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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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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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Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter launch new fest

Belgium festival behemoths Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter have joined forces to launch a new two-day festival in Brussels.

Core festival will debut between 27–28 May this year in Osseghem Park, a picturesque nature area in the Belgian capital.

The organisers say the boutique festival will feature “a very eclectic” line-up (yet to be announced) that will “break the boundaries between quality indie, hip hop, electronica, hyper pop and alternative dance”.

The four-stage event will aim to attract 25,000 visitors per day including domestic and international festivalgoers.

Core‘s lineup will be revealed soon and the presale for tickets (which start at €67 for one-day admission) will start on 23 February.

“Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter have been working together on several smaller events i.e. the Garden of Madness shows by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike at the Antwerp Sportpaleis, the KNTXT event in Ghent, Swedish House Mafia at the Antwerp Sportpaleis,” Rock Werchter’s Yo Van Saet tells IQ.

“Our ideas are mostly complementary, the ambition of both our teams are high and like-minded. And so there was this new idea, becoming now a brand-new event. We are uniting to create this original and refreshing festival in one of Brussels’ most beautiful green parks. Expertise and knowledge are shared. Our teams are working together closely on this new festival, with great passion. It’s new, it’s fresh. It’s nothing like Rock Werchter, nor Tomorrowland.”

“Two of the most important players in the world of music, are coming to Brussels with this new concept”

Philippe Close, mayor of the city of Brussels, says: “We are very proud that Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter, two of the most important players in the world of music, are coming to Brussels with this new concept. A total experience of music, art and nature. Brussels celebrates and thus enables the event, cultural and hotel industry to breathe again.”

Rock Werchter (cap. 88,000), promoted by Herman Schueremans and Live Nation Belgium, is the country’s largest festival.

The marquee event is due to return between 30 June and 3 July this year for the first time since 2019.

Tomorrowland (70,000), meanwhile, will return to Boom from 22 July to 24 July and from 29 July to 31 July.

In addition to the flagship festival, Tomorrowland is also busy preparing for two weekends of Tomorrowland Winter in the Alpe d’Huez ski area between 19–26 March 2022.

The brand has had to cancel six festival weekends due to the pandemic, including four in Belgium (Tomorrowland 2020 and 2021) and two in France (Tomorrowland Winter 2020 and 2021).

 


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Sportpaleis Antwerp set to reopen later this month

Belgium’s Sportpaleis Antwerp, one of the largest arenas in Europe, will open its doors this month for the first time in a year and a half.

The 23,001-capacity arena will reopen on 18 September, accommodating events with and without Belgium’s Covid Safe Ticket (CST).

Organisers can choose whether they’d like to hold an event using the CST, thereby eliminating the need for social distancing, masks, and capacity limits, or whether they’d like to forego the CST and abide by the aforementioned restrictions.

The CST certifies that they are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours.

The pass applies to events with more than 1,500 attendees and has been in effect from 13 August for outdoor events and 1 September for indoor events.

“It will still be a bit doom and gloom for us in the first six months”

Promoters using the CST must implement a crowd management plan, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation (in the case of indoor shows) which is measured by a CO2 meter.

The arena’s first event, hardstyle dance show Reverze 2021, Wake of the Warrior, will utilise the CST to welcome a sold-out crowd.

“We have been working on the smaller halls for a while, but the heart of our organisation lies in the Sportpaleis,” Jan Van Esbroeck, CEO of the Sportpaleis Group, told VRT NWS. “The reopening is an important step that we can take towards normalisation, although we realise that it will take a few months before it is as before.”

“This year will also be blood red for us. Most international acts have postponed their tours to later spring next year. It will still be a bit doom and gloom for us in the first six months, not everything is over.”

Sportpaleis Group’s Lotto Arena (8,050-cap.), located adjacent to Sportpaleis Antwerp, opened last weekend.

The Group, which is owned by Live Nation Belgium, also includes venues Forest National (cap. 8,000) in Brussels and the Ethias Arena (cap. 18,000) in Hasselt.

 


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Belgium’s Rock Werchter called off again

Rock Werchter, one of Belgium’s biggest and most important music festivals, will take another year off this summer, organisers have announced.

The 88,000-capacity festival, promoted by Herman Schueremans and Live Nation Belgium, will “be back in full swing in 2022, from 30 June to 3 July”, reads an announcement. Rock Werchter last took place in 2019, welcoming more than 160,000 people for its 45th-anniversary event with Pink, Tool, Muse, the Cure, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons and more.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and in recent months we have been talking to governments, experts and colleagues in here and elsewhere about how festivals could take place,” the festival says in a statement. “With the great momentum on vaccine roll-out we had hoped that it might be possible; however, we have come to the reluctant conclusion that given current restrictions we simply cannot prepare for a 2021 festival in the normal way. We want every fan and artist to enjoy the festival to the fullest, and with the current situation we could not achieve this.

“While we know that this is the right decision, we also know that this decision affects many: our employees, the technical crew, suppliers, artists and their entourages, all the local associations and their volunteers, and, of course, the fans. Our sector has been on hold for a whole year now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the dark times are not over, even with the cautious restart happening soon. The once-thriving live music industry needs government support.”

“We are currently working out what will be possible with the anticipated restrictions in place”

IQ reported yesterday that the prime minister of Flanders, the Belgian province that contains the village of Werchter, is waiting until the end of April to make a decision on whether large-scale music events will be allowed to go ahead this summer. At press time, preparations for other major Flemish festivals, including Tomorrowland and Pukkelpop, are still ongoing.

“We have a special word of thanks for the fans and friends of the festival: they Rock Werchter,” continues the announcement. “Every time. Over and over again. They kept hoping during the dark days, showed understanding over the uncertain situation, and gave support to each other and to us. We cannot thank them enough. We look forward to making great memories together again in the future.”

As in 2020, when 36 performances were held in aid of industry charity Live 2020, a smaller, potentially socially distanced, event will take place at the Werchter festival site in lieu of the festival proper.

“We are eager to bring back live music to the Festivalpark this summer in any way we can and are currently working out what will be possible with the anticipated restrictions in place,” it concludes. “As soon as the right and best formula is determined, we will come back to you. It won’t be Rock Werchter, but you can rest assured that we will sing, dance and celebrate together again this summer.”

Ticket holders for Rock Werchter 2020 and ’21 can hold on to their tickets for 2022 or request a refund from Ticketmaster.

 


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Sportpaleis plans non-stop 24-hour livestream concert

Antwerp Sportpaleis is organising a 24-hour non-stop livestream concert to mark exactly one year since concert halls closed due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

More than 100 Belgian artists, across all genres, will perform original and cover songs in the empty 18,400-seat arena to show that they are ‘ready to storm stages again’.

The ’24 Hours Live’ event, co-produced by Les Flamands, Sportpaleis Group and Live Nation, will kick off at 6 pm on 12 March and will be streamed in its entirety via hln.be.

Miguel Wiels is part of talent and production agency Les Flamands and one of the artists who will perform on the night: “After a year, the jitters can no longer be kept. Everyone in the industry wants to make music, well, we’re going to do that with my band.

“We have a setlist of more than 400 songs available”

“It’s heartwarming how many artists have voluntarily agreed to play with us. We have a setlist of more than 400 songs available. It’s going to be a long marathon and we probably won’t have enough of it after 24 hours. On the contrary: it is an advance when we will also be able to stand in front of a live audience. That moment is getting closer, we have every confidence in it. This stunt is a good dress rehearsal for that.”

Prime minister Jan Jambon, says: “We have had the most disastrous year in the history of our culture and events sector. I am very happy to contribute to 24 Hours Live. Because that’s what we have to do: let the music go on, no matter how difficult the circumstances. I hope that we will soon be able to resume our normal life.”

Sportpaleis recently raised €50,000 for Belgium’s live music industry through its Lights for Live fundraising initiative.

 


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Tickets on sale for post-Covid rave in Belgium (date TBA)

Despite not yet having announced a date, tickets are selling fast for I Want to Dance Again, a Live Nation Belgium-promoted event billed as Belgium’s biggest “post-Covid party”, which will take place in Antwerp as soon as restrictions on major events are lifted.

I Want to Dance Again (IWTDA) – also the name of the the latest single by the Subs, the Belgian electro heroes co-organising the party with Live Nation and radio station Studio Brussel – will take the form of an all-night, celebratory rave held at Lotto Arena (5,218-cap.) at an unspecified time in the near future.

Describing the event as “a new year’s resolution you can finally keep”, organisers say: “Let’s dance together again in 2021. When? As soon as the current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, we will schedule a date for the first post-Covid indoor rave without restrictions. A relief and reward for our massive efforts, after many months of dance deprivation.

“Together with the Subs, we will dance and party all night long at the Lotto Arena in Antwerp. The date is yet to be determined. The sooner, the better. Are you ready for a wild night out?”

Tickets for IWTDA are priced at €35.

Live Nation acquired the operating rights to Lotto Arena in 2018, when it took over Antwerps Sportpaleis group.

 


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The New Bosses 2020: Jolien Augustyns

The New Bosses 2020 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 93 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, and A&R and production experts that make up this year’s list.

To get to know this year’s cream of the crop a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2020’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success. Catch up on the previous New Bosses interview with Bertie Gibbon, A&R at ATC Live in the UK here.

A graduate of Karel de Grote University College in Antwerp, Augustyns specialises in promoting indoor shows at Live Nation Belgium. After beginning her music biz career interning at Sony Music Belgium, Augustyns “lost her heart” to the live music industry while working as a festival assistant for Rock Werchter in 2014.

After graduating the same year, she had to make a choice: chase her “teenage dream” of being an A&R manager at a record label, or “take a leap of faith and stumble into the live music industry.” As you’ve probably already guessed, she “did the latter, and haven’t once regretted it,” she explains.

 


What are you working on right now?
We’re already working on shows in 2021 and 2022, but unfortunately rescheduling and cancelling shows due to Covid-19 still takes up quite some time. Meanwhile, we’re also thinking about initiatives to get the industry back up and running during these unprecedented times.

What are some of the highlights of your career to date?
Even though I’m part of the indoor show department, I try to help out at our festivals during the summer each year as well. My absolute highlight is this year’s Rock Werchter Zomerbar (Summer Bar). Summer 2020 was essentially cancelled due to Covid-19, still, our festival team was able to put a month-long mini-festival at Werchter comprising 36 concerts with local acts, two comedy nights and even a live TV show. It was all for charity and we had a total of 15,000 visitors at the festival.

Even though I wasn’t part of the preparations, I was able to join the team during that crazy month. In a way, it was the best team building activity I’ve ever experienced, forming real connections with people I’ve known for years. It’s the highlight of the summer, of 2020 and probably my whole career to date.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt working in live music?
There are many lessons to be learned in this industry. Personally, I believe treating your industry contacts with respect is one of the main lessons to learn. Respect and kindness will get you a long way. It’s okay to stand your ground, to not be a pushover or a people-pleaser all the time, as long as you remain respectful about it and can provide good arguments.

“The Rock Werchter Zomerbar was the highlight of the summer, of 2020 and probably my whole career to date”

Did you always want to be a promoter?
Not at all to be honest. As a teen, I had set my mind on becoming an A&R manager at a record label. I landed an internship at Sony Music Belgium during my last year of college, and whilst I absolutely loved it there, I lost my heart to the live music industry instead whilst being a festival assistant at Rock Werchter that same year. A little while after graduating, I got the chance to work at both companies and had to make the difficult choice between chasing my teenage dreams or taking a leap of faith into the live music industry. I did the latter and haven’t once regretted it. I worked my way through the company and now I’m a junior promoter.

What’s it like working in the Belgian market?
We have such an interesting market, with a clear difference between the French-speaking part and the Flemish-speaking part of the country. I mainly operate in Flanders – we have some great venues and I’d like to think we’re quite the early adapters with some genres. It’s such a small country, and yet we’re able to put on massive shows. Also, what a luxury to be able to travel through the whole country in a matter of hours. No need to take flights or to have different offices at key locations. Everything’s within reach. The sky is the limit, basically.

What impact has Covid-19 has on your job?
Where to even start? I could give a ton of draining stories, but we’re all suffering in one way or another. We’ve had brainstorms about how we can organise events during this pandemic. We’ve been negotiating with the insurance companies. We’ve had some very difficult conversations. The list of new experiences is endless. Whilst a lot of it has been bad, stressful and demotivating, I’ve also learned a lot during these past few months. We have proven to be extremely resilient. I’ve been lucky so far, I’m still working and learning, but I know this hasn’t been the case for everyone and my heart goes out to anyone who lost their job, dream or career. I feel for them and I may sound naive, but I hope we can all rise from the dust together.

“Belgium is such a small country, and yet we’re able to put on massive shows. Everything’s within reach. The sky is the limit”

Do you have a mentor in the industry?
There is one person I’d like to mention in particular: Tom Van der Elst, festival manager at our festivals, and my mentor while I was interning there. He gave me a chance at a time when I hadn’t achieved anything yet, and introduced me to the team I now call my work family.

What does the live music industry do well, and what can we do better?
Obviously, this industry can put on some damn good shows but I think at some point the financial part evolved too quickly. Fees are getting higher and higher, which makes sense when the economy is thriving but I’d like to see more understanding of the financial state of certain local markets.

Not every market is financially strong. Not every market is suitable for high ticket prices. Not every genre works well at a certain venue. You can’t compare country A to country B and expect the same ticket prices, amount of tickets sold and fees. Let’s work on that and reboot the system whilst we’re at it. Make it more about passion and music, instead of the money and numbers. Also, power to the women (no explanation needed)!

What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the business?
Stay true to yourself. Don’t let anyone change who you are. Take a chance when an opportunity presents itself and always treat one another with respect and kindness. Also, whenever you feel like you’re drowning in this crazy industry, know that you’re not alone. I’ve been made fun of by people in this industry who didn’t take me seriously due to my gender and/or age. A lot of us have gone through this before and the only thing you can do is always be the best version of yourself and remain calm, friendly and helpful.

“I’d like to see more understanding of the financial state of certain local markets. Not every market is financially strong”

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing currently?
Growing as a promoter definitely is a big challenge for me right now. While wanting to go full steam ahead at the start of the year, the industry has obviously drastically changed these past few months. In no way could I have guessed I would be spending most my time cancelling and rescheduling shows, instead of starting to work on my own shows. Luckily, we’re already working on 2021 and 2022, and even though it’s going a lot slower than I hoped, I’m confident that whatever’s happening now will help me become a better promoter in the end.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Exactly where I’m at now minus the ‘junior’ part. Promoting acts from club level to arena level, sharing the artist’s journey along the way. Developing my instinct and knowledge of the industry. Learning more about the production side of it as well, maybe even experience the touring life once. I’ve got some amazing role models in the office to look up to and I hope to get to their level one day.


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