Live Nation to acquire Mainland Music
Leading Swiss promoter Mainland Music is to be acquired by Live Nation, the companies announced today.
The acquisition – understood to have been in the works for some time, and expected to be completed in January 2019 – grows Live Nation GSA’s footprint in the Swiss market, following the acquisition of Openair Frauenfeld festival last July and the official launch of Ticketmaster Switzerland the following month.
Mainland – founded in 2012 in Christian Gremelmayr, Derrick Thomson, Marc Lambelet, Martin Schrader and Santosh Aerthott – is one of Switzerland’s largest concert promoters, organising more than 650 shows annually from its offices in Zurich and Lausanne.
“We are looking forward to partnering with a promising and thriving promoter like Mainland Music,” says Matt Schwarz, COO of Live Nation GSA (Germany, Switzerland and Austria).
“With their strong relationships and impressive industry insights, this important strategic move will strengthen Live Nation’s presence in the Swiss market and ensure the continuation of our success story through this merger in the years to come.”
“As a very successful boutique-style promoter, we will add our spirit to Live Nation’s reach”
Following the merger, Mainland Music will continue all existing operations while also joining forces with Live Nation on tours and other promotion opportunities, according to the new partners.
Previous Mainland Music shows and tours include Sam Smith, Macklemore, Queens of the Stone Age, Parkway Drive, Rise Against, Snow Patrol, Passenger, Die Antwoord, Cypress Hill, Hollywood Undead, Hozier and Biffy Clyro.
“By joining the Live Nation family, we will bring even more international top acts to Switzerland,” comments Christian Gremelmayr of Mainland Music. “As a leading local promoter, we will work with Live Nation to guarantee the best possible service for all artists.”
IQ’s last Swiss market report, in issue 72, found Switzerland remains one of the world’s healthiest touring markets, despite turmoil elsewhere in Europe.
“Connecting to Live Nation will give us new opportunities in the Swiss market,” adds Mainland’s Derrick Thomson. “As a very successful boutique-style promoter, we will add our spirit to Live Nation’s reach. “We are very excited and look forward to opening a new chapter in Mainland Music’s history.”
Switzerland is prosperous, politically neutral and stands outside of the EU, a wealthy, land-locked island in the middle of Europe. But in its highly active live business, it is certainly not insulated from competition, external or otherwise.
Take the case of the Hallenstadion, Zürich’s 15,000-capacity former Vélodrome, and Switzerland’s most popular arena destination for major incoming touring acts. Until 2013, the venue was booked exclusively by Good News – then the unchallenged market leader. These days, it’s open to all, as everyone knows, but here’s the point: Hallenstadion director Felix Frei estimates that the arena now routinely takes bookings from ten or 15 promoters.
“We have a much broader base of promoters in music than before,” says Frei. “We have more concerts but, on average, less attendance. The reason seems to be a really, really strong music market here. Artists are playing five, six, seven times in Switzerland and we can feel that.”
“You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event”
Out in the fresh Swiss air too, where it has been joked that every field has its own festival, the open-air market is bulging at the seams. Something like 300 events battle for the attention of fewer than 8.5m Swiss, plus musical tourists.
“I think it’s great for the audience,” says Dany Hassenstein, booker at Paléo in Nyon, which has sold out in advance for 16 years in a row. “You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event. It’s great for people who love music.”
Read the rest of this feature in IQ 72:
Click here to subscribe to IQ Magazine.
Winds of change in Africa
It’s amazing what a difference a year makes!
Twelve months ago this article would have told quite a different story. I left ILMC in 2016 feeling a little gloomy thinking about the amount of catching up Africa needed to do in order to reach the levels of sophistication enjoyed by the entertainment industry in the developed world, especially in terms of the value chain. In a continent where data is extremely hard to obtain, where do you start measuring any kind of activity in a meaningful way? It is still very difficult to obtain and to provide figures but at least there has been a lot of traction, which could prompt some form of measuring exercise.
I went from asking myself what can be said about the almost non-existent international live music circuit on the continent, to hearing about lots and lots of concerts taking place within just six months. In the last few months, we have welcomed Kool & the Gang, Stromae, David Guetta, French pop sensation Maître Gims and other A-listers in Africa’s top cities: Lagos, Dakar, Abidjan Nairobi and, of course, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in South Africa (which in general still draws the lion’s share in terms of attracting top international talent). As I write this article, Justin Bieber is due to perform in South Africa in May, along with legendary R&B group The Whispers.
Although these live appearances are insignificant compared to the millions of gigs performed annually in the west, the continent is showing signs of growth and movement fuelled by successful telecom companies who are by far the biggest sponsors of concerts featuring international and local talent. There is also a fast growing middle class, which gives promoters some sort of security in terms of getting enough numbers through the gate to see their favourite international artists. Local artists and stars, however, continue to play a huge role in making Africa one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world with concerts taking place weekly or even daily on almost every street corner.
Africa is such a vast continent with over a billion people spread over 54 countries with a multitude of languages, and where the latest gadgets and technology cohabit with ancient traditions and very different local and regional realities.
South Africa is by far the most mature and sophisticated music market in terms of industry value chain. From collecting societies to record labels, professional production companies, established festivals, etc., it is all there. However, for the rest of the continent there is a mixture of government-sponsored mega-concerts, which have not helped generate a realistic idea of fees, along with very brave and daring promoters. Most international booking agencies are still reluctant to venture into Africa for understandable reasons, and prefer to work with government agencies.
“Somewhere in an African city right now there is probably another Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Adele, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z or Rihanna”
Traveling from one part of Africa to another is also a huge challenge. It is not unusual for people to fly from an African city into Europe and then catch a connecting flight back to another African city. Fares are also extremely high, although it is worth mentioning that there are a lot more airlines coming onto the market and that mobility throughout the region is improving.
In countries like Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa, you have long-established superstars who command very high fees. Nigeria, for instance, is enjoying a huge boom with a buoyant Afro pop scene. For the first time on the continent you have a particular genre of music called ‘afrobeat,’ spearheaded in Nigeria, and loved by young people across the continent and the diaspora, and drawing anything from 5,000-15,000 people for concerts.
Some challenges do however remain in terms of the skills gap. Finding qualified and experienced sound engineers, or technical staff in general is still difficult. A long way to go still, but the future is promising for a continent that has given so much to music and has so much talent. Add to that the recent news of companies like Vivendi opening four new venues across West Africa, and with other top companies likely to follow in their footsteps. Majors like Universal and Sony have already opened offices in top African cities.
Africa is widely accepted as the motherland and as such is the ancestral home of various music genres including jazz, blues, funk, reggae, etc. African music has had a far-reaching influence on genres throughout the world. Somewhere in an African city right now there is probably another Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Adele, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z or Rihanna. Add to that a growing international live music scene, more festivals taking shape, the biggest youth population in the world and spending power on the rise, and it all makes for a very bright future.
Watch out: The lions are on the move!