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Local promoters hail record Ed Sheeran sales

Local, independent promoters have spoken to IQ about how they’re breaking ground in their markets with record ticket sales for Ed Sheeran’s 2024 European tour.

The European leg of Sheeran’s + – = ÷ x (Mathematics) Tour is due to kick off on 8 June 2024 in Italy, making 20 stops at a mix of stadiums and festivals across the continent.

The first stadium stop on the AEG Presents promoted-outing will be at Ta’ Qali National Park (cap. 30,000), marking the 32-year-old’s first-ever concert in Malta.

According to one of the show’s local promoters, Nigel Camilleri at NNG Promotions, the 26 June 2024 concert has broken “all records” in the island country.

“The number of tickets in an hour, total number of ticket sales in one day, as well as total gross amount of ticket sales in an hour and in a day,” lists Camilleri, who is promoting the gig alongside AEG and Greatt.

“Hopefully, this will open more doors which were previously closed or only ajar”

“The adrenaline rush when the ticket sales opened was indescribable,” he continues. “It’s not often, at least in Malta, that one gets to promote a concert of an artist who appeals to such a wide-ranging audience.”

Camilleri says hosting a star of Sheeran’s size helps to put Malta – which is isolated from mainland Europe – on the map for other blockbuster tours.

“It is a great triumph for us because we have proven that the Maltese market can sustain an A-level artist such as Ed Sheeran,” he adds. “We have been working towards and building up to this moment for many years and admittedly there was an element of luck with the stars aligning for it to happen.

“As a company, it is a major feather in our cap and hopefully, this will open more doors which were previously closed or only ajar.”

Bulgarian promoter FEST Team is also hoping the success of Sheeran’s show at Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia (31 August) will be a calling card for other A-list artists.

“[We hope] more prominent artists will acknowledge Bulgaria as a substantial market with tour potential”

“Our aspiration is that the success of this event will encourage more prominent artists to acknowledge Bulgaria and the Balkan region as a substantial market with tour potential,” FEST Team’s Stefan Elenkov tells IQ.

The Sofia-based full-service promoter sold all 60,000 tickets to the Bulgaria date in the first 24 hours of the on-sale. It beat the previous record set in 2009 by Madonna who sold 19,000 tickets in the first 24 hours for a 55,000-capacity show.

“This indeed is a truly remarkable achievement,” says Elenkov. “It is important to mention that a show of this magnitude hasn’t taken place in Bulgaria since 2009.”

Staging the biggest-ever concert in Bulgaria, which is yet to be included in the Schengen Area, hasn’t been without its challenges but Elenkov says his team has been “excited to embrace them”.

“After dedicating eight months to negotiations and detailed planning, we managed to successfully overcome various infrastructural and logistic challenges associated with the venue,” says Elenkov.

“Ticket Station Bulgaria is handling a show of such magnitude for the first time and has met the tour’s criteria”

“Anticipating Bulgaria and Romania’s inclusion in the Schengen area, we expect even fewer logistical challenges, making future tour planning considerably more structured. The routing Budapest – Bucharest – Sofia – Athens—would essentially become practically borderless.”

Another source of pride for FEST Team is the reported absence of tickets for Sheeran’s Bulgaria date on Viagogo.

“This demonstrates our success in implementing stringent security measures, ensuring that only real people have bought tickets for the show,” adds Elenkov. “This marks an important milestone – Ticket Station Bulgaria is handling a show of such magnitude for the first time and has precisely met the tour’s criteria.”

Sheeran’s team has long taken an aggressive stance against the secondary ticketing market, opting to use 100% mobile digital ticketing technology to keep tickets in the hands of fans.

The tour’s local promoters in Lithuania also have a lot to celebrate after sales for Sheeran’s two 2024 dates in the country broke “all previous entertainment sales records” across the Baltic states.

“By selling the most tickets of any artist in the Baltics, Sheeran has set yet another record”

According to L Tips Agency – which is organising Sheeran’s concerts in the Baltics for the third time – the first concert sold out in just over 24 hours the second is already more than 50% sold out, nine months in advance.

Provided both dates in Lithuania sell out, Sheeran will perform to 90,000 fans across the 3 and 4 August at Darius and Girėnas Stadium in Kaunas.

“In 2019, he set the record for the most visited international artist show of all time in Latvia with an attendance of approximately 50,000 people,” says Gints Putnins, owner of L Tips Agency. “Now a new record has been set for the whole of the Baltics!”

The Agency, which is one of the largest independent promoters in the Baltic States, is promoting the concert alongside FKP Scorpio.

Folkert Koopmans, founder & CEO of FKP Scorpio, adds: “By selling the most tickets of any artist in the Baltics, Ed Sheeran has set yet another record. We’re proud and happy to be promoting the shows and couldn’t have done so without the support of all local stakeholders and our partner agencies. L Tips Agency’s work has been invaluable in making the second-ever music concert in Kaunas stadium possible. We’re already looking forward to seeing everything coming together in August 2024!”

The 32-year-old’s forthcoming Dubai concerts could become the best-selling shows in UAE history

Sheeran’s record-breaking streak doesn’t stop at independent promoters, nor does it stop in Europe. As previously reported in IQ, the 32-year-old’s forthcoming Dubai concerts could become the best-selling shows in UAE history, according to All Thing Live Middle East CEO Thomas Ovesen.

The British singer-songwriter is due to play the Sevens Stadium from 19-20 January 2024 in what are being called the largest open-air concerts ever to take place in Dubai.

The dates, which will see Sheeran perform “in the round”, will be his first in the Middle East since playing at the city’s Autism Rocks Arena in November 2017, which attracted a sell-out 23,272 crowd.

Last month, Sheeran concluded the North American leg of his Mathematics tour, with the final date on 28 October at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sheeran is represented by Marty Diamond and Ash Lewis at Wasserman for US and Canada, and Jon Ollier at One Finiix Live for the rest of the world.

 


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Global Promoters Report: The Baltic States

In the Baltics, a region caught between rock and a hard place, the live music business is reportedly booming. “The market in the Baltic States recovered from the pandemic very quickly,” says Renatas Načajus, partner at ISEG in Vilnius. “Most of the events that were rescheduled had bigger ticket sales than we usually would have before the pandemic.”

ISEG are toasting recent successes with tours around Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by OneRepublic, James Arthur, LP, and GusGus among others, and they’re not alone. Top Baltic promoters such as Medusa Concert, L Tips, and 8 Days A Week have all benefited from a post-pandemic bounce- back, while Live Nation has seen a roaring trade for shows by Slipknot, Dua Lipa, Sting, Eurovision breakout sensation Måneskin, and Rammstein, who sold a mammoth 66,000 tickets at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds in July.

“We see bigger demand for arena and stadium shows after the pandemic,” says Live Nation’s Deividas Afarjanc. “There is a strong demand for foreign shows, with significant sales power in all three markets. People are willing to come back to live shows. The biggest challenge is to get artists here, as demand is much higher than they have available dates on tour.”

“We believe that we‘ve emerged much stronger out of pandemic trenches,” says longstanding industry stalwart Giedrius Klimašauskas, MD of Stay Live, a talent buyer that operates through promotion sister companies including Bravo Events. This year, he’s celebrated sell-outs for shows by Calum Scott and Andrea Bocelli, as well as Lithuania’s 1000 Lanterns and 20,000-capacity Granatos Live festivals, and noticed a swift expansion in the market. “We are monitoring higher expenditures for leisure spending comparing to previous years, even prior to the pandemic.”

“Events that were right after the war started had a huge drop in ticket sales, and a lot of people did not attend events even though they had tickets purchased”

Demand is clearly through the roof in all three countries, although Klimašauskas notes slightly contracted markets in Estonia and Latvia compared to Lithuania, which opened up sooner and provided greater support for musicians. But there have also been surprising, and surprisingly positive, effects of the Ukrainian war on the local music scenes, too.

Initially the invasion put international acts off touring the region – usually a standard European stop-off between Finland and Poland – and fans from attending shows. “Events that were right after the war started had a huge drop in ticket sales, and a lot of people did not attend events even though they had tickets purchased in advance,” says Načajus. But, as it became clear that the war wouldn’t spread to the Baltics, demand for tickets rocketed, and an influx of young people fleeing the turmoil in neighbouring countries has created strong local fanbases for visiting acts from Ukraine and Belarus.

Older rock bands have seen a drop-off in the Baltics over 2022, and the region isn’t immune to the rising production costs caused by the exodus of technical personnel during the pandemic. “Production companies have lost quite a number of their people during the pandemic, therefore the prices for production services have skyrocketed,” says Klimašauskas. “In many cases, production costs have doubled, and the quality of the service has decreased. It’s the same for security, catering, hotels, marketing. It‘s a very painful reality in that sense, to see this service-quality deflation.”

Despite such challenges, the Baltics remain very favourable markets for visiting international stars and rising acts alike. International rap, electronic, and pop acts have proven strong, often thanks to the accessibility of relatively cheap TV advertising to complement digital, billboard, and radio campaigns. The region’s premier showcase festival, Tallinn Music Week, helps nurture a solid flow of fresh rising talent, particularly from the rap scene. And with the market in ascendence as it heads towards income parity with the EU, and healthy competition between promoters opening up castles, botanical gardens, and museums across the region as occasional music venues, the major promoters all expect strong growth over the coming years. Having weathered the worst of the storm, the Baltic future looks bright.

 


The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.To access all content from the current Global Promoters Report, click here.

Lithuania to host fundraising rave for Ukraine

The Music Saves UA campaign is to climax with a charity rave in Lithuania on 24 August to mark Ukrainian Independence Day.

First Vilnius night mayor Mark Adam Harold and Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Sanchenko have worked together to plan the huge free rave by the river in the centre of the Lithuanian capital as a demonstration of freedom and friendship between the two countries, and hope to raise €100,000 for the humanitarian aid fund.

The pair have previously teamed on fundraising projects for the cause, which has mobilised the Ukrainian music industry to provide help for victims of Russia’s invasion.

“We did a small free rave last year for Belarus and found out that dancing together is a very good way to build understanding and show solidarity,” Harold tells IQ. “The media was confused at people expressing joy during a crisis but it worked perfectly and attracted a lot more people than the ‘official’ protests.

“The nicest part is showing the Belarusians and Ukrainians who are living in Vilnius, and have run from oppression and war, that the people of Vilnius welcome them and we want to meet them. So when Oleksandr Sanchenko asked me about doing a rave for Ukraine’s Independence Day I saw the chance to do something even bigger.”

“Protests don’t always have to be angry marches”

The event, which is supported and produced by Vilnius Municipality, the Night Economy Association of Lithuania and the Ukrainian Association of Music Events, will welcome Ukraine DJs Artbat, Miss Monique and 8kays.

“It’s also a sign that the city is starting to understand that nightlife communities and night culture development are opportunities not problems,” adds Harold. “State-funded cultural events don’t have to be all country dancing and sausage sellers, and protests don’t always have to be angry marches.”

Donations are being accepted from all European countries by 1K Fund – a charity set up by Lithuanian comedian and activist Oleg Surajev – and can be made here.

Music Saves UA has also been supported by LiveKomm in Germany and the Night Time Industries Association in the UK, in addition to Ed Sheeran, who got involved after Ukrainian band Antytila reached out to him on YouTube.

 


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Lithuanian prison to host new indie festival

Lithuanian promoter 8 Days a Week is launching a new festival at a century-old former prison in Vilnius.

The 3,000-capacity weekender, dubbed 8 festival, will take place at Lukiškės Prison 2.0 in Lithuania’s capital from 17–19 June.

Mac DeMarco, King Krule, Sleaford Mods, black midi, Black Country, New Road and Squid are among the first 16 acts confirmed for the festival.

“8 Festival is a new festival for true music lovers,” says Martynas Butkevičius, head of 8 Days A Week bookings.

“A festival that is yours now, with a lineup impossible to predict. What better place for this experience than a century-old former prison that has been recently awarded as the Lithuanian cultural phenomenon of the year in 2021? Lukiškės Prison 2.0 is our home and creative playground and one of the most incredible live performance spaces in the Baltics.

“All the music at this festival is important – icons of today and artists of tomorrow. Leave the ordinary, leave your problems at home. Be inspired for months (we take no responsibility if someone quits their job straight after our festival). Be there, grow free, visit Vilnius or have a damn good alibi.”

“Lukiškės Prison 2.0 is our and creative playground and one of the most incredible live performance spaces in the Baltics”

Moderat, Viagra Boys, Yves Tumor & Its Band, Yellow Days, Billy Nomates, Westerman, Genesis Owusu and Sub Urban are also slated to perform at 8 festival. A three-day ticket starts from €120.

Lukiškės Prison was constructed in 1905 and served as the biggest and most modern prison in the Russian Empire.

Before its closure in 2019, it housed around 1,000 inmates and employed 250 prison guards.

The 20th-century prison is now inhabited by more than 350 artists after the Lithuanian government turned it into a versatile entertainment and arts venue.

Its six buildings – which also include a hospital, administration buildings and the St Nicholas Orthodox Church – now offer a total area of 2ha (5ac) for events and other public activities.

The prison previously served as a shooting location for series four of Netflix’s Stranger Things.

 


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Vilnius’s Lukiškės Prison to be turned into venue

Lukiškės Prison, an early 20th-century former prison in central Vilnius, will be turned into a versatile entertainment and arts venue under new plans drawn up by the Lithuanian government.

Turto Bankas, a state-owned property company, is inviting private businesses to register their interest in a project to convert the prison complex, which is located next to the Seimas Palace, home to the Lithuanian parliament, into a “multifunctional centre of art, culture, and education”.

Lukiškės Prison, which closed in 2019, is currently leased to an events business and recently served as a shooting location for series four of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Before its closure, it housed around 1,000 inmates (as of 2007) and employed 250 prison guards.

Its six buildings – which also include a hospital, administration buildings and the St Nicholas Orthodox Church – now offer a total area of 2ha (5ac) for events and other public activities; for example, 2019’s ‘alternative Christmas’ event at the prison, which featured art and light installations throughout its courtyards.

Its six buildings offer a total area of two hectares for public events

The regeneration project will involve upgrading a part of the complex for cultural and commercial purposes, according to the city, with the other half focusing on its heritage as a prison, as well as modern “multicultural Lithuanian society”.

According to Turto Bankas, the regeneration project, in addition to entertainment leisure facilities, could include “non-conventional accommodation facilities, a food quarter, co-working spaces, a museum [and] workshops, leisure and entertainment spots” – though it notes that as a protected building, the amount of transformation possible would be limited.

Interested parties, it adds, should be committed to “maintaining the commercial-educational balance” in the revamped venue.

 


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City of Vilnius releases ‘socially distanced’ Xmas LP

In partnership with the city of Vilnius, a group of Lithuanian electronic music producers have released Re-Xmas, a ‘socially distanced’ Christmas album commemorating the “extraordinary” 2020 festive season.

As a video on the Re-Xmas project website explains, the album features reworkings of traditional Christmas songs, including ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Silent Night and ‘O Christmas Tree’ (‘O Tannenbaum‘), by top local talent.

The ‘social distancing’ element sees the composers adding two equal intervals of pause – symbolising two metres’ distance – after each note from the song’s main melody.

Contributors include dark-techno DJ Alex Krell, ambient producer Fume and experimental electronic duo Lakeside Culture, with the album’s release supported by Lithuanian DJ collection Antidote Community.

The project also incorporates an audiovisual installation near Kablys, the Vilnius electronic music mecca, while the album will be played as album of the week on the national radio station LRT Opus.

Listen to the full Re-Xmas album on SoundCloud here.


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Drive-in concerts: A new normal for live?

Music fans in Lithuania, Denmark, Germany and Hungary are among those to access live performances from the safety of their cars, as the coronavirus shutdown rumbles on.

Drive-in concerts are giving people the chance to access live music – as well as theatrical performances and films – while maintaining strict social distancing measures.

In Lithuania, where mass gatherings, concerts and other live shows are to be the last to return under the government’s four-stage exit plan, fans have been getting their live music fix at the Palūknio airfield, around 30 kilometres from the capital city of Vilnius, courtesy of local company Showart.

Showart’s Drive in Live kicked off last week, hosting performances by Lithuanian acts including Giedrė and Saulės Kliošas. Attendees hear the music through their car speakers via a radio frequency.

Performers including G&G Sindikatas, Happyendless and Junior A are slated to play at the makeshift venue in coming weeks, with some concerts broadcast live on public-owned Lithuanian radio station, LRT Radio.

The concerts will take place until at least the end of May.

In Denmark, which has recently seen a blanket ban on its summer festival season, singer Mads Langer recently played a drive-in concert on the outskirts of Aarhus, performing to 500 fans. Attendees could interact with the singer during the performance using videoconferencing platform Zoom.

Drive-in concerts are giving people the chance to access live music while maintaining strict social distancing measures

Drive-in venues are also proving popular in Germany, with 30 makeshift cinemas opening up in Cologne and four other cities in response to the coronavirus shutdown. The drive-ins are also used for live performances, with Cologne band Brings recently performing to audiences of vehicle-dwellers in their hometown.

German venue operator D.Live, the only non-UK member of Oak View Group’s International Venue Alliance, also put on two sold-out shows by the band in Dusseldorf. D.Live is among those to have transformed a disused car park into a drive-in venue, hosting shows by Sido, Alligatoah and club night BigCityBeats World Club Dome at its Autokino Düsseldorf (Drive-in Cinema Dusseldorf), near the Messe exhibition grounds.

Stand-up comedian Markus Krebs and rapper SSIO are playing at the drive-in in coming weeks. Around 1,000 to 2,000 people can attend shows at D.Live’s Autokino, which holds up to 500 cars.

A slightly different tack has been taken by musicians in Hungary, where just yesterday (30 April) it was announced that no large-scale events would be taking place this summer. Members of Budapest’s MAV symphony orchestra have mounted loudspeakers to their cars, broadcasting past performances as they cruise through the city.

If people want to request an appearance near their homes, they can message the orchestra’s Facebook account with their address.

The orchestra’s efforts are another example of musicians giving back to their local communities, in a similar vein to a fireman in Brazil, who has been serenading the streets of Rio de Janeiro with his trumpet, atop a 50 metre cherry picker.

 


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EAY 2017: CEE arenas shrug off post-crash gloom

A majority of central and eastern European (CEE) arenas reported strong growth in 2016, boosted by growing demand and increased consumer confidence, IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2017 reveals.

Almost all the arenas surveyed in eight CEE countries – Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – recorded positive results last year, with some even recording their most successful year to date, as they shrugged off the last remnants of the global financial crisis, which hit central and eastern Europe particularly hard.

While GDP is still not as high as in western Europe, demand is strong, consumer confidence has returned to the market and average audience figures are higher than some of the more affluent nations: the arenas surveyed sold 4,368,253 tickets to 882 events, generating €130.5 million.

Sport dominates the calendars at arenas across the region, accounting for 56% of programmes. Music makes up 26%, while family shows and miscellaneous events make-up 9% and 6%, respectively. Only 11 comedy shows took place in these arenas last year, an average of one per arena.

The largest attraction for people is clearly music events, which draw the highest average attendance: 7,761 (survey average attendance: 4,953).

“They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing”

‘Miscellaneous events’ are the next biggest draw, pulling an average crowd of 6,946 to corporate events and exhibitions.
Family and sports events attract average audiences of 4,300 (survey average: 5,157) and 3,610 (4,662) each.

Promoter Nick Hobbs, who books acts at all levels across central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, says there’s starting to be a trend of people moving away from festivals and towards arena shows. “The festival market doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it was, but arenas are doing better,” he says. “That’s because sponsorship – which is essential for festivals, but not usually part of the P&L [profit and loss] of an arena show – is struggling, as companies shift their focus away from music.

“In some countries, such as Poland, municipalities are shifting their marketing spend away from cultural events due to the political climate. They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing due to a much more culturally conservative government.”

With the economic situation in many countries improving, arenas are seeing steady growth.

 


Read the full feature in the digital edition of the European Arena Yearbook 2017:

Eddie the Head not welcome in Lithuania

A poster promoting Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls world tour in Lithuania has been banned over fears it could scare children.

The poster, featuring the band’s mascot, Eddie the Head, has been subject to complaints from residents in the city of Kaunas, says Gražina Ramanauskaitė-Tiumenevienė, Lithuania’s inspector of journalist ethics, and will now be investigated in connection with a law protecting minors from offensive content.

“We received a letter saying that we should stop advertising because it scares children,” says Mindaugas Paukštė, a lawyer for Live Nation Lithuania, tells Russian-language news site Delfi. “At the moment we’re still deciding what to do, but we will most likely have to remove the posters.”

The advertisement, which shows Eddie holding a bloody heart (presumably his own), has been used elsewhere in the world without incident.

Iron Maiden will play the 20,000-capacity indoor Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas (Kovno) next Thursday (23 June).

 


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