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Bulgarian promoters sell out two major live events

Bulgarian promoters Pan Harmony and Blue Hills successfully produced two major live events at the Plovdiv Antique Theater in Bulgaria last weekend (18 and 19 September).

German heavy metal artist Udo Dirkschneider delivered a two-hour show on 18 September, while a small orchestra – arranged by Tomislav Baynov and conducted by Yordan Kamdzhalov – performed the music of Bach and Mozart during the following evening.

The venue was permitted to operate at 50% of its 1,480 capacity and both events sold out at the maximum legal limit.

“Even though heavy metal passions run high and deep, the exhilarated audience was very respectful of the situation and kept their distance from the band and the crew,” says Boyan Robert Pinter of Pan Harmony.

“No intervention was necessary on behalf of security. We established a good perimeter between the audience and the stage but we didn’t even need barriers. Everybody was on their best and most responsible behaviour. It was certainly a historic event for us.”

“It was certainly a historic event for us”

Stefan Popov of Blue Hills says: “Besides being even better organised than usual, we’re very lucky to be able to work at all.

When it comes to international shows, Bulgarians are generally quite sceptical about whether the artists will show up, so when we posted a photo of Udo and the band from Sofia Airport, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and local ticket buyers were even more confident.

In the European Union’s poorest country, this just adds to a long list of factors that we have to consider.”

Though social distancing and mask-wearing are not mandated in outdoor venues, visitors were asked to wear masks and disinfect their hands upon entry.

Bulgaria went into lockdown in March and measures were eased from June. Bulgaria has a relatively low infection rate with 18,863 reported cases and 761 reported fatalities of Covid amongst a population of around seven million.


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K2 joins forces with Y Entertainment Group’s AGI

UK-based international booking agency K2, which represents the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer, has announced a joint venture with investment firm Yucaipa’s umbrella of companies.

Under the new partnership, K2 joins the Yucaipa-owned international booking agency Artist Group International (AGI) in the Y Entertainment Group.

Yucaipa’s existing interests in the music industry also include a joint venture with Paradigm Talent Agency, a minority stake in Primavera Sound and Primavera Pro and an acquisition of US promoter Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP).

“I have had the pleasure of collaborating with [AGI chairman] Dennis and the team at AGI for many years,” says K2 founder and renowned music agent John Jackson.

“Not only is there mutual respect between us, but we share a similar philosophy and work ethic when it comes to our artists, agents and staff. As such, joining forces is the perfect fit and an opportunity to flourish on the global stage.”

K2 agency was launched in 2004 and in recent years has acquired UK companies EGO Agency and Factory Music Management and Agency.

“Joining forces is the perfect fit and an opportunity to flourish”

Founder of Factory Music Management and Agency, Sharon Richardson, brought to K2 her roster of over 20 rock and metal artists, which include Delain, Sabaton, Steve Harris’s British Lion and Metal Allegiance. The acquisition of EGO brought over company founder Jim Morewood, agent Yerry Stetter, and EGO’s largely heavy metal-focused roster.

Chairman Dennis Arfa says, “John runs one of the best agencies in the world. We’re thrilled to be working with him and his K2 team. We share many clients including Metallica, Ghost, and Volbeat and over the years have developed a natural synergy. We are pleased that our ownership has staunchly facilitated and supported our expansion efforts.”

AGI was founded in 1986 and represents artists such as Billy Joel, Metallica, Def Leppard, Rod Stewart and Motley Crue.

It was acquired by The Yucaipa Companies in 2011, with an eye towards expanding its reach in the live entertainment space through strategic acquisitions and organic growth.

The companies say plans for collaboration, expansion and diversification will be further revealed in the coming months.


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Montreal declared heavy metal city of excellence

The Montreal city council has unanimously approved a resolution to recognise the Canadian city’s metal scene, declaring it a “city of excellence in the world of metal music”.

The motion was proposed by councillor Craig Sauvé, an associate member of the executive committee and a metal fan.

The motion was seconded by councillors Sterling Downey and Jocelyn Pauzé, before being put before Montreal’s city council yesterday (Monday 15 April). Prior to the vote, Sauvé played songs from metal artists Cryptopsy, Necrotic Mutation and Despised Icon for his fellow councillors.

“It’s about time to collectively recognise the contribution of Québécois metal music, our local scene and the thousands of people who have contributed to help make our city’s metal scene shine across the world-stage,” writes Sauvé in the motion.

Sauvé declares that Montreal has played a “decisive role” in the development of metal music and that the metal community is an “essential part of the cultural ecosystem” in the city. The councillor also references the “quality” of Québécois metal music and the “vitality of its local scene”.

“It’s an immense thrill to be able to talk about this art form that I love so dearly”

“It’s a good day for our metal community,” posted the councillor, after the motion was passed unanimously by the council.

“It’s an immense thrill to be able to talk about this art form that I love so dearly,” says Sauvé. “We’ve been getting an amazing response around the world.”

Sauvé stated that metal music does not always receive the same amount of respect as other kinds of music, as it is viewed as an “extreme music form”.

“It’s loud, but it can be very quiet and meditative as well,” he says.

Independent opposition councillor Marvin Rotrans proposed an amendment to the motion, raising concerns that some metal music contains violent lyrics or imagery. Council speaker Cathy Wong ruled against the amendment, passing the declaration as written.


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Metal: A genre in global growth

With arguably the most loyal and welcoming fanbase in the world, sell-out international festivals and a number of boundary-pushing acts selling more tickets worldwide than ever before, hard rock and metal has never been in better condition.

No more is this evidenced than with the continued success of Germany’s Wacken Open Air, the world’s biggest heavy metal gathering. In early August, a quirky news story about two elderly Germans escaping from their care home to attend the festival went viral. But less well publicised was the fact that, within five days of the 2018 event concluding, all 75,000 tickets for the festival’s 30th anniversary in 2019 had been sold.

For Thomas Jensen, CEO of International Concert Service and co-founder of the event, the achievement is both a testament to the loyalty and support of the Wacken community and, in a broader sense, a signifier of the current robust health of the live music industry in regards to metal. “The climate for metal right now is really strong,” says Jensen, who first staged the festival in the northern German village in 1990, with just six bands and an audience of around 800.

“We have always said that Wacken is as much about the fans as the bands, and when we talk to those fans, it’s clear that the hunger for metal worldwide is only increasing.”

“In terms of global ticket sales, I have never known the genre to be stronger”

“In terms of global ticket sales, I have never known the genre to be stronger,” agrees John Jackson, CEO of international booking agency K2, which represents metal giants Metallica and Iron Maiden, alongside Slayer, Ghost, Gojira and Mastodon.

Metallica, who later this month will announce a summer 2019 European stadium run as part of their on-going WorldWired Tour, broke attendance records no fewer than 29 times on their last European tour, while Iron Maiden’s recent Legacy Of The Beast run, which wrapped with two sold-out nights at London’s 02 Arena on August 10/11, saw the English band play to 750,000 fans across 38 shows.

“Metal is still seen as an outsider genre but it’s a huge business globally, it transcends borders and languages,” says Alan Day, promoter at Kilimanjaro, who booked the company’s Sonisphere festival series across Europe. “People say metal isn’t on the radio anymore but it never really was, and the live scene is bigger than it’s ever been, and going from strength to strength.”

“One of the most exciting music documentaries in recent years for me was Iron Maiden’s Flight 666, seeing them fly into different territories and being greeted by hysteria everywhere,” says Paul Ryan, agent for Bring Me the Horizon, Bullet for My Valentine, Lamb of God and more, at UTA. “You can’t stop the rock, it’s as simple as that! Metal is a lifestyle, not a trend. I’ve been booking bands for 16 years, promoting for 3-4 years before that, and it’s clear that the appetite for this music is still growing.”

“You can’t stop the rock, it’s as simple as that!”

By common consent, heavy metal was born in Aston, Birmingham, officially brought into the world on 13 February 1970 when, amid the sound of thunder, driving rain and an ominously tolling church bell, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi first employed ‘The Devil’s Interval’ on the title track of his band’s self-titled debut album. Though Sabbath brought down the curtain on their storied career with a final performance at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on 4 February 2017, their influence is imprinted in the DNA of every single metal act who succeeded them: :We made a good mark,” Iommi told this writer proudly as Sabbath bade farewell.

“Sabbath may have bowed out, but metal has never gone away,” says Andy Copping, Live Nation’s president of UK touring and the promoter of Download festival, which rose from the ashes of the legendary Monsters of Rock, the world’s first bespoke heavy metal festival series.

“Metal has never got the recognition it deserves, and I’ll be flabbergasted if it ever will, but the fans are out there, in bigger numbers than ever. This idea that rock is dead is a myth. I remember one year where the media were talking about how rock is dead, and that year we did 100,000 tickets at Download with Sabbath, Metallica and The Prodigy, in the same summer where the Isle of Wight Festival sold 30,000 tickets.

“Unlike some other genres, this is a genuine community. We have a great relationship with other festivals – Wacken, Bloodstock, Graspop, Hellfest – and we talk to one another and look at each other in terms of ideas and inspiration. We’re in this together.”


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 79, or subscribe to the magazine here

Wacken Open Air 2018 to feature esports arena

Wacken Open Air, the world’s largest gathering for heavy metal music, will this year welcome the addition of an esports arena to its sold-out event, making it the first ever music festival to do so. The festival has joined forces with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) to create the ESL Arena, which will open on 1 August.

The 1,800 square-metre esports village will invite festivalgoers to compete in the daily amateur tournaments of popular games including League of Legends and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Beyond amateurs, professional teams, bands and artists will also take part in exhibition matches, set to the soundtrack of heavy metal music.

The music industry is becoming increasingly involved in the world of gaming and esports. Just this week (16 July), Universal Music Canada announced its mutually beneficial deal with Luminosity Gaming, one of the world’s largest esports organisations. Similarly, 2017 saw Universal Music Group partner with the UK’s Insomnia Gaming Festival.

“Like many games, heavy metal creates fantasy worlds.”

ICS, the promoters behind Wacken Open Air, say this project is taking advantage of the world’s rising interest in gaming. Speaking to Pollstar, ICS CEO Holger Hübner, comments: “Like many games, heavy metal creates fantasy worlds.

“[We are] proud to be pioneering the world’s first esports theme experience at a music festival, so we are very glad to have ESL as a most capable partner that is setting the international standard in esports.”

Boasting relationships with the likes of French media conglomerate Vivendi and venue and promotions giant AEG, the ESL has slowly built up a host of high-profile partnerships in the music industry. On top of this, the organisation claims to have reached more than 400 million viewers in 2017 across its live events.


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