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‘They sustain the live industry’: Schueremans on the importance of festivals

The conference programme of the International Festival Forum (IFF)  drew to a close today (26 September) with the IFF Keynote, which saw Herman Schueremans, Rock Werchter founder and one of Europe’s most influential festival pioneers, joining ILMC founder Martin Hopewell in conversation.

Topics covered by the promoter and agency veterans, respectively, included Schueremans’ early days in the business, live music as cultural heritage and the changing festival scene – which the Live Nation Belgium CEO said is under threat from samey line-ups and festival operators seeing events as “brands” rather than cultural institutions.

Central to the conversation was a rising concern about the festivals Schueremans views as “cultural institutions” that play a key role in a society.

“Festivals sustain the live industry just as the Amazon rainforest sustains the world’s climate,” he said. “They’re the lungs of live music business, and we have to take care to protect them.”

In particular, said the Live Nation Belgium Head, the threat is primarily from newer events organised “for the wrong reasons… The only thing these kinds of festivals are doing is driving up prices,” he stated, “and the passion is starting to disappear.”

Talking about Rock Werchter, the event he founded 40 years ago, Schueremans credited teamwork and the creation of a community spirit as the key to his success. “The general perception is that people should feel welcome at Werchter, at home. It should be a place they want to go to.”

Reflecting on his early days as a student club promoter, Schueremans initially embarked on studies to become a historian, but soon decided that a career in the live business was where he was headed and dropped out of university. “When you really want something, you just go for it,” he explains.

Examples of festivals with poor organisation, such as Woodstock and the early years of the Jazz Bilzen festival, spurred Schueremans on to do his own, as “we knew we could do it better,” he said.

“Nowadays you make one mistake and you’re burned”

When Werchter started, it was a “handicap” to have a festival in such a small country, said Schueremans, as it was difficult to persuade agents to book their acts in Belgium for only one date. To solve this, Schueremans created twin festivals Rock Torhout, to offer a double date to agents. This format spawned copycats across Europe, says Schueremans, referencing the UK’s Reading and Leeds festivals and Germany’s Rock am Ring/Rock im Park.

Hopewell cast his mind back to when Schueremans first entered his office at Chrysalis Agency in London, as a “young whippersnapper”. Sending acts to play shows abroad seemed “exotic”, said Hopewell, and there was definitely “a sense of adventure in the air”.

The pair mused on the fact that when they were starting out there was no “laid-out track” or “map” to follow. “It was all invention,” said Hopewell, adding that he has a “huge amount of respect for promoters”, who are the ones that “make it all happen”.

When asked what the tipping point was for Werchter, Schueremans puts it down to the type of bands they had playing. Dire Straits, U2 and the Talking Heads were among those to cut their teeth at Werchter in the early days. “We were the guys with the young acts,” said Schueremans. “We were just there at the right time and in the right place – simply because we loved that music and we fought for it.”

Hopewell agrees that Schueremans began when there was a definite “changing of the guard” between the older and younger generations, so the timing was spot-on.

“In those days, you could make mistakes and as long as you excused yourself, you could win sympathy back,” stated Schueremans, “but nowadays you make one mistake and you’re burned.”

Talk turned to the changing festival scene and the growing expectations of comfort and cleanliness among audiences. “We’ve spoiled them, maybe,” joked Schueremans, adding that the challenge to do better every year is good motivation. “If you’re not trying to do that, then you better stop,” says the Werchter boss.

“Festivals sustain the live industry just as the Amazon sustains the world’s climate”

Over the years, live music became more of a business, too, “with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings.” A plus side, said Schueremans, is that festivals no longer experience too many cancellations (with a notable exception in “one particular genre”, he added).

“The last thing I want in this business is that we create bureaucracy – we should not make the same mistakes as the record companies did,” he says. “We need to be organised as an army but able to act as a guerrilla, quickly and efficiently.”

Hopewell closed by suggesting that the industry could start doing deals based on some idea of budget and system of transparency. The pair also expressed their dislike for exclusivity clauses, which Hopewell noted have “crept in like viruses” over the years.


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Living la vita De Luca

Like so many of his peers, Roberto De Luca’s path to the upper echelons of the live music business has not been the result of some carefully plotted plan, but rather a set of fortunate circumstances.

In 1976, Roberto launched one of Italy’s first commercial radio stations – Punto Radio 96 – but, like so many fledgling enterprises, he found it tricky to balance the books.

“I was doing the programming as well as selling advertising but the station was not making money, so I decided to do some live shows to try to pay some of the bills,” he recalls. “At the start, I was acting as a local promoter for Italian artists, but in 1980 I did a show with my first international artist, Carmel. And then I started working with the likes of Gianni Togni and Sergio Caputo, who I also managed, so my career in music started pretty quickly.”

His upbringing also involved music, although teenage rebellion hinted that sport was more compelling than performing. “I was playing classical piano from the age of about ten to 14, in my hometown, Novaro, but I was more into football,” explains the Juventus fan. “I remember having a ‘four-hands’ concert when I was to perform alongside a girl, and my mother warned me not to play football before the concert. I obviously ignored her and ended up playing the concert with stitches in my head.”

“I was playing classical piano from the age of about ten to 14, in my hometown, but I was more into football”

Other teenage musical memories aren’t quite so painful. “In 1970, I went on holiday with friends to Holland. We’d driven to Amsterdam in a blue Fiat 500 and were sleeping in a two- man tent in a campsite near a speedway track. In fact, we drove there via the Nürburgring and took the car around the track – the steam was pouring out of the car when we finished.

“But we went to see The Who and there are two things I remember about it: there was a man dressed all in white on stage – that was Pete Townsend; and the second thing was that there was a girl two rows in front of me who was completely naked.”

Stethoscopes to stages
That lesson in anatomy wasn’t to be his last. “I studied to be a doctor. My exam results were pretty good and I was looking to go into the research side of things.”

As a result, his move toward rock and roll, and the founding of Punto Radio, were brave steps. “It was a difficult conversation to have with my parents,” he says. “They were always very nice and very easy with me but they had basically given me three choices for a career: doctor, lawyer or engineer.

“My dad was a bus driver and my mother worked for the city council, but they wanted me to do something that would let me have a better lifestyle. So I think I disappointed them a bit… My father thought I was a car dealer because every time I visited them I was driving a different car.”

“There are so many wonderful individuals in this business, and you can always learn new things from them”

Landing himself a job working for established promoter Franco Mamone, De Luca was determined to maximise his entrepreneurial skills and grab a piece of the action. “The first company I was involved in owning was Prima Spectaculo. I had a 25% stake and Franco owned the rest: then, we had a similar relationship at InTalent.”

That pact with Mamone wasn’t to last, however, leading De Luca to launch Bonne Chance in 1985, putting him in direct competition with his former business partner. “I quickly found out that Bonne Chance wasn’t such a good name for the music business, so I changed it to Milano Concerti and I started working with lots of promising international acts at the start of their careers – people like Depeche Mode and Peter Gabriel, as well as artists like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Jovanotti, and the company just started to get bigger and bigger.”

Asked about mentors who helped him learn the ropes, De Luca points to “people I admired, like Miles Copeland with the Police, Ed Bicknell, Paul McGuinness, Ron Delsener and Bill Graham. I’d look at what they did and how they did it and try to do something similar. But I also learned a lot from other promoters like Thomas Johansson, Leon Ramakers and Marek Lieberberg.”

In terms of agents, he cites Pete Nash, Chris Dalston, Steve Hedges, Dave Chumbley, Barry Dickins, Rod MacSween and Martin Hopewell. “They were really good to me in the early days, as was Andy Woolliscroft, while Mike Greek and Emma Banks have always been amazing. And nowadays people like Michael Rapino, Arthur Fogel and Guy Oseary are interesting to follow, while I have learned a lot from Jonathan Kessler and I’m very good friends with David Levy.

“Roberto De Luca is one of the people who made the Italian business a little more predictable”

“There are so many wonderful individuals in this business, and you can always learn new things from them. Jon Ollier really impresses me, as do James Whitting, Adele Slater and Geoff Meall at Coda.”

Changing the Italian landscape
Talking to De Luca’s long-term business associates, the one accolade they all bestow upon him is his key role in transforming Italy into a bona fide touring market.

ILMC’s Martin Hopewell is typical. “Along with Claudio Trotta, Roberto De Luca is one of the people who made the Italian business a little more predictable,” says Hopewell. “It was the Wild West before Roberto and his peers helped to stabilise the market.”

ITB’s Rod MacSween agrees. “Italy has not always been the easiest market but Roberto and his great team make it a regular pleasure to play there,” he says, while Live Nation colleague, Arthur Fogel, notes, “Roberto has brought the highest level of organisation and professionalism to Italy. I have always relied on him for his expertise, great execution and without a doubt his sense of calm. He and his team are first rate.”

 


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Herman Schueremans to keynote IFF 2019

Herman Schueremans, founder of Rock Werchter and CEO of Live Nation Belgium, has been revealed as the keynote interviewee for the fifth International Festival Forum (IFF), taking place in London from 24 to 26 September 2019.

One of the most influential festival pioneers in Europe, Schueremans has guided and grown the fortunes of Rock Werchter for over four decades. One of the most established and respected festivals in Europe, Werchter hosts 150,000 fans annually, has spawned satellite events including TW Classic, Werchter Boutique and Main Square Festival, and won a record six Arthur Awards.

At IFF, the invitation-only event for festivals and booking agents, Schueremans will be interviewed by ILMC founder and longtime friend Martin Hopewell.

“From starting out as a rock journalist to becoming the country’s dominant live music promoter and head of the Belgian arm of Live Nation, Schueremans remains a passionate music lover and entrepreneur, and so is an immensely fitting subject of this year’s IFF Keynote,” say conference organisers, who add that Schueremans will discuss his career, the growth of Werchter and the festival landscape today.

“With two of the industry’s best-known individuals on stage, and 60 minutes of festival-related tales and insight lined up, expect standing room only at this truly unique session.”

Schueremans follows in the footsteps of previous keynote interviewees Alex Hardee (Coda/Paradigm), Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings, Rock am Ring’s Marek and Andre Lieberberg and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis.

IFF 2019 takes place from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 September in Camden, London.

As well as confirming Schueremans, IFF has finalised its conference agenda for 2019, announcing UTA’s Greg Lowe as the chair for the traditional Festival Season panel, which kicks off Wednesday morning.

“Expect standing room only at this truly unique session”

Other conference programming includes the Big Billing Debate, chaired by Melt! Booking’s Julia Gudzent, which sees panellists debate the always-controversial issue of the ordering of festival bills, and Niche Work (If You Can Get It), moderated by IQ’s Jon Chapple, examines the proliferation of new genre-specific events outside the rock/pop bubble.

This year, IFF features additional agency partners, with 13 Artists, Solo Agency and Toutpartout joining longstanding partners CAA, Coda, WME, X-ray Touring, ITB, Primary Talent, opening party host UTA, ATC Live and Pitch and Smith. To make meetings between festivals and agents more efficient, IFF 2019 will debut a series of pop-up agency offices around the event. The temporary spaces will allow festivals to meet with most agencies without needing to travel between their ‘real’ offices.

Also new for 2019 is second outdoor networking area at Dingwalls, IFF’s longtime north London home, that will double the footprint of the event – and also allow a small additional number of festival delegates to attend – and two sets of dedicated meetings for all delegates.

The Knowledge Hub will invite leading innovators and solutions experts into IFF for a series of private 30-minute meetings on topics ranging from the latest festival tech to next generation ticketing and VIP opportunities, while the similar Green Hub welcomes leading practitioners to offer advice and expertise on environmental efforts by festivals, artists or companies.

For its fifth edition, IFF is also increasing the number of showcases: in addition to daytime agency shows at Dingwalls, Toutpartout, Dutch Export and Pop Farm will present shows at various venues around Camden on the evening of Wednesday 25 September.

For more information about IFF, including details on last-minute delegate passes, visit iff.rocks.

 


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Veteran booking agent Richard Cowley passes

Richard Cowley, the former co-head of Chrysalis Agency and co-founder of Primary Talent forerunner Cowbell, has passed away aged 72.

Born on 3 November 1945, Cowley was, with business partner Kenny Bell, operating an agency called Universal Attractions when he came to attention of Chrysalis co-founder Chris Wright, then running the Ellis-Wright Agency alongside Terry Ellis. The two companies merged in 1967 to form Chrysalis, with the legendary Chrysalis Records imprint following a year later.

Acts represented by Ellis-Wright/Chrysalis included Ten Years After, Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Nice and the group who became Led Zeppelin, the New Yardbirds.

Following the merger, Cowley (pictured) and Bell “effectively took over the running of the Chrysalis Agency”, writes Wright in his memoir, One Way or Another. “Richard and Kenny were the heads of Chrysalis Agency when I arrived there,” explains Primary Talent co-founder Martin Hopewell, who worked at Chrysalis alongside agents including John Jackson, Allan McGowan, Nigel Hassler, Jeff Craft and the late Dave Chumbley.

“He was a true gent and lovely man”

After exiting Chrysalis, Cowley and Bell went on to form Cowbell Agency. “He carried on through Cowbell and World Service, but we parted company when we formed Primary [in 1990],” continues Hopewell.

McGowan, who worked at Chrysalis in the early ’70s, before it became Cowbell, remembers the agency as “one of the best around at the time”. “He [Cowley] knew what he was doing in the business,” says McGowan. “He was one of the originals.”

In later years Cowley worked as a healthcare consultant.

Hassler, now at CAA, started his career at World Service, where Cowley was “one of the bosses”, he says. “He was a true gent and lovely man. He was a real family man and seemed to have worked out the life/work balance. He will be missed.”

 


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Arthur Awards 2018: All the winners

For more than two decades, the Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s Oscar equivalents, have been handed out during ILMC – and last week’s ‘Close Encounters of the 30th Kind’ anniversary event was no exception, with the brightest stars of the concert business taking a host of UFOs (unidentified f—ing objects) back to their own galaxies.

Taking place for the second year in the sumptuous surroundings of 8Northumberland, the Gala-ctic Dinner & Arthur Awards saw 350 interstellar travellers don their best spacesuits and set a course for an evening of mirth, merriment and glittering gongs.

On entertainment duties were host Emma Banks, who returned to captain the USS ILMC, and Whitney Houston tribute act Belinda Davids, who gave stirring renditions of ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘One Moment in Time’.

Also returning to the stage was Rock Werchter founder and 2017 Bottle Award winner Herman Schueremans, who presented the Bottle Award 2018 to ILMC’s founder, Martin Hopewell. Hopewell – who believed he would be, as usual, presenting the Bottle Award – was instead its recipient, and received a standing ovation from the audience (after tearing up the now-useless speech he’d prepared for the ‘winner’).

An emotional Hopewell closed the ceremony by paying tribute to ILMC’s former producer, Alia Dann Swift, and Dave Chumbley of Primary Talent, both of whom passed away in 2018.

Notably, all Arthurs for individuals – the awards for best assistant, professional services, new talent, agent and promoter – were won by women. The ceremony, on Thursday 8 March, coincided with International Women’s Day.

To view a photo gallery of the evening, visit flic.kr/s/aHskuAJjEp.

A full list of Arthur Awards 2018 winners is below.

 


Venue (First venue to come into your head)
The O2, London (UK)

Production services (Services above and beyond)
eps

Professional services (Most professional professional)
Gillian Park, MGR Touring

Festival (Liggers’ favourite festival)
Glastonbury (UK)

Ticketing (The golden ticket)
Ticketmaster

Assistant (The people’s assistant)
Eliza-Jane Oliver, AEG Presents

New business talent (Tomorrow’s new boss)
Anna-Sophie Mertens, Live Nation

Agent (Second least offensive agent)
Natasha Bent, Coda

Promoter (The promoters’ promoter)
Anna Sjölund, Live Nation Sweden

Bottle Award
Martin Hopewell

 


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Peter Rieger passes aged 63

Peter Rieger, the founder of Cologne-based promoter Peter Rieger Konzertagentur (PRK), has passed away aged 63.

The news was announced today by CTS Eventim – since 2000 the majority stakeholder in PRK – which paid tribute to a man who has provided “thousands of people wonderful memories” and “given numerous artists their breakthrough”.

“We were deeply moved by the death of our longtime business partner and colleague, Peter Rieger,” reads a statement. “We are mourning for a giant of the live entertainment industry.

“The death of Peter Rieger does not just mean a big loss for the industry, but also a farewell to a long-time companion. Our sincere condolences to his family and relatives.”

“We are mourning for a giant of the live entertainment industry”

PRK, founded in 1983, has been led by managing director Klaus-Peter Matziol since 2015, when Rieger retired. A joint statement from the company’s staff and management described the late promoter, who passed on 29 January, as a “passionate and visionary leader” who “guided our company over many decades, creating unforgettable moments in music performance”.

Solo Agency managing director John Giddings says that despite stepping down from his MD role at PRK, Rieger was “still very much hands-on” with the business – and that the two were co-promoting Phil Collins’ shows in Germany later this year.

Giddings, who had known Rieger since the late 1980s, says his friend died “far too young”. “I’m in shock,” he tells IQ. “He was good for a laugh and generous beyond belief, and helped me out a lot when it was starting out.”

“He was good for a laugh and generous beyond belief”

“Peter was a great character who will be dearly missed throughout the industry,” comments Rob Hallett of Robomagic. “We worked a lot together in the ’80s – my fondest memory probably involves him having the first car phone that I had ever seen. We were in Berlin with Kajagoogoo, and while driving past the Brandenburg gate I telephoned my Mum from the car. She was blown away!”

“When I was an agent, he delighted in calling me ‘Robbery Hallett’, he adds. “I can hear him laughing at his own joke now…”

Danny Gillen, the long-serving road manager for Phil Collins, says Rieger “wasn’t just a promoter: he was my friend, as he was to all touring bands and crew. He was a man who loved his job and loved his life. Peter was funny, generous and a real credit to the music business – but most of all he was a loyal man. Loyalty is a thing you can’t buy – you’ve either got it or you haven’t – Peter had it in spades.”

“Peter was a great character who will be dearly missed throughout the industry”

Agent and International Live Music Conference (ILMC) founder Martin Hopewell describes Rieger as “a significant figure in the development of the European live music scene, one of the all-time great German promoters and a highly valued founder member of the ILMC. He was also an elegant, intelligent man who I’m very grateful to have known. Losing people of Peter’s experience and quality diminishes the live industry in a way that can never really be compensated for.”

Marillion drummer Ian Mosley, for whom Reiger promoted several tours in the early 1980s, says he has “very, very fond memories of Peter”.

Fish, the band’s former frontman, adds: “I was so sorry to hear the news of Peter’s passing. He was a great friend and advisor to me in the ’80s and instrumental in breaking Marillion in Germany. His contribution to the music business over the years on so many levels has been immense. A fantastic character with a sense of humour that could light up any venue.

“My sincere condolences to his family. He will be missed by so many that he touched during his time with us.”

“His contribution to the music business over the years on so many levels has been immense”

Mike + The Mechanics singer Tim Howar calls Rieger “a brilliant man and legend”. On behalf of the band, he says: “We will miss you.”

“This has been a sad and dismal week,” says manager and former agent Ed Bicknell. “I’ve lost three dear pals: John Wetton, of King Crimson, Asia and UK, Deke Leonard, of Man, and now Peter. I did many shows with him back in the day when I was an agent, and he worked with Dire Straits and other acts of mine many times.

“He was a total professional, a pleasure to deal with and funny – definitely funny. Which is what every promoter needs: a sense of humour. This year has got off to a gloomy start already.”

“He was a total professional, a pleasure to deal with and funny – which is what every promoter needs: a sense of humour”

Born on 12 April 1953, Rieger promoted some of Germany’s most memorable shows, including high-profile dates by David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Genesis, U2, George Michael, Eagles and Whitney Houston, and Roger Waters’s The Wall – Live in Berlin.

Prior to founding PRK, Rieger worked for Lippmann + Rau before moving to Mama Concerts, where he promoted his first show by an international act: Level 42.

He was named promoter of the year (promoters’ promoter) at ILMC 16 in 2004.

 

This article will be updated with tributes from those who knew and worked with Peter Rieger as we receive them. If you would like to contribute, please email jon@iq-mag.net.

 


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