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Down The Rabbit Hole on growing future headliners

Down The Rabbit Hole festival director Ide Koffeman has spoken to IQ about the event’s penchant for growing future headliners.

The 11th edition of the MOJO-promoted festival took place last weekend (5–7 July) at De Groene Heuvels near Ewijk, in the Netherlands.

All 45,000 full festival tickets were sold within 45 minutes of going on sale last December, setting a new record for the event.

Unlike most festivals, Down The Rabbit Hole exclusively sells tickets for the full three days, which Koffeman says is “part of our formula and part of the success”.

With day tickets off the table, the festival’s booking team can approach the lineup as a package, rather than three individual headline shows.

“We try to create what we call a flock of artists… so it’s not at all just about the headliner”

“We try to create what we call a flock of artists,” says Koffeman. “So it’s not at all just about the headliner. We look at what the artists stand for and the diversity of the programme and then we get a nice flock that tells a story. This year it worked out very well. I am completely satisfied and I don’t say that every year. We had a lot of great reactions as well from our audience too.”

Top-billing artists at the 2024 festival were LCD Soundsystem, The National, Michael Kiwanuka and Jungle – with the latter two delivering a co-heading slot on Friday.

“That was the first time Jungle played our festival since 2015,” says Koffeman. “And it was their first big festival headline show for 45,000 people so we were very happy they said yes. For them, it was a big step but they were happy to be presented in this way. We call them a future headliner.”

And it’s not the first time Down The Rabbit Hole has created a ‘future headliner’ at their festival.

“We had the War on Drugs headline a tent in 2015 when the festival was 15,000 capacity,” remembers Koffeman. “That was their first-ever headline show and they remembered that when they came back to headline in 2022 to 45,000 people. So look what happened in eight years.”

“We like to present acts that can do a successful show without being stadium-level”

He continues: “We like to present acts that can do a successful show without being stadium-level. With our formula, we do have room to play with the possibilities. So perhaps on Friday, we have a spectacular new act that’s a future headliner and on Saturday, a more established act. And then it all adds up and people buy tickets for the whole package. It’s like booking one big show.”

The success of the 2024 edition is particularly impressive given the backdrop of issues in the domestic and international industry – weather being a major one.

“Three weeks ahead of the festival, we noticed the rain was very bad,” Koffeman tells IQ. “The groundwater level was very high and we’re next to a big river so [the ground] is clay. There was a big question mark over parking and we had to pause the sale of parking tickets because we couldn’t guarantee spaces.”

“With our formula, we do have room to play with the possibilities”

The festival spent a great deal of time, money (and emissions, Koffeman points out) reinforcing the ground and fortunately, the weather held out for the weekend.

Generally, weather is lower down the list of issues for the Dutch industry, which is facing widespread festival cancellations largely due to rising costs, and the prospect of a huge VAT hike.

“Raising the taxes is stupid,” says Koffeman. “It’s already difficult for our festival – and we’re one of the biggest – but if you are organising a one-day festival that might make 5–6% of the total, you can just stop.

“Costs are rising so quickly and life has become more expensive in the Netherlands, so people have to make choices. Just a few festivals sold out as quickly as we did so, right now, we’re grateful for that,” he says.


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Euro festival preview: Rock Werchter, Open’er & more

With the European festival season in full swing, IQ is previewing what the forthcoming weekend has in store…

Dutch festival Down The Rabbit Hole (5–7 July) will welcome a sold-out crowd for its 2024 edition, after selling all 45,000 tickets in less than 45 minutes of going on sale.

The Mojo-promoted event at De Groene Heuvels near Ewijk will feature performances from the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Michael Kiwanuka, The National, Jungle, Raye, Jessie Ware and Khruangbin.

Meanwhile, hip-hop festival franchise Rolling Loud will debut in Austria (5–7) as the only European edition in 2024.

The Live Nation Germany-promoted event, dubbed Rolling Loud Europe, will take over Racino in Ebreichsdorf, an open-air venue on the outskirts of Vienna.

Nicki Minaj, Playboi Carti and Travis Scott will headline the premiere, with support from acts including Ice Spice, Shirin David and Don Toliver.

In Belgium, Rock Werchter (4–7) is already underway at Festivalpark in Werchter. The Live Nation Belgium-promoted event is headlined by Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa, Lenny Kravitz and Måneskin. Day tickets have sold out for four of the five dates.

Bombay Bicycle Club, Snow Patrol, Yungblud and Sum 41, The Last Dinner Party, Nothing But Thieves, Avril Lavigne and Khruangbin, Michael Kiwanuka, Arlo Parks and Royal Blood will also perform at Belgium’s biggest festival over the coming days.

Hip-hop festival franchise Rolling Loud will debut in Austria this weekend

Dua Lipa and Foo Fighters are also headlining Open’er (3–6) on the north coast of Poland, in Gdynia, alongside Doja Cat.

Addition acts for the Alter Art-promoted event include Hozier, Charli XCX, Don Toliver, Måneskin, Disclosure, Ashnikko, 21 Savage, Ice Spice, Air, Loyle Carner, Michael Kiwanuka, Floating Points, Kim Gordon, Tom Morello, Sampha and Slowdive.

Ruisrock (5–7), the second oldest rock festival in Europe, will once again take over the national park of Ruissalo in Turku, Finland this weekend.

The Chainsmokers, Hardwell, Disclosure, PMMP and Stormzy are top are top billing for the 2024 edition, which will host up to 35,000 people a day.

Elsewhere, electronic music festival Balaton Sound (3–6) is afoot on the beach in Zamárdi, Hungary.

Marshmello, Alison Wonderland, Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens and Timmy Trumpet are among the acts performing at the event, organised by the team behind Sziget in Budapest.

Other festivals taking place this weekend include Electric Love Festival (AU), Lovely Days Festival (AU), Lytham Festival (UK), Les Eurockéennes de Belfort (FR), Awakenings Summer Festival (NL), Love Supreme Jazz Festival (UK) and Comfort Festival (IT).


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The secret behind North Sea Jazz’s 47-year legacy

NN North Sea Jazz director Jan Willem Luyken has spoken to IQ about the secret behind the Dutch festival’s decades-long legacy.

The 47th edition of the MOJO-promoted event will take place at Rotterdam Ahoy between 12–14 July with 150 acts including Sting, Raye, André 3000, Corinne Bailey Rae, Masego, Sampha, Noname, Jessie Ware and Jamie Cullum.

With the Saturday and Sunday of the 30,000-capacity festival already sold out, and around 2,000 tickets remaining for Friday, Luyken expects another banner year for the event.

According to the director, the festival’s enduring success is largely due to its eclectic lineups, which draw a broad and diverse audience.

“The founder of the festival, Mr Paul Acket, was a very eclectic and broadminded guy – he was a real jazz guy, but also a smart businessman and above all, a famous concert promotor in The Netherlands,” explains Luyken. “So he decided to have jazz as the basis of the programme, as well as some big names to sell the tickets to the non-jazz audience. The first editions featured Ray Charles, Van Morrison and Chaka Khan.

“We have to make sure the jazz fans are happy but you need the big names too, to stay connected to other audiences”

“Almost 50 years later, the basic concept is still the same. But of course, the music is always on the move and I think it’s very important that we keep track of new trends and bands, so we have a very skilled and experienced programme committee team that has weekly meetings. The good thing is that we have 16 stages so we can do it all – from the classics to the contemporary.”

While the festival’s spectrum of genres has evolved over the years (see last year’s edition headlined by Stormzy), Luyken says that attracting jazz fans is an ongoing priority.

“We always ask ourselves, ‘If you take away the crossover or pop stuff, is this still a good jazz festival?’ and I think it is. It’s one of the strongest jazz festivals in the world. We have to make sure the jazz fans are happy and that they want to buy tickets but of course, you need the big names too, to stay connected to other audiences. It’s this broad setup that’s the success of the festival.”

North Sea’s wide-ranging lineups also mean the festival has no problem offering an ethnically diverse and gender-balanced bill.

“This was always the case, since the 70s,” says Luyken. “Nowadays people demand [diverse lineups] but it’s not new for us, it was always there organically. The founder’s basic philosophy for the festival was to have enough good music for all people and that automatically makes a diverse festival – when it’s a structural thing.”

“We’re the right weekend, that we can afford good headliners”

North Sea Jazz’s broad programming also means that the reported lack of available headliners isn’t an issue for the bookers, as there’s a bigger pool of A-list acts to choose from.

“Plus we’re the right weekend, that we can afford good headliners,” adds Luyken. “If you’re in the second part of June and the first part of July, you traditionally have the best chance of booking big acts.”

Taking place in an indoor venue has also proved to be an advantage for North Sea Jazz, as festivals grapple with the impacts of severe weather – though there are some downsides to it.

“We are seeing the limits of our venue,” says Luyken. “We’re not a big outdoors festival that can sell 60,000 or 70,000 tickets. We are limited to 30,000 a day.”

With the 16-stage festival unable to expand, the organisers have looked to offset rising costs in other ways.

“We have a very well-developed hospitality and VIP offering which is doing very well and we depend a lot of external funding and commercial sponsoring – which is popular for us.”

He continues: “Besides rising artist fees and the stuff we have to deal with every year, there have been no big challenges here. And I know we’re very lucky because a lot of festivals out there are struggling,” he says. “It’s a tricky business but we are in a comfortable position. And you have to work very hard and have a lot of luck to get in this position.”


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Lowlands 2024 sells out in less than 15 minutes

The 2024 edition of Lowlands sold out in less than 15 minutes on Saturday (3 February), becoming one of the Dutch festival’s speediest sellouts.

Around 65,000 tickets flew off the shelf for the Mojo-promoted event, featuring Fred Again…, Queens of the Stone Age and Gold Band among others. And as many as 130,000 people were in the digital queue at one time.

Tickets for this year’s edition were priced at €325, up from €300 the year prior and €255 in 2022.

The 2024 sellout looks to be Lowlands’ third-fastest after 2023 (14 minutes) and 2022 (two minutes).

The 2024 sellout looks to be Lowlands’ third-fastest after 2023 (14 minutes) and 2022 (two minutes)

The speed of the sell-out seems to have surpassed the expectations of the Lowlands team. Festival director Eric van Eerdenburg told Entertainment Business at the end of last year that he didn’t think the festival would sell out within 15 minutes again: “It could be a bit slower. 2023 went very quickly.”

Mojo also announced that 6,187 tickets for Lowlands 2024 were cancelled by Ticketmaster after it was discovered that they had been purchased by ticket-buying bots.

The tickets will be “offered again and for the original price to genuine Lowlanders” this Saturday (10 February).

Lowlands returns to Biddinghuizen between 16–18 August with Skrillex, Peggy Gou, Froukje, The Smile, Nas, Denzel Curry, Jorja Smith, Sugababes, Big Thief, Wargasm and more.


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MOJO unveils new management as Mulder departs

Mojo has unveiled new management after announcing that current CEO John Mulder will leave the company on 1 January 2024.

The new leadership team will consist of Ruben Brouwer, with whom Mulder has co-led Mojo since 2017, as well as Ronny Hooch Antink and Kim Bloem.

Mulder says he decided to step down from Live Nation’s Dutch subsidiary to “give the young guard space”.

“Ronny and Kim are two people who have made their mark at Mojo,” Mulder told Entertainment Bussiness. “Ronny was responsible for matters such as operations, catering, productions and permits. He’s got the whole no-band thing under his belt. Not that he doesn’t know anything about it because he knows a lot about music.

“Everything is represented in that triumvirate. I have complete confidence in it”

“Kim is one of our head bookers and brought big names such as Beyonce, Madonna, P!nk and many more to the Netherlands. She brings with her a wealth of substantive knowledge. The two will run the company together with Ruben. Everything is represented in that triumvirate. I have complete confidence in it.”

The 68-year-old will continue his four-year role as Metallica’s European agent. Last year, he also stepped in as production manager for the band, which he hopes to do again in 2024.

Mulder will discuss his career, including being co-initiator of AFAS Live and the Ziggo Dome, at next year’s ESNS (Eurosonic Nooderslag).


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High demand for Lana Del Rey surprise concerts

Tickets for Lana Del Rey’s surprise shows in Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam have flown off the shelf.

The singer announced the shows last Tuesday (27 June), just three days before tickets went on sale: “I love Europe and after playing at Glastonbury I’ve decided to play a few more shows around my Hyde Park London concert.”

General sale for Del Rey’s concert at the Ziggo Dome (cap. 17,000) in Amsterdam – the largest of the three shows – took place last Friday (30 June) and sold out within 10 minutes. A pre-sale exclusive to subscribers of MOJO’s newsletter launched a day prior.

At present, 1,440 tickets are wanted on the resale platform Ticketswap and 849 have been sold since the general sale.

“I love Europe and after playing at Glastonbury I’ve decided to play a few more shows”

The 4 July concert will mark the first time in a decade that Del Rey has performed in the Netherlands, after a sold-out show at the 6,000-capacity AFAS Live (then known as Heineken Music Hall) in 2013.

The 38-year-old will also visit the 3Arena (13,000) in Dublin on 7 July and the Olympia Music Hall (1,996) in Paris on 10 July. Both shows are sold out.

The New York-born singer, represented by WME worldwide excluding North America, also played Italy’s La Prima Estate festival on 2 July and is due to close BST Hyde Park (AEG Presents) this Sunday (9 July).

It comes after Del Rey’s headline slot at Glastonbury was cut short as a result of appearing on stage 30 minutes late.


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Major festivals report speedy sellouts for 2023

Some of Europe’s biggest festivals have sold out within half an hour, regardless of significant ticket price increases.

Live Nation-backed Mojo Concerts says Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) sold out in less than 15 minutes, despite ticket prices increasing from €255 to €300.

The 2023 edition of the Dutch festival will see acts including Billie Eilish, Florence + the Machine and Charlotte de Witte return to Walibi Holland between 18–20 August.

Discussing the ticket price increase on the festival’s own podcast LLowcast, director Eric van Eerdenburg said: “Inflation has hit us hard. It is not in our interest to have an expensive ticket. It is in our interest to have a ticket that is as cheap as possible, because then it is easier to sell your tickets. But it’s no different.

“All refugee shelters are full of stuff from the festival industry, everything is becoming much more expensive and harder to get. People who work for us have all submitted their salary demands and we must also comply with them. It’s a tough cookie to swallow, but we’re going to deliver something good for it.”

This year the 55,000-capacity festival is going mobile-only, with ticketholders allowed to resell on Ticketmaster only.

Tomorrowland has sold all 400,000 tickets, with the first 50% (reserved for Belgium fans) selling out in 20 minutes

Lowlands sister festival Down the Rabbit Hole – which also experienced a significant price increase due to inflation and higher costs – also sold out faster than ever.

Elsewhere, Tomorrowland has sold all 400,000 tickets, with the first 50% (reserved for Belgium fans) selling out in 20 minutes.

This year the festival will return to its two-weekend format, taking place in Boom, Antwerp, from 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 July.

More than 600 DJs will perform across 14 different stages including Afrojack, Amelie Lens, Armin van Buuren, Lost Frequencies, Netsky, Paul Kalkbrenner, Steve Aoki, Tiësto and Yves Deruyter.

Last year, the festival took place over three weekends to “cushion the financial hangover” of six cancelled festivals in 2020 and 2021.

Lowlands and Tomorrowland’s speedy sellouts come after the UK’s Glastonbury festival sold out in just over an hour, despite a 26% price increase for the 2023 edition.

The Glastonbury onsale failed to beat 2019’s record of just 34 minutes due to a “technical problem”, as organisers reported “incredible demand” for the 135,000 weekend tickets. Coach packages sold out in just 22 minutes.


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Mojo withdraws from Parkpop due to losses

Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts has withdrawn from promoting Parkpop festival, one of the largest and longest-running free-to-attend festivals in Europe.

The Dutch festival has reportedly been in financial trouble for years, with Mojo and the Parkpop organisation picking up the shortfalls “for a long time”.

“A free Parkpop is very difficult these days,” reads a statement from Mojo. “The financial results, the changed festival climate since the pandemic, the increase in costs of materials and artists have prompted Mojo to reconsider its involvement with Parkpop.

“Mojo will continue to support the festival in the background where possible, but due to current developments, Mojo is leaving the organisation. The relations between Parkpop and Mojo are and will remain good, only the cooperation will take on a slightly different form.”

The 40th edition of Parkpop took place in June at new location Malieveld after forty years at Zuiderpark – both of which are located in The Hague.

Organiser Guus Dutrieux of Ducos Productions reports that the most recent edition made losses “in the thousands”.

“A free Parkpop is very difficult these days”

“We caught the shortfalls for a long time and Mojo did too,” he told Algemeen Dagblad. “But of course that will stop at some point. We want to take the time to investigate how Parkpop can be made healthy again. This can be done in several ways and nothing is excluded. The aim is that Parkpop must remain accessible to a wide audience.”

As a result, the festival, which is visited by up to 350,000 people each year, will not take place in 2023.

Following the news, local authorities have weighed in to state the importance of the festival returning, and to pledge their support.

“Parkpop runs like a green-yellow thread through the lives of many residents of The Hague and Hagenezen,” said councillors Richard de Mos and Ralf Sluijs.

“It cannot be that the fortieth edition was also the last. As far as we are concerned, everything is being done to keep this iconic music festival going. Parkpop is too important to the city to just let it die. We will not let that happen.”

The Hague alderman Saskia Bruine added: “If Parkpop comes up with a good plan, we can talk about the 2024 edition. The festival should not be left with a shortage every year. They can simply apply for a subsidy, the conditions for Parkpop are no different than for other festivals. I give them a year to think things through.”

Mojo recently announced that its Dutch hip-hop festival, Woo Hah!, will return next year under a different name and in a new location.


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Mojo’s Woo Hah! festival adopts new name, location

Mojo’s Woo Hah! festival will return next year under a different name and in a new location.

The Dutch hip-hop event has been renamed Rolling Loud Rotterdam, and will take place in and around Rotterdam Ahoy between 30 June and 1 July 2023 with headliners Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott.

Woo Hah! festival was founded in 2014 by 013 and Live Nation’s Mojo, with the aim of bringing more major hip-hop acts to the Brabant region. In 2018, the event moved to its most recent site in Beekse Bergen.

For the 2022 edition, Woo Hah! joined forces with the world’s largest hip-hop festival franchise Rolling Loud, which also has a presence in the US, Canada, Portugal and soon to be Thailand.

Rolling Loud Rotterdam 2023 will reportedly host around 28 artist performances for 40,000 visitors each day.

Rotterdam Ahoy’s ability to host more attendees than the Beekse Bergen site was a big part of the draw according to Camiel Le Rutte, project manager festivals Mojo.

“First of all, there was a production problem on the Beekse Bergen site: lack of space. All festival visitors must be able to see the headliners on the main stage at the same time. That does not work with big names such as Kendrick Lamar, who sold out the Ziggo Dome twice in October. In addition, their show must meet high requirements in terms of sound, LED light, video walls and set pieces.”

Another important factor was that many of the Woo Hah! visitors came from Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht. “We see a longer future in Rotterdam. And thanks to the North Sea Jazz Festival, we are very familiar with Ahoy’s production possibilities.”

Jolanda Jansen, director of Rotterdam Ahoy, says: “In recent years, Ahoy has already proven itself as a perfect location for major events and we can’t wait to add Rolling Loud to this list. The international and culturally diverse character of this American festival fits perfectly with a city like Rotterdam.”

Rolling Loud founders Matt Zingler and Tariq Cherif add: “Our first experience with the Dutch festival audience was one to remember. We love the energy you bring when you finally get to see your favourite artists live. We are ready to show the Netherlands the next step of everything Rolling Loud has to offer at the new location at Rotterdam Ahoy.”


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Dutch promoters outline impact of staff shortages

Key promoters in the Netherlands have aired concerns about the industry’s acute staff shortages and its impact on the forthcoming festival summer.

Labour shortages have been a widespread issue in the international live music industry, with many markets reporting a “talent exodus”.

According to Dutch publication 3voor12, concerts in the Netherlands are already being cancelled because there is not enough staff available, festivals are being forced to start building earlier and headliners are toying with the idea of smaller productions.

John Mulder, CEO of Live Nation-owned concert and festival promoter Mojo, says he is “very concerned about this summer. There are huge logistical challenges, both in international touring and at a local level in terms of crews and people.”

The Mojo boss says it is difficult to get staff and crew, and that trucks are “a big problem” this summer.

“There are huge logistical challenges, both in international touring and at a local level”

“There are already acts that have to leave things at home because they can’t get the number of trucks. Instead of 16 trucks, headliners will probably come with less. All those rock ‘n roll trucking companies are running on only 30-40% of their staff and have sold a lot of trucks. There are no new trucks for sale due to the chip problem. But money rules, huh? At some point, of course, acts will make all kinds of crazy jumps to get stuff from A to B.”

Meanwhile, Mojo-promoted festival Pinkpop has been forced to start site construction a month ahead of schedule due to this issue.

“We mainly see problems with suppliers: the tent builders, for example, and the fencing suppliers,” said Pinkpop festival manager Niek Murray. “The pink tent has already been erected on the site because otherwise, it would not work out in the planning. We are already buffering fencing because there was no transporter to deliver it at the normal time.

“In short: three weeks ago we already started building, while we would normally only start next week. If we hadn’t had such a good relationship with the terrain, I don’t know if we would have made it all, but we didn’t have to drastically change things.”

In February, Mojo launched a new platform (www.festivalbanen.nl) featuring hundreds of festival jobs, in a bid to counteract the major staff shortage in the sector.

Many of the employers listed on the website operate at festivals including Lowlands, Pinkpop, NN North Sea Jazz, Down The Rabbit Hole and Woo Hah! x Rolling Loud.


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