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Two major Swedish festivals cancelled

Two of Sweden’s leading festivals will not take place next year, it has been confirmed.

Lollapalooza Stockholm will “take a break” for 2024 to give promoters time to “re-evaluate and make improvements across the board”, while organisers of Malmö’s Big Slap have opted to call it a day after 10 years.

Staged by co-creator Perry Farrell, WME, C3 Presents and Live Nation Sweden/Luger, Lollapalooza Stockholm launched in 2019 to become the third Lollapalooza event in Europe following spin-offs in Paris, France and Berlin, Germany. Its most recent Swedish edition, held from 29 June-1 July, was headlined by Travis Scott, Kygo, Lizzo, Zara Larsson, Mumford & Sons and Lil Nas X.

However, HBL reports the domestic market has shifted away from major festivals – referencing the now-defunct Hultsfred, Bråvalla and Peace and Love – in favour of more niche events such as Live Nation’s Way Out West and Sweden Rock Festival (LN also axed this year’s Summerburst, saying it had “decided to focus on the other festivals”).

But despite the country’s struggles with high interest rates and inflation, communications manager Alexander Kihlström denies the economic climate is to blame for Lollapalooza Stockholm’s hiatus.

“I cannot say more details about when the festival will return”

“We’ve had three fantastic festivals so far and it’s entirely possible to do events in Stockholm and around Sweden, which we can see not least from our friends Sweden Rock and Way Out West, who are going like a train again this year,” says Kihlström. “I cannot say more details about when the festival will return. There is a desire and an interest in festivals that have very big international acts.”

Elsewhere, Big Slap, which launched in 2013, was acquired by Nordic giant All Things Live in 2020. But organisers have decreed that its 2023 edition, which welcomed acts such as Burna Boy, Swedish House Mafia, 3 Are Legend, Steve Angello, Rita Ora, Armin Van Buuren Bebe Rexha and Hardwell in August, was its last.

The electronic music festival had grown from a one-day 15,000-cap affair to a 52,000-cap, two-day event in 2022 when it was headlined by Justin Bieber. But citing a desire to go out on top, founder Ali Eftekhari tells Sydsvenskan the festival has reached a “maximum limit” in terms of its development.

Swedish audiences’ propensity to gravitate towards new festivals over established brands is well documented, and a social media post hints that a fresh festival concept is in the works by the Big Slap team.

“A new journey will now begin with a new brand, format, and a new vibe sooner than you think”

“Since 2013, we have been dreaming of making Big Slap bigger and better each year,” reads the statement. “We have achieved all our goals and fulfilled our dreams, all thanks to you.

“Some journeys end at the top! A new journey will now begin with a new brand, format, and a new vibe sooner than you think! Stay tuned.”

Sydsvenskan reports that new festivals are in the offing for next summer in Malmö and Lund, while Live Nation is resurrecting Stockholm’s Sthlm Fields concert series. The June/July series will comprise around 10 shows and feature in the region of 30 artists. Confirmed headliners so far include Doja Cat, Greta Van Fleet, Molly Sandén, TOTO and The Hives.

In addition, Summerburst co-founder Anders Boström is partnering with event manager Navid Kabiri and nightclub guru Samin Adjoudani to launch Drömmen – a one-day celebration of Eurovision and schlager music – at Stockholm Olympic Stadium on 25 May. Plus, promoter One Wknd Only Productions is teaming with Snowman Agency to create two-day music festival Thunderfield in Jönköping from 31 May-1 June.


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Anna Sjölund trades Live Nation for ASM Global

ASM Global has appointed Anna Sjölund as European programming director, with a focus on the growth of the business in the Nordics region.

The industry stalwart joins the venue management giant from Live Nation Sweden, where she has risen through the ranks over 24 years.

In her new role, Sjölund will be based out of ASM’s Stockholm office and tasked with curating content at venues including Friends Arena, Tele2 Arena, Avicii Arena, Södra Teatern and Kulttuuritalo, as well as offering support in the rest of Europe.

While leading the Swedish programming team, she will support the individual venues and regional content teams to deliver and develop “a truly world-class and unrivalled calendar of unmissable live entertainment content”.

Marie Lindqvist, senior vice president of operations in Europe for ASM Global, says: “We are incredibly excited to welcome Anna to the ASM Global team. Anna is highly experienced, widely respected, and comes with a vast network within the industry, especially in the Nordics. I have worked with Anna in various capacities for more than 15 years, so I can confidently say she shares the same passion for growing the footprint of amazing live events in Sweden, and the rest of the Nordic region. Anna is a brilliant new addition to our best-in-class team and I look forward to working with her as we look to a bright future in Sweden and the Nordics.”

“Knowing that Anna was the promoter of your show meant total confidence that every possible aspect of the event was fully covered”

Brian Celler, senior vice president content and programming for UK & Europe at ASM Global, adds: “Let’s be entirely honest, Anna joining the ASM Global European programming team is nothing short of seismic. She is a world-class executive, held in the highest esteem by her colleagues, agents, managers, and artists globally. Knowing that Anna was the promoter of your show meant total confidence that every possible aspect of the event was fully covered. We are beyond thrilled to be part of Anna’s next progression in her career and her integral role in the expanding ASM Global venue portfolio in Europe.”

Sjölund joined Thomas Johansson’s EMA Telstar (now Live Nation Sweden) as a production assistant in 2000, and rapidly rose through the ranks. She has served as VP operations, Live Nation Central and Eastern Europe 2010-2013, and led the touring and festival business at Live Nation Sweden for more than 10 years. Most recently, she served in a global role as SVP Touring International.

Sjölund has established herself as one of Europe’s premier promoters with an unrivalled network in Sweden and the Nordics, promoting hundreds of arena and stadium shows in the region with world-class acts, as well as bringing international festival Lollapalooza to Stockholm in 2019, 2022, and 2023.

She is a longstanding promoter of the NHL Global Series in Sweden, Finland, Czech Rep and Germany – successfully filling Stockholm with 52,000 hockey fans from all over the world this season alone. As a result, Stockholm has had 16 regular season NHL games since 2008 – more than twice as many as any other city outside of North America.

Sjölund says: “During my 24 years with the great Thomas Johansson and the team at Live Nation Sweden I have worked incredibly close with the ASM Global venues here, and have had the fortune to be a part of hundreds of incredible events there – to now continue to develop and expand that business in the European region is something I’m really looking forward to. I joined forces with Marie Lindqvist to gather the Swedish event industry during the pandemic years, and have tremendous respect for her leadership and strategic work, and am excited to continue that partnership and our shared passion for live entertainment on a daily basis.”


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Adam Börjesson to lead Live Nation Sweden/Luger

Live Nation Sweden and Luger, Sweden’s leading music agencies, have found a new head of agency in Adam Börjesson.

He joins the nation’s leading music agencies from Amuse, an independent record label and music distributor in Stockholm. There, he worked as its head of commercial development, building on previous experiences at Universal Music, Jubel, and his own record company Astronaut Recordings.

“I have worked closely with both Luger and Live Nation in various contexts for a long time and am really looking forward to taking on this assignment,” Börjesson says. “They are two industry-leading brands that care about artists, sustainability and corporate culture, and I see enormous potential in developing the offer and advancing the positions further.”

The strategic move to coordinate the two leading agencies’ leadership is poised to improve symbiotic relations between the two companies and their artists, organisers, and partners, per a press release.

“Through an increased focus on collaboration and pooling of forces, we see that we can have positive effects for our entire business”

“We have the luxury of having two strong, differentiated and clearly profiled agencies under the same roof, something we are very keen to maintain and strengthen. Through an increased focus on collaboration and pooling of forces, we see that we can have positive effects for our entire business,” says Mattias Behrer, CEO of Live Nation Sweden.

Börjesson will be responsible for day-to-day leadership and personnel responsibility beginning 1 October, along with leading alongside Luger CEO and founder Ola Bronquist.

Additionally, Live Nation has recruited Julia Carlsson to the role of agent in the Swedish department. Carlsson has previously worked with the company in project management and production.


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Celebrating Thomas Johansson at 75

As part of the team that introduced ABBA to the world, Thomas Johansson has enjoyed an equally stellar career, cementing the Nordic territories into the routing of every international tour that visits Europe. Now, having just celebrated his 75th birthday, he’s contemplating the future. But retirement is not a concept he fully recognises, he tells Gordon Masson.

As is the story with many of the industry’s pioneers, Thomas Johansson fell into the business by mistake when he saw an opportunity to earn a bit of money while getting into shows.

“A friend of mine played bass in a band, and I went along to a gig,” Johansson recalls. “Basically, I went to the promoter and said, ‘My band is worth more than this.’ And the guy agreed and paid more money. The band was four people, but they gave me a fifth – 20% – because I’d doubled their fee. So, all of a sudden, I was getting paid for talking and the bonus was I didn’t have to pay to go to concerts.”

As a teenage artist manager – “I was 16, I think” – that moment sparked an entrepreneurial streak that has lasted six decades, to date, and underscored a love for music that dates back a lot further.

As the first beneficiaries of Johansson’s legendary negotiating skills, that band of friends – The Outsiders – enjoyed four years of fame before splitting in 1969. “They were the opening act on several gigs for Jimi Hendrix,” says Johansson. “We also opened up for a band I did very early in my career called Blue Cheer, who were a fantastic blues-rock American trio, very similar to Hendrix.”

Keen to absorb as much information and experience as possible, Johansson began working for established Scandinavian promoters SBA, based in Denmark. “There were two principals there, Knud Thorbjörnsen and Anders Stefansen, and with them I promoted the likes of Ike and Tina Turner.” He explains, “There was also a lady there called Siw Eriksson, who worked with a lot of jazz acts – Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Oscar Peterson – basically all of the jazz greats. And from her, I really learned how to promote shows, because she was the local promoter for all of these jazz icons.

“The people at SBA also did European tours – they did the first European tour with the Stones in the late ‘60s, for instance – and they paved the way for other promoters to follow”

“In essence, the people at SBA also did European tours – they did the first European tour with the Stones in the late ‘60s, for instance – and they paved the way for other promoters to follow. In fact, I continued to work with both Knud and Anders right up until the 1980s when they sort of stopped.”

With a hard-working attitude and a passion to create the best environments for artists and their audiences, the next door that opened for young Thomas saw him in a salaried position for the Musicians’ Union. “I was an agent/promoter, for the [MU] locally in Sweden, and that’s also when I had my first encounter with the Rolling Stones, at the Vinterstadion, Örebro, over Easter in 1967.” That show has taken on legendary status in Scandinavia in the decades since – made all the more remarkable by the fact that the local promoter, Johansson, was just 18 at the time. “I’ve always been a pretty quick learner,” he quips.

Among the many acts that performed in Sweden with the assistance of the teenage Thomas were Traffic, Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin and, in March 1969, Led Zeppelin, who were the opening act for Country Joe & the Fish.

Never one to recognise age as a barrier, with barely four years of experience behind him, Johansson decided to launch his own company, EMA Telstar. He asked Siw Eriksson to join him as his assistant. “She’s a fantastic lady: she’s about 92 or 93 now, and I still speak to her,” he says.

He admits, however, that there was a more pressing reason to launch EMA. “The Musicians’ Union fired me,” he says. “There was a Union newspaper, and they asked me to write about modern music, which I did. But I was working with an eight-piece band and two of the guys were not MU members. So, they figured that I was not a good person, and they fired me… but it worked out okay for me in the end,” he laughs.

“I started to work with ABBA, and EMA Telstar produced and promoted all the dates they ever did from 1974 to the last show”

Brushing aside the fact that he was barely out of his teens when he became one of northern Europe’s main promoters, Johansson tells IQ, “It was easier at that time to start a company, because there were not many people doing it. I started up about one or two years earlier than Leon Ramakers did in Holland, and a little bit before Andy Béchir in Switzerland. In England, you had Tony Smith’s father, John Smith, who was a big promoter at the time, and through him I met Harvey [Goldsmith], who was working for John.”

Rather than shoulder all the risk himself, Johansson reveals that EMA’s early incarnation, in 1969, involved three partners. “One of the partners, Olle Nordström, died very early, and the other guy, Benny Englund, is still around and represents Marshall Amps, Fender, Vox: he’s basically the biggest supplier of this type of equipment in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. When Olle died, I bought his shares in the company, and later I bought out Benny as well.”

The Names of The Game
While Johansson has worked with some of the biggest legends ever to appear on stage, it’s perhaps one of the earliest bands from his career who have the greatest legacy.

“I started to work with ABBA, and EMA Telstar produced and promoted all the dates they ever did from 1974 to the last show they ever did at the Budokan, Tokyo in March 1980. We did three European tours, one Australian tour, one Japanese tour, and one US tour,” he states.

Recalling how the band’s career was embraced early on Down Under, Johansson observes, “Australia has similarities to Sweden: it’s remote from the rest of the world, while Sweden is remote from the rest of Europe; and they’re both relatively small countries in terms of population. So, when something happens, it happens big time, and with ABBA it was really big time. Luckily, we went to Australia early in the game with ABBA to do television, which was a real boost for the band at the time.”

“With U2, the first show they ever did here was a little club in Stockholm for 200 kids”

Indeed, Johansson’s influence with ABBA goes back to the very early days. “Actually, I started to work with them the year before Eurovision, so in 1973. All four of them came from successful local groups. I knew Björn from when I was 13 or 14 – he’s three years older than I am – and I managed his wife Agnetha on her solo career and produced her tours.

“So, when the band formed, they asked if I wanted to help them to produce the dates, book the dates, and promote the dates, which I did. And that’s how the relationship started.”

Although Johansson is not involved with the smash hit ABBA Voyage production, he still talks frequently to the members of the Swedish super-group, having also managed Frida’s career and executive produced a couple of her solo albums, “one with Phil Collins as a producer, and the other with Steve Lillywhite as a producer,” he recalls.

Another act who he shares a long association with is Elton John, who just weeks ago brought down the curtain on his touring career in Sweden with Thomas as promoter. “The first show I did with him, he was still called Reginald Dwight, and he was the piano player in a band called Blue Mink. We’ve done all Elton’s shows ever since,” reports Johansson.

Recalling other artists, he adds, “With U2, the first show they ever did here was a little club in Stockholm for 200 kids. Then we drove from that club to do a live TV [broadcast] and after the live TV, to play a club across the street. Queen, we started with very early in 1974; McCartney, we did the first tour after he left the Beatles with Wings in 1973; The Eagles played their first show here in 1977. To me, that’s a big personal thing to be able to say that. Of course, it’s in the past; it’s history. But it’s important to me, and again, it’s reinforced by what I impart to my staff: the artists are the first priority, never forget.”

“Early on with ABBA, we went to America where we did Olivia Newton John’s TV show in Los Angeles”

Join The Joyride
One of the many benefits of travelling the world with ABBA during the 1970s was the myriad opportunities for Johansson to expand his network of contacts. “Early on with ABBA, we went to America where we did Olivia Newton John’s TV show in Los Angeles,” he explains. “She was managed by Roger Davies, whom I’d known since he was managing an Australian band called Sherbet that I’d managed to get on as an opening act for The Hollies. And ever since then, I worked with all of Roger’s acts – Tina Turner, Cher, Pink, Sade, Joe Cocker – anyone he has worked with, I’ve promoted in Sweden and the Nordics.”

Steering ABBA’s live performance career helped make EMA Telstar a powerhouse in the Nordics, allowing Johansson and his company to become the go-to destination for most international acts looking to visit Scandinavia, Finland, and the Baltics.

As the Cold War started to thaw, Russia started to open its doors to western acts, with Johansson also becoming one of the pioneers to take acts behind the Iron Curtain to play the likes of Moscow and St Petersburg.

The 1980s also landed him the opportunity to work with another Swedish supergroup, Roxette, which combined the forces of two already established stars: Marie Fredriksson, who had a number of solo albums to her name; and Per Gessle, the lead singer and songwriter of Gyllene Tider, a band which had already released three No.1 albums – and whom Johansson has been promoting again this year at outdoor shows: “We do 20 outdoor shows with Per and his band this summer – a stadium in Stockholm, a stadium in Gothenburg, another 18 shows, as well as a couple in Finland and a couple in Norway. They’re going to end up selling something like 175,000 to 200,000 tickets,” he informs IQ.

Much like ABBA before them, Roxette used Johansson’s experience to propel them to international success. “We did all the tours and all the shows with Roxette worldwide,” he states. “When Per formed the band, we became his partner, and they played stadiums in Australia, they played stadiums in South America – big stadiums, like 50,000/60,000 people.”

“ABBA and Roxette gave me the opportunity to travel the world and that allowed me to pick up a lot of knowledge, as well as meet lots of people in the business”

That partnership arrangement hints at another Johansson skillset. He had also been a formidable artist manager in his day, but as EMA Telstar grew, and running the company became more time consuming, he started to ease away from artist manager duties, albeit reluctantly. But not before his management credentials had assisted the band Europe to become another A-list act. “We managed Europe for the first five years – they had that huge hit Final Countdown. And then I managed [lead singer] Joey [Tempest]. Even though it became so time consuming to be a manager, I couldn’t keep my hands away. So that’s why I managed Roxette initially and up until 1998 or ‘99 when I sold the company.”

He concedes, “ABBA and Roxette gave me the opportunity to travel the world and that allowed me to pick up a lot of knowledge, as well as meet lots of people in the business internationally – many of whom have become good friends, like Patrick Woodroffe the lighting designer, who worked with me on ABBA, so I turned to him for help when it came to Roxette, too. But as a manager, you need to do so much more than just the touring side of the business: you need to do publishing, record company deals, promotion, and I knew I would not have the luxury of that time when we sold the company to SFX.”

Super Trooper
Selling EMA Telstar to Bob Sillerman’s SFX began a series of transactions that would eventually lead to Johansson becoming chairman of Live Nation’s international touring division. Grasping the idea of a global promoting operation, he was acutely aware that his artist management days were almost certainly over. “The business of being a promoter is a very time-consuming situation, so I had to make up my mind: do I want to be a promoter, or do I want to be a manager? And I decided I would be a promoter,” he says.

Besides, there was a greater goal to aim for. As part of the original SFX deal for EMA Telstar, Johansson had negotiated a number of clauses that would allow him to acquire the operations of partners in neighbouring territories, providing him and his new employers with a powerbase in northern Europe.

“EMA Telstar had been running for 30 years when I sold it, and it was the biggest promoter in Sweden by a long shot,” he comments. “The deal I made was that they would allow me to buy my partners in Norway, Denmark, and Finland, which I did about a year to two years later. And although they were still separate companies, that’s what ultimately became the unit known as Live Nation, the Nordics.”

“Live Nation has created vehicles for artists to be able to tour globally”

As Sillerman’s corporate kleptomania swept up the operations of Johansson’s peers in the likes of the Netherlands and the UK, the concert business suddenly became an industry that the money men started to take more seriously. Subsequently, in early 2000, Clear Channel agreed a multibillion-dollar deal to acquire SFX, and its acquisition strategy accelerated both in North America and internationally before Clear Channel spun off its expanding live music division in 2005 and named Michael Rapino as CEO.

Looking back at the development of the company, Johansson observes, “Live Nation has created vehicles for artists to be able to tour globally. It’s a public company, so it is all transparent and above board, it’s all correctly insured, and it operates in a way that pays attention to the rules of each country it operates in.”

He continues, “It’s also becoming a company that is very environmental – in each country, we have a person who heads up sustainability strategy and who works alongside the festivals, alongside the gigs and the shows, to see how we can be more environmentally efficient. It’s a massively important part of our work now, because if we wait until tomorrow to do something about it, there will be no tomorrow.”

Noting that Live Nation’s regimen requires precise reporting, he adds, “Of course, there’s an extreme amount of administration to do with Live Nation, but the company has been at the forefront of professionalising our business: it has standardised a lot of the things we do, and for young artists, young promoters, and a new generation of audience, it offers a great solution.”

Money, Money, Money
Being backed by the deep pockets of a global corporation has been a game changer for Johansson and the many entrepreneurs who have boarded the Live Nation setup over the past 20 something years. That environment also gives its various territory chiefs the confidence to chase deals they might not have done when still independent.

“The artists always come first. Always, always, always. If you follow that one rule, and if you’re straight and honest and do your job, you will succeed”

“You always have difficult times,” says Johansson, addressing the issue of risk. “I think promoters are very closely related to farmers: it rains too much, it shines too much, it’s too windy, and when the weather is bad the economy is bad, inflation is bad. We complain a lot – that’s promoters.” Despite the myriad challenges that make promoting shows and festivals such a perilous financial enterprise, Johansson has never put himself in a position where he might lose the roof from over his head. “Of course, I’m wrong all the time, and there are shows where I lose money. But you have to be right more than you’re wrong,” he says.

And revealing the mantra that he’s based his entire career around, he tells IQ, “The absolute fundamental thing that I preach to the people here in my office [in Sweden], and to the people in Norway, Denmark and Finland, and the Baltics… I preach to them that our most important partner, client, and asset is the artist. The relationship with the artist, the artist manager, the artist agent, this is the fundament that we build our business on. The artists always come first. Always, always, always. If you follow that one rule, and if you’re straight and honest and do your job, you will succeed.”

One beneficiary of Johansson’s schooling has been Anna Sjölund, who has worked her way up the ranks to currently hold the post of senior VP touring international for Live Nation.

“Thomas is like family to me,” says Sjölund. “I had just turned 20 when I started working for EMA Telstar. I came from a local promoter in the south of Sweden to do a few months work during the summer and never left – it’s been the most incredible ride, learning, growing up, and creating my own path alongside him.

“Thomas is simply a unique force: challenging, fiercely loyal, and a true gentleman. He never gives up, never stops believing in his artists, and he has taught me to never ever stop promoting the show – that’s the job: promote the artist, promote the show, never give up, and always, always, always put the artist first.”

“I transformed myself into a promoter in the early 2000s, and Elton John was the first act I promoted”

The Boss
Having established Sweden as one of Europe’s strongest live music markets, Johansson has been given expanded roles by Live Nation in addition to his ‘chairman international music’ title. “I’m the chairman of the Nordics and also the Baltics, where we have two companies now, in Estonia and Lithuania,” he says. “That role involves overseeing the general business and making sure that it is taken care of in a professional way. That has been my remit for the last four or five years.

“But I am also still a promoter for many acts. For example, we recently had Bruce Springsteen here, whom I have been promoting for many years, and I’m lucky to have Tor Nielsen, whom I’ve been working with since 1977 – he executes the majority of the big shows that I do, whether it’s Metallica, Elton John, or Springsteen.”

Johansson is also quick to point out the evolving nature of the Live Nation staff across his territories. “There are some 90 people in this office here [in Stockholm]; there are about 70 in Denmark; in Norway it’s about 35-40; Finland about 25; and the Baltics about 10-12 people, so it’s more than 200 people in the Nordic hemisphere,” he reports.

For his part, right-hand man Nielsen tells IQ that he began working with Johansson as soon as he’d left university. “I’d basically make sure that the riders of visiting acts were fulfilled,” says Nielsen. “Then, in 1985, I took on the role of production manager for the company and basically became the tour coordinator and agent for Roxette and other acts.”

Adding the title of COO International Artists to his resume in the 1990s, Nielsen adds, “I transformed myself into a promoter in the early 2000s, and Elton John was the first act I promoted, although I’m still overseeing operations to this day.

“We’ve had some interesting clashes over the years, but we’ve always been able to work out the best way forward”

“I’m definitely the longest man standing when it comes to working with Thomas. He’s a mountain of energy and is very sociable, but he can be pretty stubborn. Then again, so can I, so we’ve had some interesting clashes over the years, but we’ve always been able to work out the best way forward.”

And Nielsen reveals one of Johansson’s habits is wanting to see as many shows as possible, even when the show may be the other side of the world. “I remember he flew in to see Roxette in Rio de Janeiro, and he was so jetlagged he fell asleep in the dressing room when the band went on stage and woke up as they came off. And then he caught a plane home.

“He’s a workaholic – when he flies to New York, he’s never out of the office for more than three days, for instance.” But he says some of the people who benefit most from that work ethic are LN Nordic staff. “He really likes to speak with everyone in the office about the projects they are working on. The last 15 years have seen a lot of young people join us, and I think that keeps Thomas energised – he’s a great mentor!”

What The Puck?!
Another facet to Johansson is his work in promoting his favourite sport: ice hockey. “In 1996, I started to talk to the National Hockey League [in North America] and the NHL Players Association, and in 1999/2000, we brought the first NHL teams here.”

While those exhibition games were lapped up by the hockey-mad Swedes, Johansson has worked tirelessly to build on those foundations to the extent that competitive games are now an annual fixture in Europe. “For the last seven or eight years, we have hosted real NHL games that count toward league standings,” he informs IQ. “In addition to Sweden, we’ve held games in Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland, and we have between two and four regular games every year that are televised in over 100 countries.”

“When Michael Rapino took over, he had a vision of building it on a worldwide scale. I really believe that was the most important thing that has happened to live music”

With his home city of Stockholm set to host four games in November, featuring Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, and Minnesota Wild, Johansson notes that those teams include 36 players of European nationalities, including 21 Swedes, hence robust ticket sales for the NHL Global Series games at the Avicii Arena.

Indeed, Johansson draws parallels between the NHL and Live Nation. “It’s an American company with a very good structure; it’s the biggest hockey league in the world, and it features the biggest stars in the game,” he states. “I count myself as very lucky: two of my biggest passions in life are music and ice hockey, and it’s very natural that I do both. In saying this, I never played hockey, personally. But I never played music either. However, I hope I have helped others to enjoy both activities as much as I do.”

Underlining his love for the winter sport, Johansson was on the board of directors of Stockholm ice hockey club Djurgårdens IF for 20 years. “I gave that up about ten years ago, and now I can go and see the games and enjoy them a little more,” he reports. “Being on the board of directors for a sports team is similar to managing a band: it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort… and it can cost you lots of money.”

Having spent the majority of his working life as an independent promoter, Johansson says the best decision of his career was the sale of his company to SFX and his subsequent journey in helping to make Live Nation a reality.

“After Live Nation formed, I think that’s when the real evolution of the live business started in a big manner. And when Michael Rapino took over, he had a vision of building it on a worldwide scale. I really believe that was the most important thing that has happened to live music,” opines Johansson.

“It is very rewarding to see young people succeeding. It keeps you on your toes, it keeps you young, and I think most importantly it helps you understand a lot of things”

Indeed, having celebrated his 75th birthday on 19 August, he’s currently overseeing the biggest ever summer season for the LN Nordics division. “We have 42 stadium shows in the Nordic hemisphere this year, where we normally have 18. About half of those shows are bought by us directly, and half of them are Live Nation global tours. That proves there is still a lot of room for other promoters to bring shows to this part of the world. But I genuinely believe that nobody does it better than Live Nation. The company has set so many standards that we make it more economical for artists to tour. The bottom line is that Live Nation is an artist company.”

And as Johansson enters his 60th year in the music business, he’s happy that the empire he has devoted his working life to build is in safe hands.

“For me personally, to see that there are young promoters, both boys and girls, coming through and how skilled they are, how good they are… I’m so proud and happy to be a part of that team,” he says. “Every day I go into the office, the people I work alongside present these fantastic ideas for shows and tours. And the way they are helping to break new acts is fantastic.”

While ‘retirement’ isn’t a word that slides easily into Johansson’s vocabulary, he admits that he took it upon himself over the last decade to spend more time mentoring colleagues. “It is very rewarding to see young people succeeding,” he continues. “It keeps you on your toes, it keeps you young, and I think most importantly it helps you understand a lot of things. A big part of a promoter’s role is to remain curious and willing to learn, and I’ve found that the more I offer my advice and experience to younger colleagues, the more I learn, too.”

With a workaholic attitude, Johansson admits that during the pandemic he attended his Live Nation office every day, as did a number of his co-workers. But he notes, “It’s very difficult not to work hard when you are so interested in what you do. It’s not really like a job; it’s more like a passion. And I’m very lucky as a human being that the majority of my work life has been my passion.

“Of course, there is pain and bumps and idiots all along the way. But the majority of the time, I’m very happy, and I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I want to do”

“Of course, there is pain and bumps and idiots all along the way. But the majority of the time, I’m very happy, and I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I want to do. I appreciate it every day – having something to do that makes you look forward to waking up every morning.”

My Love, My Live
While many individuals count down to the day they give up work with glee, Johansson sailed past standard retirement age a decade ago, and the past ten years coincidentally have heralded the busiest period of his career. “The really rapid growth for Live Nation has been during the last six or seven years,” says Johansson, who also believes that post-Covid, the age-old dilemma about tomorrow’s headliners is being resolved.

“There are a lot of young acts that because of Covid were unable to tour for two or three years, but at the same time they’ve grown because of social media, record releases, television, TikTok, etc. And because of that demand they have built up by expanding their fanbase, there is the opportunity for them to step up to arenas and stadiums. I think that’s what we’re going to see over the coming years – the next generation of big acts coming through.”

He cites Volbeat as an act from the Nordics that is getting bigger on the international stage, while on a global level Johansson believes the Internet has levelled the playing field for emerging talent. “Social media means it doesn’t matter if you come from New York or from Stockholm or Sydney or a suburb of Johannesburg,” he observes.

That genuine excitement within Johansson is infectious, and while his diamond anniversary might just be around the corner, his passion for music remains as strong as when he was a teenager. “I still love to discover a new act playing live,” he says. “But more often, I listen to a lot of new music, and I like to read about new bands, too. Recently, I saw a great band with Metallica, called Mammoth, with the son of Eddie Van Halen – they’re a great rock band, so that was interesting.”

“Klaus-Peter Schulenberg was a colleague of mine when he was a promoter in Bremen”

Noting that Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich had been the person to introduce him to Danish stars Volbeat, 12 years ago, Johansson also flags up Swedish homegrown act Ghost, who he has high hopes for. “They’ve already had a Grammy award in America and now they play and sell out arenas in Europe and America. It’s really one guy – Tobias Forge – who dresses up like the Pope, and every show Ghost does is a story in its own right. So, I’m very proud that we’ve been involved with them from the very beginning – it was Martin Nielsen in Norway and Johan [Karlsson], here from my office, who became involved when the band first played in clubs.”

He also lauds First Aid Kit. “Great songs, great girls, and really good live. We work with them through Luger who, if we were a record company, would be our indie label, as they’re the division that produces Way Out West festival.”

On the festival front, LN Nordics has grown massively in recent years. The portfolio also includes Sweden Rock and Lollapalooza Stockholm in collaboration with C3 Presents; Tons of Rock, Bergen Festival, and Trondheim Rocks in Norway; Denmark’s Copenhell and Heartland; and Blockfest in Finland. “We’re also partners on a few events like Helsinki Rocks and Turku Festival, in which our job is to service them with artists. And I’ve been involved as a consultant on Roskilde since its first edition,” notes Johansson.

Scando Rivalry
As Johansson and his colleagues over the years developed the Nordics into must-visit destinations for international tours, it’s testament to his hard work and vision that rival corporations have established footholds in the region during the past decade.

“Klaus-Peter Schulenberg was a colleague of mine when he was a promoter in Bremen,” says Johansson of the CTS Eventim chief. “He started Eventim as a ticketing company and then bought a lot of local promoters in Germany, so I think it was a natural progression for them to move into Scandinavia.”

“Personally, I welcome the fact that there’s competition to motivate us all”

Meanwhile, ASM has begun operating venues such as Stockholm’s Avicii Arena, Hovet, Annexet, Tele2 Arena, Friends Arena, Södra Teatern, and Mosebacketerrassen. And more recently, venture capital-backed All Things Live has acquired existing promoters in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland to further up the ante in the competitive Nordics landscape.

“They are, of course, rivals, but competition pushes people to do more things and, hopefully, better things,” observes Johansson. “It also gives the artists the opportunity to have the choice of who they want to work with. From that point of view, it’s like everywhere else in the world: you’ll never have a monopoly, which can only be a good thing. Personally, I welcome the fact that there’s competition to motivate us all.”

And Johansson notes that the rivalries between the corporate powers are not as fierce as many commentators would suggest. “We did Elton John with AEG, I did the Rolling Stones with AEG, so we work together, and we talk. We’re both American-owned companies who don’t sit too far away from each other in Los Angeles, so it’s nice to see that there’s a lot of mutual respect between us.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Johansson believes the talent pipeline in his part of the world is in rude health. “There’s lots of good small clubs, all across the country. People always complain there aren’t, but when you start to look at it, there are proper 800 to 1,000-capacity rooms everywhere across Sweden. And then, because of ice hockey, you also have 10-12 relatively modern ice hockey arenas with capacities from 6,000 to 13,000.”

The Next Generation
The wealth of talent doesn’t just exist on stage, however, and when it comes to succession plans for Live Nation, Johansson is very optimistic about the company’s future.

“I want to spend more time with my family; I want to go on long hikes with my dog, Hugin; I want to read more and generally just have more time to think”

“My main ambition is to make sure that the people working here in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Baltics, have the opportunity to continue to work and to become the best at what they do,” he discloses.

“I see myself as working a little bit less in the not too far distance, because there are other things I want to do, which is not just related to the business… I want to spend more time with my family; I want to go on long hikes with my dog, Hugin; I want to read more and generally just have more time to think,” he explains.

“I have no extreme things that I want to do, because I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve travelled the world in an extremely good way, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. I met fantastic people – some of whom have become very good friends. So, it’s not that I want to stop and open a restaurant or a hotel or become the owner of a football club. But I do see myself working a little bit less, eventually. I’ve been asked this question by my family as well, but I explain that I still have commitments to clients, and I will always fulfil my commitments.”

Always the consummate planner, Johansson reveals that he was careful not to fall into the trap of pursuing a career at the cost of his family. “I have one son and two grandkids, and while I want to spend more time with them, I have seen them a lot as they grew up.

“I live on an old farm just outside of Stockholm, and my son and his family have always lived in the house next door, so I’ve been present since my grandchildren were born. I’ve seen them when they started to go to school; when I walked the dogs first thing, I got to say good morning to them… it’s a lovely relationship – my grandson is now 21 and my granddaughter is 18, and they are always dropping in to see me and have a cup of coffee and a chat. In fact, my grandson has been working in security at some of our shows to make money, and I think my granddaughter will also do some of that.”

“There are always places I always want to go back to – I want to be in Italy every day of the week”

Family aside, Johansson would also like to schedule more travel when he can find the time. “There are always places I always want to go back to – I want to be in Italy every day of the week,” he says. “I love New York. I love Los Angeles, Paris, London, Australia. I’m sure I will be able to get back to them all, but I’m not in any rush, because I’ve been there many times with work.”

When it comes to passing on the Live Nation batons, he coyly states, “It’s being worked on,” and while he keeps his cards close to his chest, it’s obviously a progression that he is contemplating very seriously.

“It’s a very difficult thing to do,” he says of the succession plans. “For me, it was natural because I brought the business in, made sure we made the money, and took the company into where it is today. But you have to really think carefully about who can do this in the future… You have to have a good bunch of people to run the whole Nordic area. Maybe that means one or two or three people who have the same vision who can then work together.”

With the succession strategy being a work in progress, for the foreseeable future, Johansson has travel plans on hold, while he remains in the Nordic region to help his younger colleagues realise their potential. “It’s almost like working with an ice hockey team. You can see who is going to be the next star – this guy, this girl, they’re going to be great promoters, they’re going to be great marketeers, they’re going to be great sponsor people. That is a big thing to see, and it’s one of my biggest pleasures in life,” he concludes.


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LN Sweden appoints Eva Alm head of sustainability

Live Nation Sweden has appointed Eva Alm to the newly created role of head of sustainability.

Effective 7 August, Alm will be responsible for “driving and developing Live Nation’s sustainability work, including Sweden Rock Festival and the wholly owned subsidiary Luger”.

Alm joins from Espresso House Group where she was sustainability manager and developed and activated sustainability strategies.

She has held various senior roles in the hotel and hospitality industry and has an academic background in business leadership and international development cooperation.

“Sustainability work should be a natural part of our DNA and play a key role in the business decisions we make,” says Mattias Behrer, CEO of Live Nation Sweden.

“We want to and will contribute to change by inspiring our fans, employees, artists and partners – but also ourselves and the industry at large. [Live Nation Sweden festival] Way Out West is an example where we have shown through creative initiatives that it is possible to break norms and contribute to increased sustainability. Eva has solid experience in activating sustainability strategies and a great commitment, which is exactly what we are looking for in this role.”

“Sustainability work should be a natural part of our DNA and play a key role in the business decisions we make”

Alm adds: “The commitment to sustainability issues is already great within Live Nation and I see it as an incredibly exciting opportunity to be part of the journey to drive sustainability work forward and contribute to both highly set business and sustainability goals.”

Live Nation Sweden’s stable of festivals includes Åre Sessions, Sweden Rock Festival, Lollapalooza Stockholm, and Way Out West. The latter became the world’s first ISO 20121 certified music festival in 2013, validating the event’s sustainability efforts.

Way Out West has been a vegetarian and largely dairy-free festival since 2012 which “helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40%”.

Other examples of implemented sustainability initiatives include locally produced and environmentally friendly electricity; replacing fossil fuel-powered vehicles; replacing water-flushing toilets with vacuum-flushing variants, which reduced the water consumption at Sweden Rock Festival’s sanitation system by 75%.

This year, at Lollapalooza Stockholm,“a self-produced organic sparkling wine in aluminum cans will be launched “to use more sustainable deliveries and reduce the consumption of disposable materials on site”.


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Live Nation Sweden’s Summerburst called off

The 2023 edition of Sweden’s Summerburst festival has been cancelled by promoter Live Nation.

The electronic dance music staple had been slated for 2-3 June at the 75,000-cap Ullevi stadium in ​​Gothenburg, with acts such as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Galantis, Martin Garrix, Steve Akoi, Purple Disco Machine, Icona Pop, Meduza and Joel Corry.

However, its cancellation was confirmed in a message to fans on the Summerburst website, just days after its most recent line-up announcement.

“Unfortunately, we need to inform you that this year’s Summerburst will not take place as planned,” it says. “All ticket purchasers will be refunded. Words cannot describe how grateful we are for your support. We hope to see you all again soon.”

“We have decided to focus on the other festivals that take place during the spring and summer”

Organisers elaborated on the reasons for the decision in a statement released to Swedish publication Dagens Nyheter.

“We have decided to focus on the other festivals that take place during the spring and summer,” says a spokesperson.

Launched in 2011, Summerburst had been held in stadiums in both Gothenburg and Stockholm. Returning last year for its landmark 10th edition after a three-year break due to Covid, artists included Marshmello, David Guetta, Afrojack and Alan Walker.

Live Nation Sweden festivals still taking place over the summer include Sweden Rock Festival (7-10 June), Lollapalooza Stockholm (29 June-1 July) and Way Out West (10-12 August).


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Festival Focus: Anna Sjölund, Live Nation Sweden

In addition to her new role as SVP touring international for Live Nation, Anna Sjölund continues her festival work in Sweden overseeing Summerburst and serving on the board of Sweden Rock Festival. She brought Lollapalooza to Stockholm in 2019, which had a highly successful debut and then the pandemic hit. Here she tells us what it took to get through and looks ahead to the future.

How did you and the team get through the pandemic?
The first Lollapalooza Stockholm was fantastic. We had a great bill ready for the second year and then the pandemic struck. It was really tough for us mentally. In 2021, there was a window where it looked like we could have festivals, so we announced, but then everything closed down again. That was particularly challenging. I spent my pandemic time – apart from cancelling and moving shows – being one of the leaders of the industry movement that worked with authorities and politicians here. We’re a commercial company and never relied on government funding before. When the pandemic hit, we realised the people that held the crisis funds didn’t even know what the music business was, let alone festivals. So, we came together as an industry and spent time educating politicians about the value of our industry.

We got great support from [tourism organisation] Visit Stockholm. They see the value in Lollapalooza, especially considering that as a first-year festival 15% of our visitors came from outside Sweden (and this year, that increased to almost 19%). Those numbers are important for a city like Stockholm. So, we got funding – not enough to cover our losses but it meant we kept the majority of our team intact, thankfully.

When we finally got to have the festival this year, it was fantastic. We’re so happy that we got support from many of the acts who stayed on the bill and from everyone who came. It was just amazing to come back and do the festival again.

“I think that the ‘experience’ will be increasingly important”

What trends do you think we will see play out in the next few years at festivals?
Rock music seems to be coming back at the moment, which I love. I also think that the ‘experience’ will be increasingly important. A festival is something you attend all day, and we want people to have a great time from early until late. People expect more every year because the ticket prices go up, but we can offer a great experience for everyone. We have high-end stuff for the people that want that, which means we also can deliver a great product for the kids that saved up their money to come.

Local artists are going to be very important in the coming years because touring costs are up, and the dollar exchange rate is challenging. Having strong local talent that attracts a local audience means you don’t have to programme only the very expensive international talent. We’re in a great position for that because we have very strong local talent in Sweden.

What challenges does the festival industry face?
Staffing, production costs, and the dollar exchange rate. We’re aiming to improve the staffing issue by launching a trainee programme, which will see people working on our festivals on six- to 12-month contracts; we’ll train and pay them. We’re focusing the recruitment outside our standard channels because we want new people. They aren’t obliged to stay with us after the programme, but I hope they will.

“Now more than ever, we need places where we gather and enjoy things together, no matter our background or political views”

Together with Spotify we are the main partners to IFPI on You+ Music, an initiative for youth from urban areas of Sweden. The aim is to open the door and inspire young people with a love of music to work with it – they’ve heard you can be an artist, producer, promoter, or manager – we’re showing them how to get there.

Why are festivals important, and what role do they play in our cultural landscape?
Festivals have a huge role in people’s lives. Live music is very important for many reasons, but festivals in particular, because now more than ever, we need places where we gather and enjoy things together, no matter our background or our political views.

With Lollapalooza, we have people travelling from all over the world to come to Stockholm, and we’re showing the best we have here, so festivals are a great way to showcase your culture.
Finally, festivals employ so many people, from cleaning squads to food sellers, and that’s really important. You’re putting together teams of people who don’t know each other. And it’s a great way to integrate and find communities together.


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Live Nation & Luger launch ‘The Shuffle Ticket’

Live Nation and its Luger subsidiary have launched The Shuffle Ticket, a scratchcard-style promotion offering fans tickets to a randomly selected concert in Sweden.

For 300 SEK (€27), fans will receive two tickets to an event in Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö between February and September 2023, but will not discover what show they will be seeing until scratching off their ticket post-purchase.

“When you buy the ticket at shuffleticket.se, a physical ticket is sent to your home,” fans are advised. “Scratch it, and you’ll find a link to your digital tickets.”

The promotion features more than 100 shows of all sizes, including gigs by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, The Weeknd, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, First Aid Kit, Louis Tomlinson and The Chats, as well as festivals including Lollapalooza Stockholm, Way Out West, Summerburst and Melodifestivalen.

Designed in collaboration with creative collective Forsman & Bodenfors, the initiative is mainly aimed at younger music fans.

“We hope The Shuffle Ticket will give young people the chance to discover new music in an exciting way”

“We hope The Shuffle Ticket will give young people the chance to discover new music in an exciting way,” says Luger project manager Christa Murley, as per Little Black Book.

“During 2022, ticket sales went up again after two years of a negative trend caused by the pandemic,” notes Live Nation Sweden CEO Mattias Behrer. “People are eager to hear live music again. Our new ticket encourages young people to be a part of a new concert experience.”

The first ticket drop took place yesterday (25 January) and sold out in minutes, with further sales to take place on 1 February and 8 February.

Emilie Olsson Lignell, project and campaign manager at Live Nation Sweden, adds: “Putting a playlist on shuffle is a great way to discover new favourites, so why not do the same with live shows? We hope many young people will find their new favourite artists.”


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Live Nation ups convertible note offering to $900m

Live Nation has increased its offering to $900 million in aggregate principal amount of its 3.125% convertible senior notes due 2029, up from the previously announced $850m.

A convertible note is a form of short-term debt that converts into equity. The promoting giant says it intends to use a portion of the net proceeds from the offering to fund the cost of entering into capped call transactions – an option that automatically sells a stock if the price goes beyond or below some predetermined price.

LN intends to use the remainder to “effect the repurchase of a portion of its 2.5% convertible notes due 2023, to pay related fees and expenses and for general corporate purposes”.

The cap price of the capped call transactions will initially be $144.52 per share, representing a premium of 100% over the last reported sale price of the company’s common stock of $72.26 per share on NYSE.

On 9 January 9, the company agreed to repurchase approximately $440m in aggregate principal amount of the existing convertible notes from a limited number of holders.

“We look forward to creating one of the most attractive venues with a modern and dynamic mix of concerts as well as musicals and other events”

Elsewhere, Live Nation Sweden has announced that it has acquired Stockholm’s historic Göta Lejon venue, which has attracted artists such as Metallica, AC/DC and Patti Smith since opening in 1928.

Shows previously in the diary will take place as scheduled through April 2023 ahead of Live Nation beginning a full renovation of the venue to provide artists with options for both standing and seated audiences. It will reopen in 2024 with an increased capacity of 1,400, up from 1,100.

The executive team will be led by former Cirkus Arena, Stockholm CEO Palle Gustafsson, who will run day-to-day operations in close connection with the local Live Nation team.

‘We’re thrilled to add Göta Lejon to the Live Nation family,” says Live Nation Sweden MD Mattias Behrer. “With its location right in the city centre, it’s a great venue for artists, promoters and producers, and we look forward to growing the range of outstanding live experiences on offer to fans in Stockholm. We look forward to creating one of the most attractive venues with a modern and dynamic mix of concerts as well as musicals and other events.”

Swede Sensation: Sweden Market Report

When arena-dwelling Swedish metal band Sabaton attempted to get back out on the road again in early 2022, the challenges of late-pandemic international travel soon scuppered the plan. So it was replaced with another: a tour of just about everywhere in Sweden.

“We did 30 dates and sold 40,000 tickets,” says promoter David Maloney of All Things Live Sweden. “It was unique because no one has done a tour like that, ever, in Sweden. We played markets where we sold 2,000 tickets in a town where 4,000 people live.

“They are an arena band – they have a show next year at the [former] Globe in Stockholm, and they’ve sold 10,000 tickets for that. But rather than sitting at home complaining, they said, ‘Fuck this shit, we’ll go out on tour. If there’s a stage and a roof, we’ll play there.’ And we played places in Sweden I had never even been to.”

Maybe we’re not on the brink of a world in which every band has to rip up small Swedish towns like Mölnlycke, Ålmhult, or Ronneby to make a living, but Maloney still believes there is a lesson here.

“In one sense, that’s the way it has to be in future,” he says. “If you want to play for an audience maybe you have to change your whole way of thinking. Especially for local bands. There’s a limited amount of big stages, a limited amount of festivals, a limited number of people.”

With its sturdy and experienced promoters, its plentiful festivals, and its smallish population, it is true that Sweden is not an easy place in which to innovate, and it is hard to find pockets of demand that aren’t being catered for by someone.

“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market,” says FKP Scorpio partner and promoter Niklas Lundell. “If you want to develop a new concept and you think you are going to be on your own,” he notes wryly, “maybe Scandinavia is not your priority market if you know what I mean.”

“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market”

With the exception of some small clubs in Stockholm where rents have rendered the grassroots business model inadequate, Sweden has more or less everything it needs. World-class venues? Check. Well-heeled audiences? Definitely.

A spot on every serious European touring schedule. No problem. Big, loud festivals and cool boutique ones? No need to ask twice.

Sweden is a model of a compact, modern market, with three very viable touring cities in Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg. And at the mass-market end of the scale, at least, the post-pandemic boom has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience.

“It’s doing very well,” says Thomas Johansson, father of the Swedish live business and Live Nation’s chairman of international music and Nordics.

“We have just finished a bunch of outdoor shows: Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga all sold out stadiums. Then, we had a lot of other shows that have done very well all over Scandinavia, so I would say the business is good.”

As with any prosperous market, Sweden in the first year after the pandemic gives every appearance of being in the form of its life, but as always, the glory of the packed-out arenas and stadiums does not necessarily reflect right across the business.

“The shows that are suffering most from poor ticket sales in the post-Covid period are the ones that would usually sell 700-2,000 tickets,” says Edward Janson of increasingly diversified rock and metal specialist TADC, formerly Triffid And Danger Concerts.

“The big shows are doing well but it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days”

“The smaller club shows are doing okay, and the big shows are doing well. But it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days,” he adds, noting that ticket sales are currently around 25 to 30% down.

Johansson notes a similar trend when it comes to artists a little further down the scale. “Generally, the big artists are doing very well, whether they are local or international,” he says. “The mid-range artists are a little softer, the smaller club acts, too. Basically, it’s because there are so many tickets on sale. A lot of people were sitting with tickets for 2020, and then all of a sudden they were sitting with tickets for 2021, and when 2022 came around they already had five or six tickets booked.”

Certainly, there are challenges, even for an affluent market like Sweden. “There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time,” says Janson. “And inflation is rising, and the Swedish krona is getting weaker compared to the dollar and the euro. With that said, during the upcoming winter, I’m sure that it will stabilise and that ticket sales will go back to where they were before the pandemic.”

Svensk Live, the local live music body that gathers together clubs, festivals, promoters, and agents, recently launched its Life is Live campaign with performing arts group Svensk Scenkonst, aimed at encouraging fans to return to live events at all levels. Operations manager Joppe Pihlgren says there is a strong sense of industry cohesion around such initiatives.

“We have 270 members in Svensk Live,” he says. “We have the big companies, but they also understand that if you don’t have the grassroots then ultimately everything else suffers. We had that kind of [indie vs corporate] struggle a little bit more in the past, but we have got all these people very much together now.

“We have a youth organisation where [Live Nation] bring in volunteers to work for Lollapalooza. And we have a climate project as part of Way Out West – though we also do things with FKP Scorpio.”

“There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time”

And while Sweden may be a highly mature market, with plenty of corporate interest, it is also a major global pop and rock producer with plenty of self-esteem, and one in which local identity remains strong. Pihlgren, himself a home-grown rock star as the frontman of veteran Swedish band Docenterna, is heartened by the rise of local acts to arena and even stadium level.

“Before, it was just Springsteen and the big international artists who could fill up a stadium, but now you have [Gothenburg-born star] Håkan Hellström selling out [four nights in August at Gothenburg’s] Ullevi stadium. Laleh also sold it out in the summer, and we have a lot of smaller acts coming through.”

Historically one of Live Nation’s safest markets, Sweden hasn’t got a great deal more perilous for the business’s biggest player lately. As well as taking the lion’s share of the stadium and arena touring business, the corporate owns leading indie and Way Out West founder Luger and holds majority shares in the Summerburst and Sweden Rock festivals, as well as being the local custodian of Lollapalooza since 2019.

As thrill-starved punters all rush to the biggest concerts they can find, the current conditions were made for Live Nation. “This year has been a fantastic vintage,” says Johansson. “And 2023 is shaping up to be yet again an enormous year. We put Bruce Springsteen on sale a month ago – two Copenhagens, two Oslos, and three Gothenburgs – and we sold 400,000 tickets in a day.”

FKP, very much the challenger to Live Nation in the Nordic markets and elsewhere, helped to spearhead the increasingly ubiquitous tendency among Nordic promoters to operate across the region and has had a full set of Scandinavian offices for around five years.

“We are super, super close,” says Lundell. “It has been good to unite our forces and see what we can do jointly, and whoever is best placed to take a lead can basically do it for all four territories.”

“For your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late”

Among its Swedish exploits this year are ten Ullevi stadiums for Ed Sheeran and three for Rammstein; one and four, respectively, for Swedish stars Laleh and Håkan Hellström; shows for Gorillaz; and a new festival, the Rosendal Garden Party, and an older one, Where’s The Music in Norrköping.

“I think there is definitely potential to develop [in the Nordics], but it is also one market, or several markets, that have been dominated by one player,” says Lundell. “So it is about just slowly growing and showing that there’s an alternative and that we can do a good job with both big and small shows and be creative and fast. Showing that there is not a monopoly situation here, that there’s other promoters to speak to.”

The Waterland-backed All Things Live was born in 2018 as a pan-Scandinavian operator built from Denmark’s ICO; Norway’s Friction and Atomic Soul; and Sweden’s Blixten & Co and Maloney Concerts, and had scarcely formed when Covid struck.

“It was an exciting time because we actually had a chance to work together as a group,” says Maloney. “And then it was a bit of an odd feeling, that we were ready to go and then nothing. But now it’s all great.”

Coming out of the pandemic, all promoters have had to learn the new language of the market, including highly unpredictable, occasionally heart-stopping sales patterns.

“I have to say that the big shows we are doing, at least, have sold really, really well – although for your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late,” says Maloney. “We did one show with Green Day in June [at Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena], and in the last two weeks sales just exploded. We came to the level we wanted to be, but a month before the show we were thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ It’s a new chapter, you don’t have anything to go on.”

As the Sabaton example shows, Maloney remains passionate about the idea of creative thinking be- tween promoters and artists. “The thing that we want to remain is independent,” says Maloney.

“This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel”

“We want to have artists come first, and that is our whole point. On some occasions, we will make a deal for all four Nordic countries. Sometimes we just do it in Norway or Sweden or Finland or Denmark. But we want to have the flexibility to work with the artist rather than telling them, ‘This is what we need to do, or nothing.’”

TADC, meanwhile, has diversified while maintaining its roots in rock and metal. Upcoming shows include Manowar, Helloween, Uriah Heep, and WASP, but this year it has sold 10,000 tickets for 50 Cent and also staged Simply Red, Don McLean, and The Beach Boys.

“When TADC started in 2015, our focus was mainly on rock and metal,” says Janson. “Still the majority of our shows are within rock and metal, but we have broadened our focus a lot. During 2023 we will do even more shows in other types of music.”

TADC expanded into Norway and Denmark in 2021 and maintains offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Copenhagen. “Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are definitely still different markets with different cultures, but we’re in a good position when we can make offers for all three countries,” says Janson.

Everyone knows just how much pain festivals, in particular, suffered in 2020 and 2021, as their annual glorious moment was, in most cases, snuffed out not just once but twice. So 2022 has been a major relief for Sweden’s big names, including 30-year-old rock and metal festival Sweden Rock, which returned in June to Norje in southern Sweden for the first time since 2019, with Volbeat, In Flames, and Guns N’ Roses at the top of the bill.

“It was great to be back. Even better than I hoped,” says managing director Jon Bergsjö. “Our visitors, artists, and staff were very positive and enjoyed the festival.” One silver lining of the three-year lay-off was the time to plan, says Bergsjö, with particular emphasis on experience – waiting times, F&B choice, clean toilets – and sustainability.

“We make changes every year to become more sustainable,” he says. “This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel, and we got a lot further in getting all our food stands to make better choices about cutlery, plates, and other single-use products. We even started serving the draft beer and drinks in specialised paper cups.”

“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before”

Luger’s Way Out West was the first Swedish festival to shout about sustainability, and it is now meat-free, milk-free, and climate-trans- parent. It returned in August with Robyn, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Burna Boy, and First Aid Kit.

Elsewhere, in no order of size, Swedish collective Ladieslovehiphop (LLHH) partnered with Live Nation Sweden and Luger on the 2022 Ladieslovehiphop Festival. The boutique festival, which debuted at Trädgården in Stockholm in 2019, returned on 19-20 August at Fållan & Slakthusområdet in Stockholm with an eclectic female-led line-up starring Stefflon Don, Ayra Starr, Ivorian Doll, Baby Tate, Shaybo, and Dreya Mac.

Of the other Live Nation-related festivals, the two-day electronic Summerburst Festival returned to Ullevi in Gothenburg in June, and Lollapalooza Stockholm – the first Lolla in the Nordics – finally got its second edition in July by the water in Gärdet, with Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Pearl Jam, Lorde, and Post Malone on board.

The big event of the year for All Things Live in Sweden is the acquisition of Malmö’s Big Slap Festival. Founded in 2013, the previously one-day event was one of Sweden’s largest electronic dance music festivals, with a daily capacity of around 15,000 attendees. This year, All Things Live bumped Big Slap up to two days, relocated it from Tallriken park to Nyhamnen on the city’s waterfront, got Justin Bieber on board and was vindicated in doing so.

“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before. People talk about Malmö being Sweden’s Miami, and we could see that at Big Slap.”

TADC has two festivals in Gefle Metal Festival and Atlas Rock, both in Gävle on Sweden’s Baltic Sea coast. “Gefle Metal Festival has grown into an event that fans of extreme metal see as an event that you need to go to,” says Janson. “This is the place where you meet all the other fans of the music and see the bands that don’t play at any of the other festivals.

“This year, we also did the first edition of our new festival Atlas Rock, with acts like Scorpions, Alice Cooper, and Black Label Society. We believe that this also will be an established festival very soon with an audience that keeps returning.”

“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic”

The promoter is also exploring ways of keeping its flagship Gefle Fest active year-round, with a smaller indoor edition in the winter and a Gefle Metal Cruise in the spring. FKP Scorpio’s four-day Rosendal Garden Party launched this year as part of a trio of new festivals also including Loaded in Norway and Syd for Solen in Denmark. It took place on the Djurgården island in central Stockholm, with headliners The Strokes, Florence + The Machine, The National, and Tyler, The Creator, and drew 10-15,000 a day.

“It was a really good first year, and the experience was fantastic,” says Lundell, who also senses a return to old ways of independent creative thinking in the festival market. “Ten to 15 years ago, all the festivals went from being run by a bunch of patient souls out in the nowhere lands to becoming part of a bigger strategy and a new framework,” he says.

“That is maybe going back on itself a little bit. I think people will move away from concentrating on the urban markets, and I think a lot of fantastic new ones will be popping up around the country.”

ASM Global’s Stockholm Live has the capital’s venue market pretty well cornered. Since 2008, the company (as AEG Facilities) has operated the 6,000-14,500-capacity Avicii Arena (formerly the Ericsson Globe), the 8,100-cap Hovet, and the 3,400-cap Annexet. In 2013, it added the new Tele2 Arena in south Stockholm, with configurations for between 18,000 and 37,000, and in 2017 took over the 30,000-57,000-cap Friends Arena in Solna in Stockholm County, north of the city centre.

Last year, ASM Global signed a long-term lease to manage the Södra Teatern, a theatre venue with a capacity of up to 600, and Mosebacketerrassen, a rooftop terrace that can accommodate around 2,000 people.

“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic, and after being up and running for a couple of months, we do see an increasing demand for live acts again,” Stockholm Live event sales director Jenny Blomqvist told IQ’s Global Arenas Guide.

“The challenge for the industry in Sweden is to get back to its previous strength again, focusing on all the staff rehires we need, at the same time as educating and developing our organisation for the coming months of events – all this while delivering the acts in our arenas today.”

“Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months”

And as for everyone, the future is suddenly harder to read, in all kinds of ways. “Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months, as the market is not acting as it did before the pandemic,” says Blomqvist. “International shows are released with shorter sales periods than previously – two to five months – so whereas in previous years we would have known by now how the summer of 2023 would be, today we are still releasing shows for 2022. So we have to be even more flexible in our calendars and have tighter deadlines in all we do.”

The change to the name of the venue known as The Globe, or Globen in Swedish, came as a tribute to local DJ and producer Avicii. The iconic building is now also a hub for initiatives focused on young people’s mental health, in cooperation with sponsors [home improvement store] Bauhaus and [insurance company] Trygg-Hansa.

Also new, in a very different vein, is the introduction of AXS’s new AXS Mobile ID ticket across the Stockholm Live venues. The ticket is non-transferable, except through AXS, and is intended as an antidote to the illicit secondary market.

“What we see with Rammstein, Ed Sheeran, and these other big artists is they want personalised tickets; they don’t want their tickets to end up on the secondary market at ten times the price, and this is a way to guarantee that,” says Jay Sietsema, AXS general manager, Sweden.

Other key venues in Sweden include the Malmö Arena, which has a capacity of 13,000 for sports (predominantly ice hockey) and 15,500 for concerts, and, of course, the Ullevi Stadium. The stadium’s all-time crowd remains the 70,144 pulled by local boy Håkan Hellström on 5 June 2016 – beating the old record of 70,091 set the previous night, and comfortably exceeding the 69,349 that came through the turnstiles two days later.


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