission to fans
The line-up for the warm-up show on Friday, 24 May, includes Destruction, Insanity Alert and, as openers, local act One Step Back, with organisers explaining that the event is intended to offer emerging artists from Chemnitz and Saxony an opportunity to showcase their talent.
The German semi-finals of the Wacken Metal Battle will take place on 25 May, pitting five bands against each other to secure a place at Wacken Open Air. The line-up includes Hamburg trio Messticator, death metal group Deserted Fear, and metalcore outfit Caliban. Early bird tickets for Chemnitz Metal Culture start at €50.
The final day of the event, the Wacken Foundation Family Day, will offer free admission to fans, who will be entertained by the likes of Mutz, Kool Katz, and Horst Adler Kapelle.
The 2024 edition of Wacken Open Air sold out within hours of going on sale, back in August. With an additional day announced for the festival, the 31 July to 3 August festival has confirmed acts such as Scorpions, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, In Extremo, Korn, and many more.
Why are major tours bypassing Berlin?
Concerns have been raised over a lack of venue availability in Berlin after AC/DC became the latest major act to skip the German capital on their upcoming tour.
The rock band’s Power Up Tour – their first trek in eight years – will stop in Gelsenkirchen, Munich, Dresden, Hockenheim, Stuttgart and Hannover this summer.
Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour visited Cologne, Hamburg and Frankfurt in 2023, while Adele is set to perform 10 nights in Munich this year and Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour will play multiple nights in Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg and Munich.
According to Berliner-Zeitung, the only venue in Berlin capable of hosting events of such scale is the 75,000-cap Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium), which is home to football club Hertha Berlin and is booked for the UEFA Euro 2024 international tournament in June/July.
“For 2024, we had already informed all of our concert organisers in advance that due to the hosting of the UEFA Euro 2024 with six games including the final on July 14th, no concerts could take place in the Olympiastadion Berlin this summer due to scheduling reasons,” says a spokesman for the Olympiastadion.
“A new stadium will simply have to be built so that Berlin can be included in the tour dates again in the future”
AC/DC’s German tour organiser United Promoters also explains why Berlin was not included in the plan for the 2024 tour.
“It is due to the scheduling availability of the Berlin Olympic Stadium,” says a spokesperson.
Berliner-Zeitung concludes that the city requires more stadium-sized venues.
“A new stadium will simply have to be built so that Berlin can be included in the tour dates again in the future – but then please be as big as BER airport,” it says. “Only the construction should go a little faster, because who knows whether AC/DC will come to Germany again in 14 years and whether Adele and Co. will have been completely convinced by the Munich white sausage.”
CTS Eventim ‘significantly’ exceeds 2023 forecast
CTS Eventim “significantly exceeded” its forecast for 2023 thanks to a “very strong” Q4, according to the company’s latest financial results.
The pan-European giant enjoyed a record year, attaining consolidated revenue of €2.359 billion for the 12-month period – a 22.5% increase on the previous year’s €1.926bn. CTS had previously projected group revenue in excess of €2bn for 2023 as a whole last October.
In the preliminary figures, the group also reported normalised EBITDA of €501.4 million, up 31.9% from €380.1m in the previous year. CTS’ full annual report for 2023 will be published on 26 March.
The growth was powered by the German-headquartered firm’s ticketing and live entertainment segments. Ticketing revenue rose 32.5% to €717m (2022: €541m), with normalised EBITDA leaping 46.6% to €382.4m.
For the live entertainment strand, revenue jumped 18.9% year-on-year to €1.677bn (2022: €1.410bn), with normalised EBITDA almost flat at €119.1m, compared to €119.2m in 2022.
The group figures include income of €37.4m to which CTS group companies are directly entitled, resulting from compensation paid by the German government to the joint venture autoTicket GmbH, Berlin.
“The year-on-year growth rates shown here reflect the success of the operating business”
“As the prior-year figures contained a similar volume of income that had been received under pandemic-related economic aid programmes, the year-on-year growth rates shown here reflect the success of the operating business,” adds a company statement.
According to Pollstar’s 2023 global rankings, the Eventim Group is the world’s second-biggest promoter. The firm’s portfolio includes festivals such as Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, Hurricane, Southside,and Lucca Summer.
It also operates venues, such as the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, the K.B. Hallen in Copenhagen, the Waldbühne in Berlin and the Eventim Apollo in London.
Visions reports that more than 90,000 tickets have already been sold for Germany’s Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, which take place from 7-9 June at Nürburgring race track and Zeppelin Field, respectively.
Operated by CTS’ Dreamhaus subsidiary, the twin festivals will be headlined by Die Ärzte, Måneskin and Green Day. The events’ new premium camping offers are said to be almost sold out, while tickets for the Backstage Camp, Seaside Backstage Camp and Caravan Camping are already sold out.
“The demand for tickets is strong and the fans’ anticipation is huge,” says Dreamhaus CEO Matt Schwarz.
Adele adds final two shows to Munich residency
Adele has added two final concerts to her upcoming German residency after more than 2.2 million people registered to buy tickets, taking the total number of shows to ten.
Due to “unprecedented demand”, the British singer will now perform at the 80,000-cap pop-up stadium at Munich Messe exhibition centre from 2-3, 9-10, 14, 16, 23-24 and 30-31 August.
The 35-year-old’s 100-night Weekends with Adele run at The Colosseum (cap. 4,100) at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is due to wrap up in June this year. Aside from the Vegas run, Adele has played only limited live dates in support of her most recent album, 2021’s 30 – performing two nights at the 65,000-cap BST Hyde Park in London, UK in July 2022.
The exclusive European performances, promoted by Live Nation, mark the first time Adele has performed in mainland Europe since 2016. After an initial four dates were announced, a further four shows were added before today’s confirmation of an additional two.
Tickets go on general sale on 9 February, with prices reportedly ranging between €74.90 to €419.90.
“There are already more registrations than for Adele’s concerts in Hyde Park and Las Vegas”
“There are already more registrations than for Adele’s concerts in Hyde Park and Las Vegas,” says organiser Marek Lieberberg, as per BR.
Austrian promoter Klaus Leutgeb, who is co-promoting the run, has enlisted the help of renowned stage designer Florian Wieder.
Speaking to Krone earlier this month, he said: “I have been in contact with management for two years; I had a vision that drove me forward. I had to develop something very special, something that was 100% Adele.”
“It’s a multifunctional arena, twice the size of a football stadium, with a diameter of 300 meters, the stage alone is 220 metres wide. But for me, it’s not about size or dimension. For me it’s about content, I want to realise my dreams and visions because that’s the only thing that makes me happy and I’m restless.”
Adele is represented by Lucy Dickins and Kirk Sommer at WME.
Leutgeb on co-promoting Adele’s Munich residency
Austrian promoter Klaus Leutgeb has spoken about co-promoting Adele’s 80,000-capacity residency in Munich, Germany.
The run was announced last Wednesday (31 January) as a four-date stint in August but a further four days were added due to “phenomenal demand”.
“I have been in contact with management for two years; I had a vision that drove me forward,” Leutgeb told Krone. “I had to develop something very special, something that was 100 percent Adele.”
The summer shows will take place in a “bespoke stadium” with a combination of grandstand seating and standing areas, based at convention centre Munich Messe.
“It’s a multifunctional arena, twice the size of a football stadium, with a diameter of 300 meters, the stage alone is 220 meters wide,” says Leutgeb, who has enlisted the help of renowned stage designer Florian Wieder.
“I had to develop something very special, something that was 100 percent Adele”
“But for me, it’s not about size or dimension. For me it’s about content, I want to realize my dreams and visions because that’s the only thing that makes me happy and I’m restless.”
The promoter, who has previously organised shows at Munich Messe with artists including Andreas Gabalier, Helene Fischer and Robbie Williams in 2022, will co-promote the shows with Marek Lieberberg of Live Nation GSA.
The exclusive European dates mark the first time Adele has performed in mainland Europe since 2016.
At the time of the announcement, Adele said: “I was too curious to not follow up and indulge in this idea, a one-off, bespoke pop-up stadium designed around whatever show I want to put on? Ohh!? Pretty much slap bang in the middle of Europe? In Munich? That’s a bit random, but still fabulous!”
The singer’s 100-night Weekends with Adele run at The Colosseum (cap. 4,100) at Caesars Palace is due to wrap up in June this year. The first 24 dates grossed US$52.8 million (€48.8m).
The 35-year-old star is represented by Lucy Dickins and Kirk Sommer at WME.