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Live Nation Belgium CEO: ‘Demand for festivals high as ever’

Rock Werchter founder and Live Nation Belgium CEO Herman Schueremans says demand for festivals is “as high as ever” as he reports sellouts across the board.

“People want value for money and they get that at our festivals,” says Schueremans, who also has a hand in TW Classic, Werchter Boutique, Graspop Metal Meeting, Dour, Pukkelpop and Core.

Rock Werchter’s recent sell-out is a testament to this. The festival, which took place from 29 June-2 July, shifted 88,000 tickets including 67,000 combi passes (which sold out 16 May) and 20,500 day tickets.

Fans from 106 countries purchased tickets, with the top 10 including Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Ireland, the US and Italy.

But while this year’s edition – which was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Stormzy and Red Hot Chili Peppers among others – sold out quicker than pre-Covid year 2019, ticket sales took a hit when Belgian artist Stromae dropped out of his Thursday headline slot due to health issues.

“Thursday day tickets sold out a day prior to the festival as it is a weekday and we lost headliner Stromae. The sales slowed down until we announced Mumford & Sons as the replacement, and then they picked up,” he explains.

Schueremans says that finding a strong replacement for Stromae was the biggest challenge with this year’s edition, which took place between 29 June to 2 July in Festivalpark.

Liam Gallagher, Muse, Oscar and the Wolf and Queens of the Stone Age were also part of the eight-strong all-male headlining bill.

“People want value for money and they get that at our festivals”

Reflecting on the success of this year’s edition, Schueremans says he’s particularly proud of the introduction of a new 22,000-capacity barn which is “better in all aspects than a lot of arenas”.

Despite the huge capacity, many acts performing in The Barn – including Warhaus, Charlotte de Witte, Iggy Pop, Ben Howard and Editors – were oversubscribed and improvements had to be made for crowd control.

“To reduce the pressure outside the tent, an entrance structure with staffed crash barriers and gates had to be installed,” says Schueremans. “That ensured entry into the tent was smoother and the crowding outside it was reduced. Also, a second outside screen with a PA was added.”

Elsewhere in Live Nation Belgium’s stable of festivals, TW Classic, Werchter Boutique and Graspop Metal Meeting have all taken place with sell-out crowds, with Schueremans describing the market as “very healthy”.

Alongside its festival season, Live Nation Belgium has concerts lined up with Queens of the Stone Age, The Weeknd, Christine and the Queens, Arlo Park and James Blake.

View Rock Werchter’s 2023 Aftermovie below…

 


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Herman Schueremans: 50 years in the business

Looking back on half a century in the live music business, Herman Schueremans has learned many lessons – a smattering of which you’ll find highlighted in the pages of this special anniversary feature. However, arguably his top lesson is that cycling is not only the best possible way to stay fit – it can save your life.

In 2014, Herman took a regular cycle journey to visit his mother in her residential care home, and on his way back his bike hit a patch of wet leaves and sent him tumbling. “I broke my hip,” he tells IQ. “But it was broken quite nicely – it didn’t move, there was just a fracture through it. But on the scan for my hip, the doctor noticed that my appendix was swollen, so I was told it was best to remove it while I was in hospital.”

During what should have been a routine operation, the surgeon discovered that Herman’s appendix had been leaking and was very slowly poisoning his body. Warned that the leak could lead to cancer, Herman agreed to a procedure where a team of surgeons would meticulously open up and clean his intestines, while removing anything that could not be saved. “They also coated my intestines in platinum, which would kill any infection that they might have missed. It was a big operation – 32 hours in total.”

Despite undergoing such trauma, which would normally result in a patient spending months in hospital to recover, within a week Herman was back at home. “I wanted to be back working on my festivals – the Classic and Rock Werchter,” he states, “I’d lost 15 kilograms, and I had to rest quite a lot, so I was not as active during the festival changeovers, but because I cycled every day, as a 60-year-old man I was pretty fit and healthy, so that definitely helped.”

Consequently, he urges everyone in the live music business to take up cycling. “It’s a great way to forget about our fantastic business and all the responsibilities you have. I would absolutely advise people to cycle because it’s not only healthy, it destresses you. And if you’re with friends, at the end of the bicycle ride you stop at a nice pub and have some lagers.”

Inspired by a documentary on Woodstock, he decided to create a small music festival in the town of Herent

Small Beginnings
As one of the most popular personalities in the live music world, Herman Schueremans’ career is the stuff of legend. Growing up in Belgium in the 1960s and ’70s was a frustrating time for music-loving Herman because although most international tours travelled through the country on their way to and from gigs in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, very few would actually stop in Belgium to perform. Herman would shatter that status quo.

Having toyed with electric guitar, then bass guitar, he conceded his talents were not as a musician, and at the age of 17, he began managing a local band. A year later, inspired by a documentary on Woodstock, he decided to create a small music festival in the town of Herent, a few kilometres from his hometown of Leuven. “I called it ‘The Park Festival,’ because it was in a park,” he laughs. “I booked a few local bands, and 800 people came to the first event.”

However, just weeks later, another youngster – Hedwig De Meyer – staged his new festival a mere eight kilometres away in the village of Werchter. “He also had 800 people,” says Herman. “At the time, I was also writing for a newspaper, and I was the only journalist on Hedwig’s guest list. We met and agreed to work together for the following year, and because there were fewer neighbours in Werchter, we kept that site to minimise the chance of complaints.”

That collaboration led to the first Rock Werchter festival, in 1974, and the partnership thrived, with Hedwig taking care of production logistics, and liaising with the local authorities and the Werchter mayor, while Herman concentrated on booking the artists.

Still living at home, Herman soon started using his talent to promote club gigs, as part of a move to try to fund renting his own apartment. “It wasn’t the usual promoter route because I was a festival promoter before I organised gigs, but I was able to pick up some interesting bands and that’s what kick-started everything.”

“It wasn’t the usual promoter route because I was a festival promoter before I organised gigs”

What that modest comment does not cover is the lengths young Herman would go to in order to fulfil the growing demand from audiences in Belgium to discover new talent. As a result, his ambition and confidence grew, and he would travel to London to try to meet with agents who had never heard of him. Working with a shoestring budget, he would stay in youth hostels and wait for the unsuspecting agents on their office doorsteps first thing in the morning, just to try to get a meeting.

Herman comments, “Some people become a missionary in Africa or whatever. Our mission was to put Belgium on the map and to see acts playing in Belgium and not only passing through from London to Germany to play for the American troops or to play Paris or Hamburg or Berlin.

“The big bands didn’t bother about Belgium in those days, so I started out chasing the smaller ones. That was one of the advantages of being in a small country – if you wanted to be part of the music business, you had to sniff out the new acts.”

Such was Herman’s skill in identifying emerging talent that the local Warner Records operation persuaded him to take a job in its A&R department – an opportunity that he realised could ultimately benefit Rock Werchter. “We were doing promo for Sire acts such as the Ramones and Talking Heads, as well Stiff Records, which was home to the likes of Elvis Costello, and I was able to get those acts to play at the festival,” reports Herman.

His tenure at Warners lasted close to five years and saw him rise through the ranks to head the local A&R and promo departments. But with the festival and his other promoting efforts dominating more and more time, he was given an ultimatum by his managing director. “So, I left Warners, aged 26, to finally become a full-time promoter. It was a very easy decision. Basically, my hobby became my job. And I’ve never regretted it. I still love my job.”

“Our mission was to put Belgium on the map and to see acts playing in Belgium and not only passing through from London”

Production Spin-offs
As Rock Werchter grew in the early years, there were a number of accidental spin-offs that have, in the decades since, become major players in the live music sector – namely Stageco, EML, and The Powershop.

“When we started, the festival was in one marquee where we could squeeze in about 3,000 people,” explains Herman. “When it grew, we rolled up the sides of the marquee, but the stage wasn’t high enough and people couldn’t see, so we decided to move outdoors, and Hedwig used his engineering skills to design the stage, which was the birth of Stageco as a business.

“In those days, you had supply companies like Edwin Shirley in England but bringing equipment from England to Belgium was too expensive, so we had little choice but to do it ourselves.” And it wasn’t just the staging that had to be sourced. With no decent PA or lighting equipment available in Belgium, the partners also created EML – which has since become part of the PRG group of companies. And it was a similar tale for The Powershop, owned by Hedwig’s brother, Jan De Meyer, as the Werchter principals decided that the best way to solve their power supply issue for the greenfield site was to launch their own business.

Indeed, for about the first 15 years of Rock Werchter, any profits were ploughed back into Stageco, which quickly became a year-round business supplying infrastructure to international tours – the pioneers being Genesis.

“The band’s agent, Steve Hedges, was at one of our festivals and was so impressed by our stages that he put us in contact with the band and that led to us getting the deal to supply staging for a Genesis European tour – which then went on as far as New Zealand,” says Herman.

“When we started, Rock Werchter was in one marquee where we could squeeze in about 3,000 people”

And the success of Rock Werchter was also getting Herman and Hedwig noticed. Noël Steen and Monique Van Dromme, who organised another festival, Rock Tourhout, in the west of Belgium, proposed that the two events should collaborate, to save costs and share line-ups, but at either end of the country. Theoretically, Torhout-Werchter was a great idea. Logistically, it was a huge challenge.

“At that time – 1980 or ’81, I think – both festivals were just one day each, so we’d move everything overnight from Torhout to Werchter – that’s 140 kilometres – and I mean everything: the PA system, the lot. It would have to be loaded out at Torhout, make its way through the traffic across Belgium, loaded in at Werchter, and built in time for the gates opening the next day.”
Rather than just being a one-off experiment, the twin festivals continued the practice for 15 years, until they both expanded to two-day events in 2016.

“In the early days, the twin event helped me attract bands because I was able to offer two shows rather than just one, but Werchter be- came bigger and bigger and booking two festivals started to become a disadvantage,” says Herman. “It also became bloody expensive to run a festival at two different sites. So, when we made big losses at Torhout in 1996 and ‘97, I took the decision to concentrate just on Werchter.”

While the appeal of Rock Werchter captured the imagination of music fans from day one, creating a day-to-day tour circuit around Belgium was a longer-term project. “We didn’t have a company name, but we set up a foundation called Altsien to reflect what we were doing – working with alternative acts like the Human League, Dead Kennedys, and U2, and using alternative venues, such as university aulas in Leuven, Brussels, Ghent, Liège, and Hasselt; a union venue in Mechelen; a sports hall in Deinze; and venues in provincial places like Herenthout, Zedelgem, Poperinge, etc .”

Looking back, Herman admits lots of mistakes were made, but it was the learning ground that he and his companies built their foundations on. “I could easily lose £300 on a show, which was a month’s wages. But that taught you to quickly learn from your mistakes.”

“I still operate as an entrepreneur, and Live Nation allows me to do that”

Making Belgium a European Hub
Two decades ago, when Robert Sillerman’s SFX undertook its programme of corporate klepto-mania, Herman Schueremans’ activities in Belgium were among the top targets for his vision for a global promoting empire.

“SFX first approached me in 2000,” states Herman. “I was honoured that such a big company felt Belgium was important enough. So, in May 2001, I became part of what would later become Live Nation.”

As a division of that corporate entity, Herman’s company has grown in size by a factor of six. Indeed, during the Covid pandemic, the financial protection not only allowed him to keep every member of staff but he actually hired new employees as restrictions on live shows began to ease.

“Promoting shows is an art,” he tells IQ. “I don’t have to put my financial future at risk anymore, but I do want to be successful, so I still operate as an entrepreneur, and Live Nation allows me to do that: to take risks. In fact, since we became part of Live Nation, the company has grown from about ten people to about 60 now.”

And he contends that making the odd mistake is part and parcel of the process in evolving as a promoter. “I still make mistakes, but I think that’s an important part of the process because sometimes you overestimate, sometimes you underestimate things. Especially after Covid.

“When we restarted in March [2022], one of my big worries was will I be able to give the same service?”

“When we restarted in March [2022], one of my big worries was will I be able to give the same service? And I was so happy to see that a lot of shows and tours were safe.”

Looking back on the past year, which he contends was the busiest of his career, Herman says, “It was a sort of interbellum, but not between two wars, rather between two music worlds, which made it a good lesson for everybody to rethink the business, to reinvent it.

“Most of us had a good 2022, but some suffered because they underestimated costs. But overall, the business is back, and I think 2023 will be very good. It’s all about approaching things in a positive way, without becoming greedy.”

Indeed, Herman believes there are some positives to take away from the devastation that Covid inflicted on the live events sector. “People are re-appreciating the experience of a live show or festival. At Werchter 2022, we saw so many happy people. At every festival, you have some moaners, but even the moaners forgot to moan. If we can make those people happy, then I think we are doing a good job.”

“Religion and politics divide; music unites. So, no, I do not miss politics”

Vote Schueremans!
Among Herman’s other claims to fame is a long stint as a member of parliament for the Flemish Liberals and Democrats. “I got involved because I thought that politicians kept making stupid decisions that threatened to destroy what we’d worked so hard to build,” he explains.

His political achievements include helping to introduce a decibel law that measures average noise levels over the course of an hour, as well as Herman enjoys a much-deserved beer at the Rock Werchter 2013 after party legislation to fight secondary ticketing.

Despite those positive moves, Herman is candid about his time as a parliamentarian. “Over the years, I’ve learned that music brings people together. It’s one of my slogans: religion and politics divide; music unites. So, no, I do not miss politics. But it is damned important.”

He continues, “At the same time, I’m happy that I did it, because I can see what the qualities of democracy are and that we all should support it. Being in the Liberal Party, we also managed to push through legislation to allow same-sex marriages. I think that was tremendously important because in recent years we have seen a return to conservatism, meaning it might be a lot more difficult, today, to get those laws voted through and adopted.”

His interest in political matters dates back further. Speaking from his beloved second home in South Africa, Herman tells IQ, “One of the things that gives me a lot of satisfaction is that at the time when Nelson Mandela was in prison at Robben Island, Peter Gabriel asked us to deliver the stages for the Free Mandela shows, which we did in Dakar, in London, and in New York. Delivering those stages at no cost, because that was the deal, was one of the best things I’ve done in my career… when I pass away, and if heaven exists, when Saint Peter is at the gates and starts reading me my list of sins, I will bring that up as an argument to let me in.”

“Delivering the Free Mandela shows was one of the best things I’ve done in my career”

Golden Years
Herman is rightly renowned for the development of Rock Werchter – which is set to mark its 50th anniversary in 2024 – and, indeed, the rest of his festival portfolio, which includes Werchter Boutique, Werchter Classic, Graspop Metal Meeting, and I Love Techno, as well as hugely successful partnerships with the likes of Pukkelpop and Dour.

His support for other businesses in the aftermath of the two-year pandemic lay-off helped those events enjoy successful post Covid returns. “A lot of people moved out of our business to do other things during Covid, and it was a bit difficult to get all those people back on track. But that meant the satisfaction after the festivals was double or triple because we managed to do it as a team,” he states.

“A long time ago, we decided to start paying suppliers in advance and not 30, 60, 90, or 120 days after the event. Helping people with their cash flow definitely allowed them to get back to work after Covid. And that policy helped us a lot in 2022. Don’t forget, we have a history with Stageco, The Powershop, EML, so while we don’t have a Silicon Valley like the Americans have, around Werchter we have a rock and roll music fair, and we have a common history.”

World-Class Legacy
One Herman mantra that has never changed is the lengths he goes to in order to make sure that everyone who attends his festivals is kept safe and made as comfortable as possible – from the audience to the artists to the crew. “For example, we have warm showers, day and night. So, whenever the crew or truck drivers arrive, they get their towels, and we try to make them feel at home.

“The artists’ dressing rooms are perhaps a bit over the top. But basically, when you arrive at Rock Werchter, the dressing room is yours until the end of the festival when you leave. Catering is always open; you can drink tea from a proper cup; you can eat with a knife and fork; you can drink a good glass of wine or draft beer out of a glass. It’s about hospitality.”

“I’ve been saying that a festival should be reinvented every five or even three years. It’s all about evolution”

Reminiscing on his career path, he adds, “30 years ago, I said a festival should be reinvented every ten years. But in the last decade, I’ve been saying that a festival should be reinvented every five or even three years. It’s all about evolution. This is a business where if you have the capability of listening to other people and their ideas, you can be creative, you can reinvent, and you can give young people an opportunity to prove themselves.”

And talking of the next generation, the 69-year-old festival guru admits that the pandemic triggered him to begin plotting the way forward for Live Nation Belgium and his beloved festivals when he is no longer at the helm.

“One of the main jobs I had in the last five years was to prepare our company for succession,” he reveals. “When we started the company, there were five or six people. Ten years ago, it was 30-something. And today it’s close to 60. So, as the business grows, the pyramid also has to grow.

“Now, we have a fantastic team ready to take over in the next couple of years. They do already a hell of a lot of the jobs, and I have to give them all that credit. So, I am happy that the company is in a place where I can afford to stop working in this business, and our team will deliver.” Not quite ready to hang up his promoter’s hat, however, he concludes, “My team inspire me, and I hope I still inspire them a bit. And together we are strong.

“You’re only as good as your last show, not only as an artist but also as a promoter”

“But we are not immortal, and I think it’s part of our moral duty to hand things over to the next generations to create opportunities for them. And for them to do even better – I’m sure they will.”

As for the immediate future, 2023 will be like most years for Herman Schueremans, with the highlights he’s looking forward to centring around his summer programme.

“It’s fantastic to put on the Belgian show of a European tour or a world tour – it’s a privilege to contribute to that. But festivals are something that you create with your team, and you really have to reinvent and rework every year.

“We want to treat our audience well, but at the same time, we want to bring in a younger audience, and I rely on the younger members of our team to do that.

“It is a good success story – and I still love my job every day, but I think staying humble is key. Bottom line, you’re only as good as your last show, not only as an artist but also as a promoter, also as a PA company, as a stage company.”

 


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ILMC 35: Industry heads tackle big topics

ILMC 35 kicked off with the traditional Open Forum session with this year’s host, Maria May from CAA, addressing a swathe of issues, while looking back on a monumental year for live music around the world.

May noted various statistics about the growth of the business in 2022, including the fact that ticket prices for Pollstar’s top 100 tours had increased by more than 10%, before posing a question to her guests about whether those biggest-selling productions should be doing anything to support the grassroots side of the business.

Obi Asika from United Talent Agency noted that the year ahead was looking like it would be the strongest he has ever had, reporting that his dance music and afrobeat acts were doing great business. And answering a question about the stadium business harming grassroots, he stated, “I’m more worried about the stadium effect on festivals. But I don’t see it as an issue; it’s just different.”

“We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners”

When it comes to helping grassroots acts, he added, “We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners.”

Q Prime Management’s Tara Richardson contested: “There’s a whole generation of ticket buyers who have skipped [going to] sweaty clubs because they have been stuck indoors during the pandemic.”

But she agreed that perhaps stadiums could support grassroots venues through sponsorship or some other system. “The record labels and publishers develop talent, but the live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots,” she observed.

Addressing the issue of spiralling costs, Herman Schueremans of Live Nation Belgium admitted that most people in the business had not expected such big rises. “The bottom line is that it’s a thing of give and take – listen to each other and be nicer to each other,” Schueremans pleaded. Looking back at 2022, he reported, “By respecting people and paying part [of the money] in advance and the balance the day after show, it worked really well.

“You cannot avoid rising costs – you have to live with it and deal with it. It might mean we have to work harder but earn less. Making a profit is important, but it’s not the most important.”

“The live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots”

On a related note, talking about all the various challenges that the live sector is facing, Asika pointed to the example of some of his African artists who have had all kinds of obstacles to overcome to establish careers outside of their own countries. “However complex it is, we can figure it out,” he said. “There are enough ideas and enough good people to figure it out – it’s part of the fun.”

Tackling the controversial topic of dynamic pricing, John Meglen from Concerts West noted, “Most shows do not sell out, but at the very high end it’s a very simple supply and demand issue [and] dynamic pricing is a business decision. If you sell a ticket for $100 but then watch it be resold for $500, the artist should be receiving that money, not the tout.”

Meglen suggested that blaming the ticketing system for any issues was a cop-out. “It’s up to us to set those business rules – we cannot be blaming the ticketing systems, he said. “We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue. We need to make sure that the money [remains] in our business. If we’re getting market value for our tickets, the artists are going to earn more and it’s not someone outside business making the money.”

Q Prime’s Richardson drew comparisons with the price of theatre tickets when it comes to tour pricing, but also had a pragmatic idea on how the teams involved in tour planning could better handle the subject. “Maybe there needs to be a middle ground where we involve tour accountants before we route – and we have a plan A, plan B, and plan C for the tour and the production, depending on the ticket price.”

“We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue”

The session also looked at how the live music industry can attract a more diverse workforce, with the speakers agreeing that more needs to be done – from the top of the business downwards – to make true and meaningful progress.

Engaging in a debate regarding the environmental impact of the live music sector, Schueremans revealed, “At Rock Werchter 2022 we recycled or recouped 95% of our plastic. It was a hell of a challenge, but we did it and we should not just be doing it as festivals, we need to do it at all shows.”

However, Richardson concluded that rather than beat up the festivals and tours, “We’d be better off having a huge industry lobby to do something about the six big companies who are contributing most to carbon emissions.”

 


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IQ 117 out now: Lewis Capaldi, Schueremans, France

IQ 117, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The March 2023 issue sees Belgian promoter Herman Schueremans look back on 50 years in the live music industry, while Lewis Capaldi’s team discuss what made the singer’s latest tour such a success.

Elsewhere, the full agenda for the 35th edition of the International Live Music Conference is revealed and the New Tech panel is previewed.

Plus, IQ editor James Hanley examines the current state of the live event insurance market and Adam Woods puts the French business under le microscope.

For this edition’s double header of columns and comments, Marcel Hunziker talks up the benefits of developing a presence on TikTok and Sheryl Pinckney-Maas outlines the reasons to consider crowdsourced data to enhance event security.

In addition, Joe Hastings highlights the work of Help Musicians in tackling mental health issues in the music industry and Chris Bray explains how the ILMC scheme to introduce young professionals to the conference fits with ASM Global’s own future leadership plans.

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 £6.25 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

Herman Schueremans on the “happy rebirth” of festivals

Live Nation Belgium CEO and Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says this summer has been a “happy rebirth of festivals after two years of Covid”.

With a slate of sold-out festivals and concerts, Schueremans has hailed the season as “even better than 2019” and says that Belgium’s recovery is “well in line with the rest of Europe”.

A key highlight for Schueremans was Rock Werchter’s record sell-out which saw 66,000 combi-tickets and 80,000 one-day tickets fly off the shelf by the start of February – months earlier than usual.

Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and Metallica were among the acts that performed at Belgium’s biggest festival, which took place between 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark, Werchter.

Sister festivals Werchter Boutique (cap. 60,000) and TW Classic (60,000) also sold out. However one-off event Rock Werchter Encore was called off just one month after it was announced due to “high production costs, staff shortages, and low consumer confidence”.

Elsewhere in LN Belgium’s stable of festivals, Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel sold out after its capacity was expanded from 50,000 capacity to 52,000 to match high demand.

The renowned heavy metal festival, which took place across four days, sold 42,500 combi tickets and 40,000 day tickets, drawing 82,500 unique attendees.

Schueremans has hailed the season as “even better than 2019”

Capitalising further on pent-up demand for festivals, Rock Werchter also launched a new two-day festival in Brussels in partnership with fellow Belgian festival behemoth Tomorrowland.

Core debuted between 27–28 May this year in Osseghem Park, a picturesque nature area in the Belgian capital, featuring an eclectic bill topped by Stormzy, Jamie xx and Mura Masa.

“It was a promising first year with a happy audience, happy artists and happy crew. It will do very well in 2023,” says Schueremans, who attributes the festival’s success to the synergy of the Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland teams.

“We brought both teams together again and made it work like clockwork. They took care of the look of the festival site and gave it a unique feel and our team took care of the artist bill. Together we are strong,” he adds.

Live Nation Belgium has also enjoyed an extraordinary summer of concerts, selling out four stadium shows for Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour. With 220,000 tickets sold, Schueremans says it is a new record in Belgium.

And the promoter’s sell-out success is already seeping into next year, having sold out TW Classic (18 June 2023) with headliner Bruce Springsteen, and Harry Styles’ show at Werchter Park (24 June 2023).

Werchter Boutique (17 June 2023) and Rock Werchter (29–30 June and 1–2 July 2023) will also return next year and will soon be announced.

 


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Werchter chief toasts biggest festival summer yet

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says the success of this summer’s Belgian festival season is helping to stimulate ticket sales across the board.

Boasting a star-studded line-up headed by Pearl Jam, Metallica, Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Twenty One Pilots and The Killers, Belgium’s biggest festival sold out in record time in February this year.

Held from 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark in Werchter, organisers shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets for its first edition since 2020. The event attracted festival-goers from 95 countries.

“The biggest challenge was making sure everything ran as clockwork, as per the top Rock Werchter standards, and our team did it. It went super-smoothly,” Schueremans tells IQ. “Everybody was positive: in front of the stage, on stage and backstage. There were too many highlights to mention. Our audience, bands and their teams loved it.”

“We see an enormous boost in the ticket sales for our indoor shows”

Some tickets for the 88,000-cap festival were sold at 2020 prices, with those shifted after December 2021 priced higher due to increased production costs.

Next year’s Rock Werchter is set for 29 June to 2 July 2023, and the Live Nation CEO indicates the 88,000-cap event’s well-received return has had a positive knock-on effect on the domestic market overall.

“We see an enormous boost in the ticket sales for our indoor shows, especially for acts that performed well at our Werchter festivals,” says Schueremans. “It is exciting.”

Despite the cancellation of 25,000-cap spin-off Rock Werchter Encore, which was called off just one month after it was announced due to “high production costs, staff shortages, and low consumer confidence”, Schueremans reels off a string of other triumphs, declaring 2022 “our most successful summer ever”.

“We are now focusing on the four sold-out Coldplay shows at Brussels stadium”

“We had a sold out Werchter Boutique [cap. 63,000] with Stromae and Gorillaz on June 19,” he says. “We sold 60,000 tickets for TWClassic with Nick Cave, Florence + the Machine and Placebo on June 25, and a sold-out Graspop Metal Meeting – 52,000 tickets – from June 16 to 19.”

Schueremans’ attention now switches to the raft of other huge Live Nation Belgium shows planned for later in the year. Tours set to visit the country include Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Anne-Marie, Kendrick Lamar, Machine Gun Kelly and Lil Nas X.

“We are now focusing on the four sold-out Coldplay shows at Brussels [King Baudouin] stadium – 220,000 tickets – as well as the August festivals and then shows in the autumn,” he notes.

 


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Belgium’s Rock Werchter Encore called off

Belgium’s Rock Werchter Encore has been called off just one month after it was announced due to “high production costs, staff shortages, and low consumer confidence”.

The 25,000-capacity one-off festival was due to take place on 26 June at Werchter’s Festivalpark, a few days ahead of its parent festival Rock Werchter.

“The desire to experience festivals in all their glory again after two years of silence is great,” says Herman Schueremans, who promotes the festival alongside Live Nation Belgium.

“But there are a few dampers on the revelry. Consumer confidence is lost, the live entertainment sector is struggling with staff shortages, production costs are skyrocketing.”

The bill of acts that would have performed at Rock Werchter Encore has been integrated into sister festival TW Classic, which takes place on 25 June.

“Consumer confidence is lost, the sector is struggling with staff shortages, production costs are skyrocketing”

Florence + the Machine, The Kid Laroi, The Specials, Zwangere Guy, Intergalactic Lovers, Sky Ferreira, Noordkaap (just added!), AG Club and Sylvie Kreusch are among the acts that have joined the TW Classic bill.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Placebo, The Smile, Courtney Barnett, Sleaford Mods and Whispering Sons have already been announced for the festival.

“We are very happy that we can bring Florence + the Machine to the Festival Park, together with a large part of the other artists who would be on Rock Wechter Encore. TW Classic is selling very well. However, partly due to the addition of the two tents, there is still sufficient ticket capacity to combine both day festivals. It’s going to be fantastic.”

Tickets for Rock Werchter Encore be accepted for entry to TW Classic. Rock Werchter Encore ticketholders unable to attend can request a refund.

Alongside TW Classic, Schueremans and Live Nation are also gearing up for the return of flagship festival Rock Werchter (cap. 88,000), which will return to the park between 30 June and 3 July with acts including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Killers.

In addition, Rock Werchter and fellow Belgium festival Tomorrowland are bringing a new two-day festival in Brussels, called Core festival.

 


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Belgium’s Rock Werchter plans one-off day festival

The organisers of Belgium’s Rock Werchter have announced a one-off event to celebrate the return of festivals.

Rock Werchter Encore will take place on 26 June at Werchter’s Festivalpark, a few days ahead of the flagship festival.

Florence + The Machine are slated to headline the one-day event, with more acts to be announced soon.

The festival will be preceded by Werchter Boutique (19 June) featuring the likes of Stromae and Gorillaz, as well as TW Classic (25 June) with acts including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Placebo and The Smile.

“For the past two summers, things were pretty quiet at the Park, making us all the more hungry for a festival experience”

Rock Werchter (cap. 88,000), Belgium’s biggest festival, will return to the park between 30 June and 3 July with acts including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Killers.

“For the past two summers, things were pretty quiet at the Festival Park, making us all the more hungry for a festival experience lived to the full,” says Herman Schueremans, who promotes the festival alongside Live Nation Belgium.

“This year’s Rock Werchter and Werchter Boutique are both sold out in a records time. The fans are raring to go, and so are the artists. And of course, so are we. And we want more. That’s why we are announcing this one-off extra festival day featuring a number of top artists, including the always amazing Florence + the Machine. It’s our way of giving more fans the chance to enjoy the unique Rock Werchter experience.”

Today’s news comes after Rock Werchter and fellow Belgium festival Tomorrowland announced they were partnering on a new two-day festival in Brussels, called Core festival.

 


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Schueremans on Rock Werchter’s record sell-out

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says that the festival’s record sell-out is a sign of things to come, as he gears up for his busiest festival summer in years.

The organisers yesterday (9 February) announced that the 2022 edition of Belgium’s biggest festival is now completely sold out – and far earlier than expected.

“We normally sell out in April or May or early June… this time we are sold on 9 February,” Schueremans tells IQ.

This year’s Rock Werchter shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets, some of which were sold at the price advertised in 2020 and some at an increased rate.

“After it became clear in the autumn that costs were going to increase, we increased Rock Werchter tickets from 1 December 2021. However, we informed our fans mid-November that we had to do that due to increased production costs, so they had 2 weeks to buy at the 2020 price.”

With increased ticket prices and pent-up demand across the board, Schueremans is aware that audiences expect more from festivals this year but says that “delivering a top bill and top service is part of our DNA”.

“Our 2022 bill is again a strong one with an eclectic mix of strong headliners, midsize acts (the headliners of the future) and new acts in all genres,” he maintains.

“Delivering a top bill and top service is part of our DNA”

Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and Metallica are among the acts billed to perform at the marquee event, scheduled for 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark, Werchter.

Rock Werchter isn’t the only festival selling well according to Schueremans, who is also the CEO of Live Nation Belgium. The promoter has also reported “excellent” ticket sales for its other Festivalpark events too.

Werchter Boutique (19 June) with Gorillaz and Stromae has sold 43,000 tickets, while TW Classic (25 June) with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Placebo and The Smile has sold 40,000 tickets. Ticket prices for both events stayed the same.

Elsewhere in LN Belgium’s stable of events, Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel was expanded from 50,000 capacity to 52,000 after most tickets sold out in early November.

Capitalising further on the pent-up demand, Rock Werchter recently announced a new two-day festival in Brussels, in partnership with fellow Belgian festival behemoth Tomorrowland.

According to Schueremans, Core won’t be the only new event on their festival calendar this year: “Lots of Werchter fans are unserved. We will serve them and we will soon come up with a big surprise for them at the Werchter Park site. Will announce the headliner and part of the bill soon.”

See the full line-up for Rock Werchter 2022 below.

 


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Top Euro promoters speak out on new Covid spike

A handful of top European promoters have spoken to IQ about the impact the latest Covid spike is having on the continent’s live music business.

Record daily infections have been reported in Germany and the Netherlands, while Austria and Belgium have introduced new measures. In the UK, Northern Ireland is following Scotland’s lead in introducing Covid passports to gain entry to venues.

In France, however, the government has just lifted capacity restrictions on standing at indoor concerts following a campaign by French live music association Prodiss.

“France is always different to everywhere else,” laughs Paris-based promoter Arnaud Meersseman, who says he senses “clouds on the horizon”.

“There is a general sense that whilst Germany and Austria have rather low vaccination rates, it is very worrisome that countries such as Belgium and Netherlands – that have a vaccination rate close to ours – are in the situation they are in. So there is some anxiety,” he tells IQ.

Meersseman suspects new rules could be introduced at a government meeting next week after president Emmanuel Macron fired a “warning shot” in a public address earlier this month.

You start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore

“We were at 12,000 cases a day a week ago, and now we’re at 20,000,” says the AEG Presents France head. “So it’s getting to that point where it trickles and then suddenly, boom, it becomes exponential.

“I don’t think we’ll go back into full lockdown. But in terms of our business, well, there’s not much going on anyway – even for domestic acts – in November and December. I think there could be some impact there, we’ll see. But I’m not very positive about it and I’m not feeling super positive about January/February either.

“Domestic tours, maybe they go ahead in February/March. But for international tours, it feels highly unlikely that anything happens between January and March because you start losing territories like Holland and Germany and suddenly your tour isn’t viable economically anymore.”

He adds: “You can see that the weather definitely has an impact. If you look at Spain, Italy and Portugal; on top of having extremely high vaccination rates, they’re having very nice weather and their cases aren’t rising. It’s as soon as you get people back inside, basically, that the cases are rising again.”

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans explains that, with Belgium entering a semi-lockdown this weekend, concert-goers for Saturday’s performance by Bazart at Antwerp’s Lotto Arena will be required to wear masks, whereas those attending the band’s first show tomorrow night will not.

“It’s a bit of a strange situation,” remarks the Live Nation Belgium boss. “But even though we know a percentage of the audience will not show up, we’re happy that our sold-out shows in November and December can all happen at full capacity. It’s key for the artists and their teams, and the venues, suppliers, security teams and crew, as well as our team.”

People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place

Pascal Van De Velde of Greenhouse Talent reports that ticket sales for concerts in Belgium over the next two to three months have been “decimated” by the worsening situation.

“People don’t trust the shows in the near future will take place,” he says. “And people don’t feel like going anymore, as they think it’s no fun with the masks, etc.”

It is a similar state of play in Austria, where Goodlive Concerts MD Silvio Huber describes the current picture as a “mess”. Proof of a negative PCR test will be needed to attend concerts in Vienna from tomorrow, with a return to a full lockdown in the coming days looking increasingly likely.

“Restrictions are going to change every few days,” says Huber. “In the federal states of Salzburg und Upper Austria, the situation is out of control. Shows have been cancelled there already, and hospitals are getting their teams ready for triage as they are running out of intensive care beds slowly, but surely.

“Furthermore they have just announced there will be will a lockdown in Salzburg und Upper Austria from Monday onwards. We will see tomorrow if the rest of the country will join them. I’m pretty sure we will see a nationwide lockdown.”

Scores of shows in the Netherlands were postponed earlier this week after the Dutch government imposed a new partial lockdown. A capacity limit of 1,250 has been imposed on venues, with restrictions due to last until 4 December at the earliest.

We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap

“We had to cancel or postpone all shows above 1,250-cap, at least for three weeks and even beyond those dates,” says Jan Willem Luyken of Mojo Concerts. “Indoor, fixed seated shows can still happen with limited capacity, with proof of vaccine, negative test or [natural immunity from a previous positive test]. Bars and catering need to be closed from 8pm, so it’s a very complex situation indeed, and we’re still figuring it out.”

In light of the fresh measures, Luyken says the Dutch government has announced an extension of support programmes for the live event industry and cultural sector.

Germany’s Event Management Forum (EMF), which consists of five major organisations including live music associations BDKV and LiveKomm, has urged the German government to meet with music industry representatives before imposing new restrictions on the business. Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel has called the country’s current Covid situation “dramatic” and said a fourth wave of the virus was hitting Germany with “full force”.

BDKV chief Jens Michow earlier laid bare the stark financial impact of the pandemic on the business.

“In the 20 months of actual lockdown, the loss of sales for concert, tour and festival organisers alone was around €3.5 billion by the end of last year,” he said. “By the end of 2021, the loss in sales will add up to at least €8.5bn.”

 


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