Reeperbahn secures keynote with FKP Scorpio boss
European conference and showcase festival Reeperbahn has announced a keynote speech with FKP Scorpio boss Folkert Koopmans on the current state of the festival market.
The news comes as Reepberbahn announces the first wave of names for this year’s event, taking place between 20 and 23 September across Hamburg, Germany.
This year’s conference programme will revolve around the theme of social sustainability, with discussions on monopolisation, AI, abuse of power and discrimination-free spaces, diversity, transformation processes, tomorrow’s perspectives, challenging a growth mentality and overcoming upheavals.
This year’s conference programme will revolve around the theme of social sustainability
Under that banner, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s CEO Ben Mitha will be exploring the market power of the music industry’s stars, while digital transformation expert Charlotte Stahl (head of music operations DACH, TikTok) will talk about the best ways musicians can exploit the opportunities of TikTok.
Kiki Ressler (CEO, KKT), e-commerce expert Iris Bögenholz (COO, white label eCommerce) and Rembert Stiewe (festival director, OBS, Glitterhouse) will be discussing the impact of models, such as dynamic pricing or social ticketing, on the ticket market.
Elsewhere, mental health will be the main theme covered by songwriter Clueso in conversation with his manager Dr. Olaf Meinking. The pair will discuss the challenges faced by artists dealing with the highs and lows of their careers as well as the special relationship that exists between artists and their managers.
A rundown of all the speakers confirmed so far for the conference programme at Reeperbahn Festival is available here.
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Karsten Jahnke recognised at 2023 Arthur Awards
German concert legend Karsten Jahnke was honoured with the Bottle Award as the international live music business flocked to the biggest Arthur Awards yet.
With more than 400 professionals in attendance at ILMC’s new home, the five-star Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, it was the most well-attended Gala Dinner in the event’s history.
Reflecting this year’s focus on the Latin live music market, this edition took place as The ILMC Gala Fiesta & Arturo Awards, with AEG Presents’ Lucy Noble and A Greener Festival CEO Claire O’Neill standing in for CAA’s Emma Banks as hosts.
Eleven gongs were awarded in total, including the Bottle Award, which recognises an individual who has contributed greatly to the live music industry. Jahnke, founder of Germany’s renowned Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, celebrated his 60th year in the business last year.
Elsewhere, the top promoter gong went to Kelly Chappel of Live Nation, while the ‘second least offensive agent’ category was won by Alex Bruford of ATC Live. The top festival award (Ligger’s Favourite Festival) went to Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival.
“Many thanks to all the live music professionals at the 2023 ILMC Gala Dinner who helped make it the biggest edition in our long history”
“Congratulations to this year’s deserving Arthur winners, and many thanks to all the live music professionals at the 2023 ILMC Gala Dinner who helped make it the biggest edition in our long history,” says ILMC MD Greg Parmley. “It was a particular pleasure to recognise Karsten Jahnke with the prestigious Bottle Award, with him having celebrated a phenomenal 60 years in business in 2022.”
For more than two and a half decades, The Arthur Awards have been handed out during ILMC. The shortlist of nominees in each category are decided by a committee of 150 industry professionals. Winners are then decided by a combination of an open vote of all ILMC members and IQ Magazine readers, and a closed panel of judges made up of senior industry figures.
The full list of 2023 Arthur Awards winners is as follows:
THE VENUE AWARD
(FIRST VENUE TO COME INTO YOUR HEAD)
Barclays Arena, Hamburg
THE PROMOTER AWARD
(THE PROMOTERS’ PROMOTER)
Kelly Chappel, Live Nation
THE AGENT AWARD
(SECOND LEAST OFFENSIVE AGENT)
Alex Bruford, ATC Live
THE FESTIVAL AWARD
(LIGGERS’ FAVOURITE FESTIVAL)
Montreux Jazz Festival
THE PRODUCTION SERVICES AWARD
(SERVICES ABOVE & BEYOND)
Beat the Street
THE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AWARD
(MOST PROFESSIONAL PROFESSIONAL)
Katie Moore, Live Nation
THE ASSISTANT AWARD
(THE PEOPLE’S ASSISTANT)
Kai Henderson, AEG Presents
THE TICKETING PROFESSIONAL AWARD
(THE GOLDEN TICKET)
Marcia Titley, Eventim Norway & Sweden
THE INDUSTRY CHAMPION AWARD
(THE UNSUNG HERO)
Holger Jan Schmidt, YOUROPE
YOUNG EXECUTIVE AWARD
(TOMORROW’S NEW BOSS)
Dan Rais, CAA
THE BOTTLE AWARD
Karsten Jahnke, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion
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Karsten Jahnke buys into Kopf & Steine
Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion and Morgenwelt owner Björn Hansen have taken a stake in Hamburg-based festival promoter Kopf & Steine via their joint venture KJ Projects.
Kopf & Steine has been promoting festivals in the Hamburg district of Wilhelmsburg since 2007, such as MS Dockville, Vogelball, Spektrum, MS Artville, Habitat festival and Lüttville.
“We are very much looking forward to working with Claudio and Frank, who, together with their former partner Enno Arndt, have created great formats over the last 15 years!” says Ben Mitha and Björn Hansen, managing directors of KJ Projects.
“MS Dockville, Vogelball and Spektrum have been excellently positioned in the festival landscape and also are continuously developed with a lot of love and and eye for detail, so that they are now considered renowned institutions in the international festival calendar. The current times are characterised by many challenges for creative industries, which is why the new constellation enables us to bundle our interests vis-à-vis politics, administration and service providers, so we can represent them even more strongly in the future.
“The new constellation enables us to bundle our interests vis-à-vis politics, administration and service providers”
“At the same time, this participation underpins our strategy of extending the value chain within the framework of our own network. Through our affiliated companies such as Stereolicious GmbH (event catering) and ADDWISE Engineering GmbH (production and festival planning office), a high level of added value is created not only for all those involved but also for Hamburg as a city of culture. It is important to all of us that Hamburg continues to be an important music location in the future, known internationally for its cultural offerings and strong cultural and festival formats. Especially in the current situation, strong and independent partners and a joint strategy for action are indispensable, so the cooperation between KJ Projects and Kopf & Steine was a logical step.”
Claudio Urban and Frank Diekmann, managing directors of Kopf & Steine, add: “Kopf & Steine has welcomed KJP into its team of shareholders: This share is a great benefit for our formats and the future of music, art and festivals in Hamburg and Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg. We count on KJP as a strong partner with whom we can continue to maintain Kopf & Steine’s independence in the festival industry – and at the same time look forward to a close collaboration in which we can learn and benefit from each other in many areas.
“With almost 100,000 visitors, the festival summer on the Elbe island is a beacon of Hamburg’s music and cultural landscape. Together, we strengthen these formats – such as MS Dockville, Vogelball and Spektrum – while also preserving the jobs related to them and additionally create numerous synergies while doing this. This partnership will ensure that independent, diverse and well-attended festivals will continue to take place in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg in the future. Hamburg will remain to be a headliner for music, culture and festivals – this is the aim we will be working on together with Ben Mitha, Björn Hansen, KJ Projects and the Kopf & Steine team. We are very much looking forward to taking this next step together.”
Founded in 2021, KJ Projects is responsible for festival and open-air formats such as Baltic Soul Weekender, Cruise Inn Hamburg and also Zeltphilharmonie.
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Best of 2022: 60 years of KJK
Ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months. Here, we celebrate 60 years of legendary German promoter Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion…
When Karsten Jahnke registered the company name back in 1962, the enthusiastic music man had already been immersed in his favourite genre –jazz – since the decade before but admits that running a company that would allow him to indulge in his passion was never really a goal.
“The first jazz ball I promoted was 1959 for a band of a friend,” he recalls. “Afterwards, I remember receiving a letter from the authorities telling me that I needed a type of licence to put on such a show.”
At the time, Karsten was working in an export company in Hamburg, but with his evenings free, he would organise shows when he found the time and otherwise spent his waking hours listening to jazz records and trying to contact the representatives of the artists he liked best.
Finally, in 1962, his employer persuaded him it was maybe time to chase the dream, and with the registration of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK), he took possession of the licence that local government had been urging him to obtain for his concerts and events.
“When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things, so I made sure to have an expert for the technology,” he tells IQ. “I had a fantastic start because I was working with a German ‘nonsense’ group called Insterburg & Co. and every year we had between 80-150 sold-out shows with capacities of 1,000-2,000. So for ten solid years, we made money.”
““When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things”
The success of the boutique KJK operation also attracted the attention of Germany’s powerhouse promoters, and Karsten would often find himself working with Marcel Avram and Marek Lieberberg at Mama Concerts, as well as Fritz Rau, who dominated the German market from the 1950s right through to the 80s. Those collaborations saw Karsten working with the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Santana, and Neil Diamond, expanding his roster beyond its jazz routes.
Indeed, while losing money on the odd show was, of course, part of the reality of being a promoter, the first time Karsten experienced real difficulties was 20 years into his career. “It was 1983, and Marius Müller-Westernhagen cancelled a tour one day before it was scheduled to start,” says Karsten.
“I was insured by an English company who said they would pay, but all of a sudden it was six months later, so I employed an English lawyer, and after 18 months we got the money, which at that time was DM650,000. It was a lot of money [about €330,000 in today’s money], and if we had not got it back, the company would have been bankrupt.”
While a passion for the art lies at the heart of everything Karsten does, he is a realist when it comes to working in the industry. “I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money,” he states. “We had a lot of successful tours and, okay, sometimes you lose some artists – Depeche Mode we lost, Herbert Grönemeyer we lost. But some, like The Dubliners, we’ve booked for their entire 40 years. And we still have Peter Gabriel and we still have The Cure, so to be honest, I’m really happy.”
I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money”
Keeping it in the Family
Although Karsten was always keen to keep his eponymous company within the family, sons Torsten and Heiko found careers elsewhere, albeit Torsten still designs many of the company posters and artwork, while Heiko curates ÜBERJAZZ Festival and works with the company’s booking team on certain acts. Instead, the family business skipped a generation, with grandson Ben Mitha assuming the CEO role in 2014 alongside his grandfather and long-time chief Hauke Tedsen as the company’s three general managers. But it wasn’t always a certainty that Ben would take over the reins.
“During my school days, there was always this soft push and wish of Karsten to get somehow involved in the company,” he reveals. “But I kept my options open to do something different. So when I finished my A levels, it was a choice for me to either go into sports journalism or go Karsten’s way.”
The decision was made during an open house visit to Hamburg University. “Part of the programme was a journalism lecture,” says Ben. “There were, like, 2,000 people in there and about 2,000 more trying to get in. So I realised, no matter how good I think I am, pursuing a career as a journalist would be challenging. So I made the decision to go into music business and never regretted it.”
Keen to learn his trade, Ben found a role as an intern for Ted Kurland in Boston, while embarking on dual studies for both a bachelor degree and a merchant degree. “After three years, I had both degrees, and then I just started working my way through at KJK, starting as a booker and working my way up to managing director as I assumed more and more responsibilities.”
“We are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre”
“Of course, he started really when he was three years old in the StadtPark during the summer,” interjects Karsten. “Little Ben was always around, and he loved it.”
“It’s true,” says Ben. “My mom did the box office at Stadtpark, so I was always hanging around and playing in the bushes and stuff like that. So I suppose I got the experience from very early on.”
Karsten describes Ben’s path to the top as natural. “As a school pupil, he started to work at the company during his holidays. And after his A Levels, he started his own company, Digga Events, a full-service agency for security and stage personnel that now also handles concert production. So when he decided to join our company, it seemed like a very logical next step, and I was really happy to have a family member on board to have him leading the company into the future.”
And Ben’s impact on KJK’s activities over the past decade has been obvious. “When I started at the company, I started to open up the general roster in a more diverse and wider way,” he explains. “So we are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre except the classical market and German folklore (schlager) business, which we don’t cover.
“The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him”
“While Karsten loves jazz, I originally come from the hip-hop and urban world,” he adds. “There are a few names I’m working with now, like Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, J. Cole, who definitely are some heroes from my teenager years. It makes me proud to be a small, tiny part of their art.”
That passion for music is something passed down the generations, and Ben is in no doubt about the legacy his grandfather has created for the family.
“Karsten’s 70th birthday was a big party at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg with 1,200 guests,” recalls Ben. “It was remarkable how many domestic and international stars showed up – Paul Weller, The Dubliners, Nils Landgren, Til Brönner, Herman van Veen, Justin Nozuka – as well as loads of politicians and celebrities. It was really impressive to see how many people travelled to Hamburg just to honour this guy.”
And he says his first trips to the Royal Garden Hotel similarly underlined his grandfather’s status in his eyes. “The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him and wanted to speak to him. Seeing his standing on the international stage showed me how well respected Karsten is throughout the business.”
“[Karsten] taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes”
So with such a sage to learn from, what has the grandfather’s best advice been to the new company leader? “He taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes,” says Ben. “Besides that, I try to follow his style and manner of doing business. We have a saying in Germany that he is a typical Hanseatic businessman, which means he is always laid back, calm, loyal, trustworthy and respectful. That’s something he showed me from the very beginning, and I try to keep that spirit alive. Your word is your bond.”
Marking the company’s 60th anniversary while the German market is still trying to manoeuvre its way out of Covid restrictions will undoubtedly put a dampener on celebrations, but it hasn’t stopped the KJK staff from working tirelessly to prepare for their return to action.
“During the last two years, there was a strong focus on local and domestic artists because those were the only ones available and the only ones present in Germany,” Ben observes. However, he pours scorn on suggestions that emerging domestic talent has benefitted.
“Germany only had a few newcomers that came through, because the only thing they could do was streaming or some social media stuff. Otherwise, there was a huge lack of options and possibilities for the newcomers to come through,” notes Ben. “Obviously, the more popular and well-known domestic artists had a platform because all the attention was focused on them. But everything that comes after them struggled during the last two years. So I wouldn’t say that the domestic scene has experienced much growth.”
“Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place”
Examining the changes to the German market during the pandemic, Ben notes the arrival of both DreamHaus and All Artists Agency, but he believes the new sense of camaraderie within the country is also boosted by the very unique nature of the way in which the live music business operates in the nation.
“As it stands right now, we are all very cooperative and there’s a spirit of solidarity, but once you open the gates and the normal competition comes back in, this will be shifted to the side pretty quickly,” he laughs.
He continues, “Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place. Everywhere else is more centralised and the big players can easily take over a whole country by storm. It doesn’t work that way in Germany because of our historic background and also from the cultural differences within the country – the people from Bavaria are very different than we are in the north; the people in Eastern Germany are very different than the Western people, and stuff like that.”
Nonetheless, KJK is not immune from attracting suitors, and the pandemic has seen a number of approaches from corporations keen to add the Hamburg-based experts to their portfolio.
“We had some offers, but I was not interested,” Karsten tells IQ. “I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”
“I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”
Ben says, “Yes, a couple of bigger corporates approached us. Corona has been hard for all of us, but the company came through pretty well because we had good years before the pandemic, and we had lots of money saved that we could use to get us through this crisis.
“If we were to sell the company, it would be because the deal would bring us certain benefits: maybe access to another pool of artists that we couldn’t get access to without being part of a corporate, or maybe synergies in the label world. But so far, everybody who approached us just wanted to give us a ton of money for 50% of our annual revenues. And that’s not interesting for us at all because we don’t need to sell anything or to generate money.”
Talking through KJK’s Covid experience, both Karsten and Ben emphasise the strength in remaining independent, as they managed to retain all 46 staff and used government furlough schemes to keep staff on full pay when they were not otherwise working normal hours.
Detailing some of the company activity during 2020-21, Ben says, “We started with drive-in concerts, and then we took on seated shows at the Stadtpark with a very reduced audience – only playing one-quarter of the overall capacity. We also did a streaming series, and we came back in summer 21 with a whole bunch of open- air social distance concepts.
Loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career
“None of the shows made us any money, but they helped to keep us busy and to keep the whole infrastructure around us alive with all the suppliers, the crews, the bands, and the artists. This was one of our main concerns, as we saw it as our responsibility to keep our suppliers and the people we need open, ahead of things getting back to normal, otherwise we might have a huge lack of suppliers. So, that was our main intention for our pandemic shows.”
That loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career. “I started on first of April 1994, which makes it 28 years and counting,” says Frehn Hawel, the company’s head of communications, noting, “I’m not the only person clocking in around 30 years – there’s our third general manager, Hauke Tedsen, there’s Peter Gramsch head of our local department, and in my team I have Kai Friedrichsen who has also been here around 30 years. We have a long history of people who dedicate their lives to this company.”
And Hawel epitomises the family feel to KJK, having worked his way up through the ranks organically. “I was friends at school with Karsten’s youngest son, and when we moved into our first bachelor pad together, Karsten’s wife, Girlie, offered us some box office jobs to boost our income,” says Hawel. “My job during the day ended at five o’clock in the afternoon. So it was perfect to go to Karsten’s office, pick up everything and start in the box office at seven o’clock.”
Determined to find a full-time job with Karsten, Hawel even spent his holiday time doing an internship in the booking department at KJK. And it paid off when in 1994 a vacancy arose. “Unfortunately, it was not as a booker, but as a bookkeeper. But it got my foot in the door, and a couple of years later our press team left to join BMG’s record labels and, after a bit of persuasion, Karsten trusted me to step into the job. He just said ‘I think you’re my new press guy then.’ And that was that.”
“Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost”
With the company now around triple the size it was in the mid-90s, Hawel oversees a team of five people, all of whom are being moulded in the KJK tradition. “Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost,” states Hawel. “Ben is similar but he has a laser focus on the business side of things, too – they kind of feed off each other in terms of that Ben comes from an economic point of view. A company that’s only looking at figures will not have the connections to the artists that we have with our artists, so it works very well and the transition has been smooth.
“I know it was a relief for Karsten when Ben joined the company because Ben has a strong entrepreneurial side that allows him to see opportunities and then do the research to make sure they will be a success. The good thing from an employee’s point of view is we know the leaders will steer the ship, and we can trust them totally, and that’s been underlined by this pandemic – thanks to their leadership we’re emerging even more closely knit than we were before.”
That concept of considering the needs of the industry is a Jahnke family trait. The company is a partner in the massively successful Reeperbahn Festival, with Karsten being one of the event’s founders.
“I met Karsten for the first time in 2004, when the company [had] already existed for more than 40 years,” Alex Schulz, managing director of Reeperbahn Festival, tells IQ. “I was searching for a professional promoter for my idea for Reeperbahn Festival because it was quite clear that we could not establish this event with only my company, which had absolutely no experience in artist booking, etc.
“It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music”
“The option to establish a platform for new talents and established acts that Karsten personally liked – no, loved – was definitely one of the driving forces. And from the first edition of Reeperbahn Festival in 2006 until now, Karsten is present at as many programme events as possible, from midday until midnight, four days in a row. Every year, about one week before the event starts, Karsten will call me in order to ask me to send a list of recommendations for both the conference sessions as well as concerts.”
Karsten states, “It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music. And now the conference is getting very big, alongside maybe the biggest showcase festival in Europe. The first idea was to present unknown bands, but now it’s an international festival and I think we’ve developed it well.”
Schulz believes that Inferno Events’ partnership with Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion has been crucial to the success of Reeperbahn, while the close relationship between the operations involves many of KJK’s staff working directly on the event. “Petra, Alina, Anja, Jessica, Frehn, Karen and Stefan are just a few of the people in the team that we share our daily business with,” he says.
“About ten years ago, Karsten introduced me to Ben, and I appreciate his point of view and advice very much, especially since we have been working closer together for the last two years.”
For his part, Ben comments, “At the beginning, we had the wrong strategy [for Reeperbahn], so we lost a ton of money because we just had too many venues and too many unknown bands involved. We thought about bringing bigger acts to smaller venues and charging specific venue tickets or day tickets to make up the finances, but that wasn’t the case, so we made big losses and that forced us to adapt the concept.”
“No matter how efficient and how successful we are, [Reeperbahn] would not be possible without the gov funding we receive”
Expanding the remit of the event to appeal to an international audience was part of the solution. “In the end, this is the success of Reeperbahn – it’s now a global brand,” says Ben. “People from abroad know that if you want to take your first steps in Europe, you can do it via Reeperbahn because you have everything in one place.
“But no matter how efficient and how successful we are, the festival and conference would not be possible without the government funding we receive, as the capacity is just too small to generate enough income to cover the costs on our own. But thankfully, this is recognised by the German government and the city of Hamburg who provide funding.”
While KJK’s principals carefully plot the company’s path out of the pandemic, its independent style already has it a step ahead of some of its peers in Germany. A number of promoters in Germany participated in the nation’s voucher scheme when the pandemic first hit the events calendar, but KJK opted out.
“I think it was mainly a tool for people who had cashflow problems,” says Ben. “So we decided not to participate, and I’m now hearing a lot of partners are facing huge problems because the scheme ran out at the end of last year but people now want refunds of their vouchers.”
“We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose”
The passing of the leadership baton to his grandson gives Karsten satisfaction on a number of levels. “Ben is now doing all the great shows that I promoted before. And that leaves me to do my favourite music: jazz,” says Karsten, who has created a genre-specific series called JazzNights. “In this series, I work with live venues like the Elbphilharmonie or the Old Opera in Frankfurt or the Philharmonic in Cologne, all the concert halls and so on. And musicians and audiences like these venues, so it’s been a great success.”
He adds, “When I was young, jazz was the most important music in Germany, in the 50s. Rock came in the early 60s, but the 50s was all about jazz. And for me, it’s the most interesting music. To be honest, it’s a privilege to promote music that you like, and even better if you don’t lose money.”
Not losing money is a bit of a family mantra. “Live Nation or AEG can easily say, ‘Okay, we might lose money in Germany, but that’s not a problem because we can cross-finance the tour with the UK leg or US or something like that,’” opines Ben.
“From our point of view, we only have this one market in which we can compete, so we have to be more thoughtful and careful about the offers because if we lose money, it’s not shareholder money, it’s our own money. And we don’t want to get in the situation where we can’t pay our wages or Karsten has to sell his house.”
But Ben also sees that process as an advantage. “We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose. So we put harder work into projects to make them a success.”
As for company expansion, Ben believes that “smart growth” is the way forward.
“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now”
“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now, and we also get a lot of trust and respect from our clients and the managers we work with because they like our hands-on approach.
“But at the same time, we look left and right. So, for example, we just took over the Baltic Soul Weekender, which is a huge soul-, r&b-, 60s-, Mo- town-related event, which perfectly fits our company’s strategy and our company brands. It’s a smart acquisition that totally makes sense.
“We also launched a new company called KJ Projects, which is currently running a 4,000-capacity tent venue in Hamburg because there’s a huge lack of venues of this size in the city. This is another smart approach for us to grow the brand. And we’re talking to a couple of venues and a couple of smaller boutique festivals that might fit our brands and be good add-ons.
“This is more or less our strategy: we’re always pretty niche with most of our core business, so we want to stay in that niche and look left and right to identify other niches that could make sense for us.”
And with Karsten able to devote more of his time to jazz, he’s more than happy to leave the future in Ben’s safe hands. “I happened to develop real friendships with many artists over the years, especially with Herbie Hancock, but also Branford Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Herman van Veen, and, of course, John Sheahan of The Dubliners,” says Karsten. “I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve always worked with artists whose music I really like – it can’t get much better than that in this business.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 109 of IQ Magazine.
The New Bosses 2022: Sönke Schal, Karsten Jahnke
The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Seny Kassaye, agent at Fort Agency in Canada. The series continues with Sönke Schal, head of people & culture at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (DE).
Sönke made his first contact with the music business back when he was 18 years old and playing the drums in a band with his friends in Hamburg. As tasks needed to be divided within the band, the drummer was assigned to book the shows.
Despite playing a few festivals and believing [they were on the verge of] a glorious breakthrough, reality kicked in when his voluntary year at the local library came to an end and his family started asking about future plans. Luckily Google was there to help. After typing in “concerts+hamburg+apprenticeship,” Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJ) showed up as the first result.
After 2.5 years at KJ, the apprenticeship was completed and he started working as a full-time promoter. In that time, he worked with artists such as Peter Gabriel, The Cure, and Sean Paul alongside his boss Ben Mitha. Along the way he started building his own roster, which includes artists such as Sticky Fingers, Men I Trust, and Hinds, and took over the curation for the boutique Way Back When Festival. Shortly before the pandemic hit he began to study business psychology on the side. In 2022, having reached his ten-year anniversary at KJ, he was promoted and now also manages the company’s HR activities.
You started booking shows when you were a drumming librarian. How did you learn to do that, and who did you turn to for advice?
Actually, it was a means to an end. Our singer was already located in Hamburg, so the voluntary year at the library was my ticket to move to the city. Getting a gig for our band itself was a lot of trial and error. The Internet was the place we turned to for advice as we didn’t know any people from the music business. From creating an alias “manager” to contacting all the info@mail-accounts, I think I went through the same struggles and [made the same] mistakes a lot of up-and-coming artists still have to deal with today. It definitely made me realise that landing a show for a newcomer act requires a lot of persistence and persuading.
What did being an apprentice at KJ involve? Did you spend time in every department at the company?
It started off with going on tour with Sean Paul. Mostly because my boss didn’t have a driving licence and needed a chauffeur. I guess life’s not easy as an apprentice. But actually, I’ve enjoyed the 2.5 years of getting to know the company a lot. I was able to work in our touring, PR/marketing and local department. Of course, every department has grown and further developed in the past years, but I still find it very helpful today to know how the departments operate. The vocational school also offered a one-month internship in London. Thankfully, Isla Angus took me in at Nomanis agency back in the day. I was able to go to a lot of gigs, take part in meetings with festival bookers, and get a little glimpse of the agent world. Also, I had to set up several IKEA shelves, but I guess life’s not much easier as an intern either.
“It started off with going on tour with Sean Paul”
You’ve now been at the company for ten years. What has been your biggest highlight so far?
There were many highlights, of course, but one thing that left a big impression was Karsten’s 80th birthday party. To see international superstars like Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, and Gregory Porter sending very personal congrats videos or even performing at the event in Hamburg in person, showed me that an honest and loyal business relation can turn into a respectful friendship between artist and promoter.
Who would be your ideal three headline acts for Way Back When Festival?
Does it need to be realistic? Harry Styles? I guess ideal headline acts would be something like Girl in Red, Idles, and King Krule. I could very well live with that.
You’ve been studying business psychology. How has this helped your everyday work life or is it more about being able to be a better negotiator for deals?
I think many business decisions and issues have a strong psychological level. It really helped to learn about different scientific models and approaches. What I’ve found most interesting were the questions about how to create a motivating work environment or how to enable people to reach their full potential. So I hope that my work as a promoter, as well as my additional new tasks in the fields of HR, can benefit from that knowledge.
“Listen to younger colleagues who can anticipate much more precisely which artists are the next big thing”
As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I’d love to see more young professionals in responsible positions earlier on. The live market is in a constant transition and artists these days break in various bubbles. Only five-ten years in age can make a big difference. From K-Pop to artists going viral through Netflix series or TikTok, it becomes increasingly important to listen to younger colleagues who can anticipate much more precisely which artists are the next big thing.
You’ve just taken on the role as head of people and culture at the company. What would you like to see yourself doing in five years?
Celebrating my 15th company anniversary, hopefully… But more importantly I’d love to see KJ establish its status as the biggest independent promoter in Germany whilst also being an exciting and productive place to work. If I can help to shape that future as a part of the team, I’d be in a very happy place.
“I’d love to see KJ establish its status as the biggest independent promoter in Germany”
Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
I’ve really missed seeing everyone at the annual conferences during the Covid pandemic, so it was a relief when restrictions were finally lifted. During that time, I had many calls with agents and managers. For me, it felt like these were on a more personal level than before by sharing common experiences and worries. Today the business seems to be running faster than ever: more shows, additional issues, etc. So, unfortunately, we tend to stick to old working routines instead of implementing new ones, but I’m sure this will change slowly but steadily.
See the full list of 2022 New Bosses in IQ 114, which is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.
The New Bosses: Introducing the class of 2022
The 15th edition of IQ Magazine‘s New Bosses can now be revealed, highlighting 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
New Bosses 2022 inspired the most engaged voting process to date, with hundreds of people taking the time to submit nominations. The final 20 comprises executives working across agencies, promoters, ticketing companies, charities and venues in 12 different countries.
In no particular order, the New Bosses 2022 are:
Benji Fritzenschaft, DreamHaus (DE).
Clara Cullen, Music Venue Trust (UK).
Dan Rais, CAA (CO).
David Nguyen, Rock The People (CZ).
Daytona Häusermann, Gadget ABC (CH).
Grant Hall, ASM Global (US).
James Craigie, Goldenvoice (UK).
Kathryn Dryburgh, ATC Live (UK).
Resi Scheurmann, Konzertbüro Schoneberg (DE).
Seny Kassaye, Fort Agency (CA).
Agustina Cabo, Move Concerts (AR).
Sönke Schal, Karsten Janke Konzertdirektion (DE).
Steel Hanf, Proxy Agency (US).
Steff James, Live Nation (UK).
Stella Scocco, Södra Teatern (SE).
Vegard Storaas, Live Nation (NO).
Lewis Wilde, DICE (UK).
Zoe Williamson, UTA (US).
Jonathan Hou, Live Nation (US).
Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step (PL).
Subscribers can read shortened profiles of each of the 2022 New Bosses in issue 114 of IQ Magazine, which is out now. Full-length Q&As will appear on IQ in the coming days and weeks.
Click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion promotes trio
German concert promoter Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK) has entered a new era following the retirement of long-time head of ticketing & sports Anja Schwencke.
The Hamburg-based company has appointed Jessica Hübner and Stefanie Gräßler as heads of ticketing, with the dual leadership to be responsible for ticketing for all KJK’s tours, as well as local concerts.
In addition, Sönke Schal will take over the main responsibility for the newly created people & culture department. Hübner and Gräßler started out in PR & marketing at the Hamburg-based company, switching to ticketing in 2016, while Schal was previously booker with the firm for acts such as Sticky Fingers, Hinds, Men I Trust, as well as heading up Way Back When Festival.
“The recent promotions… say more about the KJ company DNA than any glowing speech ever could”
“The recent promotions of Jessica Hübner and Stefanie Gräßler as head of ticketing dual leadership and Sönke Schal to the newly created position of head of people & culture say more about the KJ company DNA than any glowing speech ever could,” says KJK CEO Ben Mitha. “All three of them not only completed their training at our company, some of them have remained loyal to us for decades and have already worked in several departments within the company. In my eyes, there is no better fit for their current leadership positions and I look forward to working with the three of them to further develop and advance KJ’s fortunes.”
Schwencke, who celebrated her 20th anniversary with the promoter in 2020, has been associated with the company since her student days, starting out as an external box office clerk.
“Anja undisputedly had the greatest expertise in ticketing within the industry and continuously developed this area for our company over 20 years and adapted it to the current market conditions,” adds Mitha. “Along the way, she was extremely successful in helping to build up the sports events area in our portfolio. We are very reluctant to let her go, but are happy for her that her well-deserved retirement will now provide her with even more time for traveling, golfing and attending the odd handball match with her husband Karsten.”
“I thank Anja Schwencke from the bottom of my heart for her outstanding commitment to our company”
Schwencke retired last month, having joined KJK full-time in 2000, taking over the ticketing division from Margret Kosanke.
“I thank Anja Schwencke from the bottom of my heart for her outstanding commitment to our company,” adds KJK founder Karsten Jahnke. “Although she was ‘only’ employed with us for 22 years, she has been associated with our company for well over 40 years as the daughter of our long-time financial accountant and personnel manager Monika Diers, as well as her commitment to ticket service and as a box office employee.
“In February 2000, she took over our ticketing as successor to my sister Margret Kosanke and has not only continuously modernised it, but also made our ticket service the most popular ticket provider in Germany. Thanks to her outstanding expertise, Anja is highly respected within the industry and has constantly championed the interests of us independent concert promoters against the big ticket providers. As if this were not enough, she has also established the sports events division in our company.
“She has worked tirelessly for her team and has built up two extremely competent successors in Jessica and Steffi. I wish her all the best for her new phase of life and hope that she will be able to work successfully on her golf handicap together with her husband Karsten from now on and that they both will enjoy many beautiful travels”
Subscribers can read IQ‘s recent 60th anniversary feature on Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion here.
IQ 109 out now: 60 years of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion
IQ 109, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.
In the March 2022 edition, IQ editor Gordon Masson reports on 60 years of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, tracking the company’s journey from humble beginnings to a European cultural powerhouse.
Elsewhere, details of events and social gatherings that await attendees of ILMC 34‘s in-person comeback are revealed, and family show producers provide a health check on the sector.
This issue also sees IQ news editor James Hanley examine international ticket refund policies in a Covid-hit business.
For this edition’s columns and comments, Craig Stanley reflects on the ramifications of Brexit, and Lina Ugrinovska suggests ways in which we can heal and grow from the turmoil and mental anguish of the pandemic.
In this month’s Your Shout, execs including Michal Kaščák (Pohoda Festival/VBPS), Sergii Maletskyi (H2D) and John Giddings (Solo) reveal the weirdest place they’ve watched a gig.
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 for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:
Indie promoters talk challenges, post-corona recovery
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, The State of Independence: Promoters, checked in with independent concert promoters in the UK, Europe, India and South America to discover how these entrepreneurs are preparing for the live industry’s return to normality.
Hosted by agent Emma Banks (CAA), yesterday’s session welcomed British promoters Anton Lockwood (DHP Family) and David Messer (DMP), Munbir Chawla from India’s The Wild City, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion’s Roman Pitone to discuss the current difficulties unique to their sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges of a post-Covid-19 world .
Speaking about emerging concert formats such as drive-in shows, Pitone said Karsten Jahnke has done a number of drive-in events in Germany over the past few months. “Overall, they went well,” he said, but enthusiasm has declined over time as fans increasingly miss ‘real’ shows: “You could see when we started it that people were really eager to see shows [in some form] again, but it slowed down as time went on as people realised it’s just not the same.”
He added that the company is only breaking even on its drive-in and other socially distanced events. “With the income, we’re just paying for what we’re doing,” he explained. “This is just to keep doing something that is our passion and our livelihood, until we can do something [else]…”
In India, where live music is still invariably sponsored, brands have realised the coronavirus crisis isn’t going away and are spending less on live events, creating a headache for promoters, said Chawla. “The brands have realised they’re in it for the long haul, and cultural marketing spend is now being put back into marketing the products” directly, he commented.
“I want to remain independent. It’s not all and gloom”
“Unlike a lot of other scenes, the Indian scene is pretty reliant on brands. So, with the brands spending less money, that will also affect shows and the scale at which they can happen.”
Giving an overview of the situation in countries where Move Concerts operates, Eselevsky brought panellists up to date on the latest developments in Latin America, from the furlough scheme in Argentina to ticket vouchers in Brazil and drive-in concerts in Puerto Rico.
She also touched on the challenge of organising concerts in Argentina when the value of the local currency fluctuates so often: “Three years ago, the exchange rate was 18 pesos [to the US dollar],” she said. “Now it’s 75 pesos.”
Banks described her own experience of playing Argentina, relaying how one of her acts once oversold a show in Buenos Aires and still didn’t break even. “Try explaining that to the manager!” she said.
Turning to 2021, Messer said he’s “finding that because so many things have been moved into next year, things are fully booked” for late 2021 already. “So it’s very hard to know what you can book – the dates are going very quickly, but you can’t book the artists” because the situation around international touring is still so unclear.
“People are talking a lot more to each other … We’re all in the same place”
Lockwood said he can understood why many artists, especially American ones, could be reluctant to travel internationally well into next year, even if it’s a “depressing” thought. “Imagine the nightmare of being a US band,” he explained, “you get to the border of Spain and Portugal, and your bus driver gets a cough and you have to quarantine for 14 days. So, your whole tour’s just gone.
“Whereas, at least if you’re a US band and you tour the US, you won’t get caught in that.”
While the crisis has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of the independent sector, none of the panellists responded in the affirmative when Banks asked, tongue in cheek, if they wish they’d sold to Live Nation before coronavirus hit.
“It’s not all and gloom,” said Chawla, highlighting the quality of the music being released and the increasingly global nature of the industry as among the bright spots, while Messer praised how “people have come together” to mitigate the impact of the concert shutdown.
“People are talking a lot more to each other – people from different sides of the industry,” he said, in a sentiment echoed by Banks. “We’re all in the same place, and luckily everyone’s helping each other, which we have to do. We all need each other – we’re not going survive unless we can all exist.”
Indie promoters in spotlight for next IQ Focus
Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual sessions, State of Independence: Promoters will see independent event organisers from across the globe come together to discuss the specific obstacles facing their business.
The tenth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.
Across the touring world, independent promoters are facing a similar challenge when looking ahead to a post Covid-19 business.
While this current period presents many unique challenges for this creative and entrepreneurial sector, it’s one of many pressures they face. So what’s the state of play in Europe, South America and India? And what alternative show formats, and business models are independent promoters adopting to stay ahead?
CAA’s Emma Banks hosts the session to ask, as the industry emerges from its current crisis, where the opportunities might lie?
Joining Banks are DHP Family’s Anton Lockwood, Karsten Janhke Konzertdirektion’s Ben Mitha, DMP UK’s David Messer, Melanie Eselevsky from Argentina’s Move Concerts and Munbir Chawla from the Wild City in India.
All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including the challenges facing festivals, diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.