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Jung at Heart: Switzerland market report

While the Swiss live music business has always been robust, the recent period of intense consolidation, company mergers, and corporate acquisitions is undoubtedly changing the landscape, with promoters claiming the market is oversaturated and a fierce battle for headline acts. IQ reports.

In a live industry always hungry for wealthy, eager consumers, markets like Switzerland, while small, are to be cherished. In this famously neutral Alpine corner of west-central Europe, there is a billionaire for every 80,000 people – behind only Luxembourg and Hong Kong – as well as one of the lower levels of income inequality among wealthy western nations.

Covid, of course, brought with it grim times that took a while to dispel, but those are emphatically in the rear-view mirror now, having given way to a booming 2023 and a quieter but still prosperous 2024.

“The average ticket prices in Switzerland are significantly higher than in most European countries, while overall expenditure remains relatively consistent,” says Philipp Musshafen, CEO of Zurich’s Hallenstadion, which hosted approximately 100 events in 2023 and welcomed around 800,000 visitors.

“The rebound from the pandemic in the realm of public events has largely dissipated, and subsequent events have taken place. It’s safe to say that a certain level of normality has returned both in the lead-up and planning of events.”

Like everywhere else, production is still a challenge. The mid-market is a hard sell, and no one is quite as certain as they once were of what works. Meanwhile, festivals are losing out to arenas and stadiums for headliners, and maybe a new venue or two would be nice. But all the same, Switzerland remains an extremely good prospect for a show or two.

“I have to say, if I compare to our German colleagues, the market is very small, but it works very well”

The country is small – 8.7m people in all – but urban centres such as Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, globalised and highly cosmopolitan, keep it punching above its weight. Promoters have historically focused on their own parts of the country – either the German-speaking cities, such as Zurich, Bern, Basel, and St. Gallen, or the French-speaking, notably Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux – though corporate-backed promoters are less likely to recognise such distinctions. Many shows are co-promoted, and very few promoters operate in isolation.

“I have to say, if I compare to our German colleagues, the market is very small, but it works very well,” says Stefan Matthey, co-managing director of DEAG’s newly reconfigured rock specialist Good News Productions. “We talk to each other, sometimes we co-promote. It’s not a war situation like in Germany.”

No surprise that Switzerland tends to be peaceful, possibly helped by the fact that there is plenty to go round. PwC/Omdia’s Switzerland Entertainment & Media Outlook 2023-2027 report puts this year’s projected Swiss live music revenues of CHF430m (from ticket sales and sponsorship) back near their 2019 pre-Covid peak of CHF437m and on a slow climb towards CHF441m by 2027.

“The feeling in the market remains positive globally, although it varies depending on the sector,” says Julien Rouyer, CEO of Lausanne-based Soldout Productions. “Ticketing is doing great, for instance, while production is struggling with cost increases and staff shortages. The key is to find a balanced scale to maintain a positive trend and stay profitable.”

And, of course, a further imperative is to tend to the health of all parts of the market – the smaller shows and towns, as well as the big shows in the big cities.

“The market is generally heathy – especially in the main cities like Zurich, Bern, Geneva, and Lausanne where concert attendance remains strong,” says Mainland Music managing director Derrick Thomson. “Ticket purchases are generally occurring closer to show dates, reflecting shifting consumer behaviour post-pandemic. While this trend may cause initial apprehension among promoters and artists, sales typically ramp up as events approach. However, we’ve observed challenges in smaller markets, particularly for grassroots clubs facing slowed demand.”

“We are at the very beginning of a totally new adventure”

Promoters
Once a stronghold of independents, Switzerland, like so many other markets, bears the heavy stamp of the leading corporate groups these days, with CTS Eventim, DEAG, and Live Nation all strong.

And in a time of adjustment across the promoting sector, some longstanding players are targeting fresh growth, prominent among them long-serving indie TAKK, which last July climbed aboard the CTS Eventim train, before re-launching in its new TAKK ab Entertainment guise earlier this year under three generations of promoters: Swiss industry forefather André Béchir, TAKK founder Sebastien Vuignier, and comparative youngster Théo Quiblier, promoter of Caroline Polachek, the National, and Wet Leg, among others.

“We are at the very beginning of a totally new adventure,” says Vuignier. “Thanks to the advisor agreement with André Béchir, who is a proper legend in Switzerland – the pioneer, with 50 years’ experience – we have access to inestimable knowledge and very strong content. It allows us to have an amazing first year of activity with Taylor Swift, AC/DC, and Pink shows, just to name a few.

“But we haven’t forgotten the DNA of what the old TAKK was – breaking new acts, doing 300-500-cap shows. The Last Dinner Party is the highlight of the start of this year. And we can’t wait to have Idles, Beth Gibbons, Khruangbin, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and others.”

Vuignier characterises the new company not as a buy-out but as a new venture in its own right – and one that has been a surprisingly long time coming.

“CTS Eventim didn’t buy TAKK Productions, but both companies joined forces to create a new one,” he says. “I first met [CTS Eventim CEO] Klaus-Peter Schulenberg back in 2010, just one year after founding TAKK Productions. I [was] impressed by his personality and what he [had] built up. But I think it was too early for me to join at that time.

“Fast-forward, when we got in touch again in January 2023 and the idea of teaming up with André Béchir came up, it was obvious. A few months later, the company was on its feet. We are now a team of 12, with offices in Zurich and in the French part of Switzerland, and with hundreds of shows lined up.”

“We still have this wonderful service where we take our artists from baby bands to stadiums if we can”

Also in transition has been Good News, which has rebuilt its team from the top down this year with the addition of Christian Gremelmayr and Santosh Aerthott, former joint managing directors of Live Nation’s Mainland Music, as well as marketing specialist Patrizia Demont and artist booker Steven Mandel.

“The company is growing, and we have positioned ourselves as the leading rock promoter in Switzerland,” says Matthey. “We still have this wonderful service where we take our artists from baby bands to stadiums if we can.”

Shows at the Hallenstadion for larger acts including Slash and Five Finger Death Punch, meanwhile, round out the upper end of Good News’s range.

The departure of Gremelmayr and Aerthott, along with fellow co-founder Marc Lambelet, represented an end-of-an-era moment for Mainland earlier this year. Founded in 2012 by a group of independent operators including Gremelmayr, Aerthott, Lambelet and Thomson, Mainland was acquired by Live Nation GSA in 2019 and these days organises more than 650 shows annually from Zurich and Lausanne, with Thomson at the wheel.

“We’ve embraced these changes as opportunities,” says Thomson, who notes that 2023 was Mainland’s most successful year to date. “Talented promoters and staff have stepped into elevated roles, contributing to our success. Our strategy remains focused on expanding our presence across the Swiss market, promoting a diverse range of shows, and further developing our artist roster. Additionally, we’re committed to incorporate more non-music events, including comedy and family shows.”

Forthcoming tours include Olivia Rodrigo, the Jonas Brothers, Troye Sivan, Rod Stewart, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Nickelback, and Karol G – to add to booking responsibilities for Openair Frauenfeld, Gurtenfestival, Openair Gampel, Lakelive Festival, Open Air Lumnezia, Open Air Gränichen, and Big Air Chur.

“”The pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviours, disrupted supply chains and altered business models, making it harder to predict what will succeed in this new landscape”

Another leading Swiss promoter is Gadget abc Entertainment Group, a one-time indie, now one more Eventim-backed big-hitter. “We had a really good 2023 and a very busy summer, with stadium shows of Bruce Springsteen, Rammstein, and Muse,” says Stefan Wyss, director, concerts and touring. “The festivals were very strong in 2023, and overall, the concert and touring business was solid.

“We expect 2024 to be a little less busy – the schedule for the touring segment is a bit less intense this year. A lot of domestic and German artists are taking a break after intense touring in 2022 and 2023, and the focus is more on international artists, which means more competition. The demand is still here, but we feel that it’s getting more difficult to sell out shows with regular touring artists in the middle segment.”

Nonetheless, this isn’t a quiet year for Gadget abc by any standard definition, with two sold-out Taylor Swift shows at Zurich’s Letzigrund Stadium – co-promoted with AEG Presents and TAKK – among the bigger shows. Meanwhile, an ever-expanding festival portfolio now includes Schaffhausen’s Stars in Town festival, in which Gadget abc took a majority stake in March, to add to OpenAir St.Gallen, Summerdays, Radar, Seaside, and Unique Moments.

Sister company act entertainment, meanwhile, runs a widely diversified entertainment business, with big concerts and major festivals alongside exhibitions, motorcycle extravaganzas, circuses, and comedians in various languages.
Promoter and artist booking agency Soldout Productions remains independent 18 years since it launched, and in addition to forthcoming shows including PLK, Freeze Corleone, and Gazo at Arena Genève, it recently acquired its first outdoor festival: the long-established Caribana in Crans, on the shore of Lake Geneva. The promoter’s ranks were also recently bolstered by the arrival of Mainland’s Lambelet.

The market outlook remains a slightly mixed one, according to Rouyer. “It does feel different compared to the pre-pandemic period, with a mix of cautious optimism and lingering uncertainty,” he says. “While there’s been some return of
certainty, predicting market trends remains challenging. The pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviours, disrupted supply chains and altered business models, making it harder to predict what will succeed in this new landscape.

“Other challenges facing promoters include evolving regulations and compliance standards; managing cybersecurity risks in an increasingly digital environment; and addressing sustainability concerns as environmental awareness grows. Additionally, talent acquisition and retention, especially in a highly competitive market, can pose significant challenges for promoters striving to build long-term relationships and maintain effective teams.”

“You can’t start the same way I did 30 years ago. I would even argue that with the density and the speed of the business, it’s no longer possible to start from scratch”

Another stalwart independent, Winterthur’s Sheeran-promoting AllBlues Konzert, marks 30 years in 2024, on the back of a strong year with shows by José González, Brad Mehldau, Joe Satriani, Diana Krall, Ana Moura, Ludovico Einaudi, and others, including the farewell concerts of John McLaughlin, Gilberto Gil, and the Manhattan Transfer.

“Oh yes, 30 years with around 3,000 self-promoted concerts is a long time,” says founder Johannes Vogel. “But it was great, and we are grateful for the privilege of rolling out the concert carpet to such wonderful musicians and artists. And above all, to be economically very successful in our niche, with jazz, world, funk, soul, blues, singer-songwriters – and Ed Sheeran!”

Vogel remains an outspoken indie with strong views on the market as a whole, and he makes no bones about how the market has changed in three decades. “You can’t start the same way I did 30 years ago,” he says. “I would even argue that with the density and the speed of the business, it’s no longer possible to start from scratch. The big ones are getting bigger and bigger, but that’s also the chance for the small ones in the niche like us.”

And while Vogel agrees that the market is strong, he also believes it is over-saturated.

“We have too many shows,” he says. “This may be due to the fact that the majority of the bigger Swiss annual promoters are no longer independent and belong to one of the event giants. Everyone is fighting for every show. Whether it’s working well or not is not that important, as long as you have the show. No wonder, because who benefits from this overplay? The event giants with their ticket companies or vice versa, starting from ticket one.”

Festivals
While Switzerland may be prosperous and packed with festivals, from Paléo and OpenAir St.Gallen to Openair Gampel, Openair Frauenfeld, Greenfield, and Rock the Ring on downwards, it isn’t immune to the currents of the global business.

“Fewer domestic and German artists are touring in 2024. The competition for international headliners was very intense”

“It was a difficult year to book the festivals,” says Christof Huber, director festivals & events at Gadget abc. “Fewer domestic and German artists are touring in 2024. The competition for international headliners was very intense. We were able to get very solid lineups for our festivals, and they are selling well. However, if I look at the European festival lineups, 2024 isn’t as strong as in previous years.”

Nonetheless, Huber professes satisfaction at a job well done in a challenging environment.

“We have finalised the billings for all of our festivals and sales are very good for all of them,” he says. “We are very happy that the beautiful Stars in Town festival is now part of Gadget. That underlines our strong festival stream, with quality brands such as OpenAir St.Gallen, Summerdays, Seaside, Unique Moments, and Radar.

“The rising costs for artists and infrastructure remain the biggest challenge for festivals,” he adds. “We were able to book good lineups with a lot of young domestic and international artists, which attract the young audiences. Besides this, we constantly work on our festival brands with experiences, look and feel, and new attractions. We are less dependent on our billing than some of our competitors.”

Paléo programmer Dany Hassenstein echoes the point. “It’s been a tough year, but we are very happy with the outcome: Burna Boy, Sam Smith, Nile Rodgers, Royal Blood, Patti Smith, Mika, Major Lazer, Sean Paul, Khruangbin, the Blaze, Aurora, and Paul Kalkbrenner are the top international names. And we have major French acts such as Booba, Gazo & Tiakola, and PLK completing the bill. We are in particular very proud of a great second tier of the bill, with most of the hot up-and-coming French acts such as Zaho de Sagazan, Sofiane Pamart, Worakls, just to name a few.”

Hassenstein expects the current trend to be a finite one but nonetheless welcomes the invitation to innovate.

“There’s currently an important lack of available headline acts for festivals and that drives fees to a new max for those available”

“2024 was tough, and 2025 will be, too, but I believe it goes in cycles,” he says. “Ticket sales for headline shows seem to be back to an all-time high, and like everybody else, we can observe all major acts aiming for these tickets and not the festival money. But this can turn around again in a few years. So yes, there’s currently an important lack of available headline acts for festivals and that drives fees to a new max for those available. It’s a bidding situation we are not fully ready to work with. It is pushing us to look out for or create new content. At Paléo, we are doing so in 2024 by opening our stages to new types of performance, humour, crossover opera, and even classical music.”

Montreux was recently added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in the music category, and the town’s world-famous jazz festival is reinventing itself in the heart of the town for this year’s edition. A stage will be built on the lake, below the Place du Marché, while the festival will also make a return to its old home at the Casino, once the site of the 1971 fire memorialised in Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. A large number of free stages complete the new layout for this 58th edition, which will accommodate its usual capacity of 250,000 attendees.

In a similarly refined vein, Baloise Session in Basel, with its small-scale, supper-club feel, plots a course through rock, jazz, and world music every October and November. Last year, Norah Jones, Ellie Goulding, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and the opening night of Dave Stewart’s Eurythmics Songbook tour, featuring Joss Stone, were among the more mainstream highlights.

“Last year was extraordinary,” says CEO Beatrice Stirnimann. “We sold our tickets very fast; we had a great lineup,” she adds, though she notes that reinvention is not on the agenda for 2024.

“The design of our event is not going to change, because it is already very special. We have 1,500 seats, with the club tables and the candlelight. People never get bored of that. We just want to bring new artists. We sometimes bring artists back, but there’s so many artists out there, and we just want the brightest variety possible.”

In the past two years, the city of Basel itself has become more directly involved in supporting the festival, which was launched in 1985. “The city is into it – they are our hosting partner. Baloise is an international festival, artists come from everywhere, and they see how it goes out to the world. Maybe it’s a little bit like what happens in Montreux.”

“We aim to preserve the popular and festive spirit of the festival that has made it so beloved while also seeking opportunities for improvement in hospitality”

In February, Soldout Productions announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Caribana Productions, owner of the Caribana Festival brand, taking the promoter into business with festival founder Tony Lerch and artistic director Samuel Galley. The 32nd edition of the 32,000-cap festival will take place in June, with Tom Odell, Birdy, Ofenbach, Bad Omens, Martin Solveig, and Sam Ryder on an eclectic bill, having showcased Lou Reed, Patti Smith, ZZ Top, Katy Perry, and Maroon 5 over the years.

“We’re thrilled about the Caribana acquisition,” says Rouyer. “We aim to preserve the popular and festive spirit of the festival that has made it so beloved while also seeking opportunities for improvement in hospitality, including a new VIP offer and developing measures related to sustainability and environmental responsibility. We’re also looking into enhancing infrastructure, logistics, and overall visitor experience to make Caribana even more enjoyable and accessible for attendees.”

Also on Soldout’s slate in January was a sold-out edition of the Beat Festival at the 9,000-cap Geneva Arena, including French rap superstar Booba among a strong hip-hop lineup.

“We have launched a new edition of the festival that will happen in Lausanne, at the [10,000-cap] Vaudoise Aréna in December,” says Rouyer. “The Beat remains our flagship indoor event in wintertime, while Caribana – our first open-air festival – opens up a whole range of new opportunities during the summer.” Elsewhere, Good News recently entered into a collaboration with rock/metal festival Rock The Lakes – “Switzerland’s most beautiful metal festival” – which takes place at Lake Neuchatel in August.

Meanwhile, CTS Eventim-backed act entertainment launches a new boutique music festival in Zurich this summer. Waterfront Festival will debut at the Kongresshaus Zurich in July, when performers will include Stephan Eicher, Katie Melua, the BossHoss, and the Gipsy Kings.

Other events organised by act include Interlaken’s the Greenfield Festival, which will be headlined by Green Day, Bring Me the Horizon, and the Prodigy between 13 and 15 June.

“Even though there are many cultural offerings in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It seems that people are happy with our programme”

Venues
Between the Hallenstadion, X-TRA, and Komplex 457 in Zurich, the 9,500-cap Geneva Arena and Lausanne’s Les Docks, Switzerland has plenty of well-known venues. It also added a number of new ones in the years before the pandemic, including the Hall (5,000-capacity) and 3,500-cap Halle 622, both in Zurich.

Lausanne’s Vaudoise Aréna opened in September 2019 – a 12,000-cap arena for ice hockey and concerts managed by ASM Global – and this year, among much sport, it will see André Rieu, Patrick Bruel, and Ana Moura, Soraia Ramos & Pedro Abrunhosa.

Geneva’s biggest concert venue, the Geneva Arena, brings big-name gigs and large-scale entertainment and sporting events, with J Balvin, Patrick Bruel, and Mika all booked in this year among a host of tribute and family entertainment shows. Located next to Geneva International Airport, it draws audiences from both France and Switzerland.

In Lausanne, Les Docks attracts medium to large travelling names to its 1,000-cap hall. This summer’s shows including The Pretenders, Garbage, Fontaines D.C. and Sleater-Kinney.

“This new year is off to a great start, with many sold-out shows – even though there are many cultural offerings in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It seems that people are happy with our programme,” says director and programmer Laurence Vinclair, who strikes a note of caution about diminishing bar takings but is otherwise optimistic.

“And the coming months are shaping up well, too,” she adds. “June is an incredible month, like it was in the years before the pandemic, partly because we benefit from festival tours. I don’t have any secret, except the fact that our venue is well-renowned in the music business for its high-quality welcome – good food, good PA. Also, I’ve good relations with booking agents from 17 years working here. They trust us.”

In Basel, the St. Jakobshalle arena, refurbished just a few years ago, features 11 halls, including one that accommodates 12,400.

“In 2023, we experienced a very strong second half of the year,” says CEO Thomas Kastl. “Due to our multifunctionality, we were able to accommodate numerous requests. We hosted large-scale events, such as concerts and sports gatherings with thousands of attendees, as well as smaller sports and business functions. “Looking ahead to 2024, our calendar is brimming with exciting events. We anticipate hosting the EHF Euro 2024 Women’s Handball and the European Fencing Championship. Additionally, our lineup includes concerts featuring renowned artists such as Bryan Adams, Laura Pausini, Avenged Sevenfold, Judas Priest, and Hans Zimmer.”

 


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Paléo organisers warn of increase in ticket scams

Organisers of Switzerland’s Paléo have warned of a “strong increase” in ticket scams for this year’s festival.

All 200,000 passes for the 2024 event, which takes place in Nyon from 23-28 July, sold out in just 21 minutes last month, and fans are being urged to only buy resale tickets through the festival’s official ticket exchange.

Paléo Festival is a partner of Swiss consumer protection watchdog FRC (Romande Consumer Rights Federation), which works against ticket touting.

“We are currently observing a strong increase in the number of scams involving online ticket purchases on secondary markets,” says a message to posted to fans online. “We recommend that you only buy your tickets on the official platforms. The festival is currently sold out. The only official resale platform is the ticket market.”

“Any purchase made outside these outlets is not considered authorised and secure, and the festival will unfortunately not be able to intervene in the event of a problem”

In addition to the Paléo ticket exchange, 1,500 daily tickets will be made available from 9am on each day of this year’s festival.

“Any purchase made outside these outlets is not considered authorised and secure, and the festival will unfortunately not be able to intervene in the event of a problem,” adds the post.

Launched in 1976, the event accommodates more than 35,000 fans daily. Artists at Paléo’s 2024 edition will include Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

“We knew from our December pre-sale that demand was very strong,” booker Dany Hassenstein told IQ earlier this year. “All our digital data were showing this same evolution too. I really believe that, together with the very rich lineup, it is our standards and values that makes this success. We have this tremendous level of confidence and loyalty from our guests, and we are doing everything to never put that trust at risk.”

 


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Paléo Festival booker toasts 21-minute sellout

Paléo booker Dany Hassenstein has hailed the Swiss festival’s longstanding bond with its audience after all 200,000 tickets for the 2024 event sold out in just 21 minutes.

The festival will run in Nyon from 23-28 July, featuring acts such as Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

Launched in 1976, the event accommodates more than 35,000 fans daily. Tickets for the Sunday finale, which started at CHF80 (€82), sold out in a record seven minutes.

“We knew from our December pre-sale that demand was very strong,” Hassenstein tells IQ. “All our digital data were showing this same evolution too. I really believe that, together with the very rich lineup, it is our standards and values that makes this success. We have this tremendous level of confidence and loyalty from our guests, and we are doing everything to never put that trust at risk.”

Last year’s event took almost double the time – 41 minutes – to sell out for a bill starring the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Martin Garrix and Placebo.

For 2024, Paléo is expanding its musical horizons with a mix of pop, rock, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats, reggae, electro, opera and funk, welcoming 130 artists in all, as the countdown begins to its landmark 50th festival in three years’ time.

“We have several new features on track, mainly guest comfort improvements but we will also open our stages to other type of performances, such as humour with an in-house show, a performance by French troupe Murmuration and even opera, hosting tenor singer Roberto Alagna,” says Hassenstein.

“It is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals”

Organisers introduced of a raft of well-received changes two years ago, including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system, in what was billed as the festival’s biggest makeover in more than 30 years.

“We had huge changes of the general festival set up in 2022 and we will prepare the next big step for our 50th edition in 2027,” notes Hassenstein.

The festival’s traditional ticket exchange, which is designed to combat the black market, will go live on 27 March, while 1,500 daily tickets will be made available from 9am on each morning of this year’s event.

While the debate continues to rage about the availability (or lack thereof) of headliners across the sector, Hassenstein considers the names of those at the top of the bill to still be “undeniably very important”.

“It’s the essence of a music festival,” he says. “Our challenge was mainly our dates being outside of most of the international touring periods. But it is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals.”

Looking to the future, Hassenstein indicates that Paléo will always prioritise quality over potential capacity increases.

“Growth in quality will always be our goal, with sustainability and social awareness being part of this growth,” he concludes. “Growth in capacity is not necessarily a healthy ambition and not really a target for us.”

 


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Festival bills ’24: Paléo, Lolla Berlin, Pukkelpop

Switzerland’s Paléo and Lollapalooza Berlin in Germany head the latest festival lineup announcements for 2024, while Belgium’s Pukkelpop is celebrating a speedy sellout.

Paléo Festival Nyon returns from 23-28 July with a bill headed by Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

Expanding its musical horizons with a mix of pop, rock, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats, reggae, electro, opera and funk, the event will welcome 130 artists in all. Its Village du Monde (Village of the World) will focus on the Balkans, featuring around 20 acts.

Set for 7-8 September at the German capital’s Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, Lollapalooza Berlin will be headlined by Sam Smith, Martin Garrix, Burna Boy, Seventeen, The Chainsmokers, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Shirin David and CRO.

Other acts will include Loyle Carner, Nothing But Thieves, Meduza, Tom Grennan, Kenya Grace, Elderbrook, Joel Corry and Alok.

That same weekend will also see Goodlive’s Superbloom take place at the Olympic Park in Munich, which has unveiled its expanded lineup. Joining Calvin Harris on the bill are Burna Boy, Shirin David, Jorja Smith, Milky Chance, Loyle Carner, Loreen and Chappell Roan.

Previously confirmed acts included Sam Smith, The Chainsmokers, CRO, Louis Tomlinson, RIN, Provinz, Tokio Hotel, Nothing But Thieves, Kenya Grace and David Puentez. For the first time, there will also be readings by renowned authors, including Ilona Hartmann and Phia Quantius, with two crime podcasts also represented.

“Ticket sales are going well: we are certainly further ahead than this time last year”

Meanwhile, Pukkelpop, which will be held in Hasselt between 15-18 August, sold out all combination tickets in less than 48 hours, according to organisers.

The event will star the likes of Fred Again.., Stormzy, Sam Smith, Queens of the Stone Age, The Offspring, Charlotte de Witte, Goldband, Raye, Inhaler, Sugababes, The Vaccines, Skrillex, Jorja Smith, The Smile and Denzel Curry.

Also in Belgium, the resurgent Gent Jazz Festival is expanding from ten to 13 days and has confirmed André 3000 among this year’s performers. The 5,500-cap series runs from 5-20 July and will also feature names such as Diana Krall, Laufey, Jamie Cullum, Air, Alexis Ffrench, DJ Shadow, Nile Rodgers & Chic and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Ghent-based promoter and booking agency Greenhouse Talent took over the international jazz festival last year after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went backrupt at the end of 2022.

“For us, the expansion is an essential intervention to guarantee our survival,” organiser Pascal Van De Velde tells De Standaard. “It is difficult for a festival in our niche and with our capacity to break even, and we did not want to save on costs. So we found the solution in extra days: this allows us to spread the basic costs of the festival.

“Ticket sales are going well: we are certainly further ahead than this time last year.”

AIF reports that 21 UK festivals have now announced a postponement, cancellation or complete closure in 2024

Elsewhere, Smash’s Fuji Rock, which will grace Japan’s Naeba Ski Resort in Tokyo from 26-28 July, has added Peggy Gou and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds as headliners alongside Kraftwerk. Other new additions include Remi Wolf, Hiromi’s Sonic Wonder, Denki Groove, Kid Fresno, Man With a Mission, Sampha, Teddy Swims, Macaroni Empitsu, The Spellbound and Kim Gordon.

And AEG’s BST Hyde Park in London has revealed Morgan Wallen as its final 2024 headliner. The country music superstar will perform on 4 July, completing a lineup which also includes SZA (29 June), Kings of Leon (30 June), Andrea Bocelli (5 July), Robbie Williams (6 July), Shania Twain (7 July), Stevie Nicks (12 July), Kylie Minogue (13 July) and Stray Kids (14 July).

However, trade body the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) reports that 21 UK festivals have now announced a postponement, cancellation or complete closure in 2024.

Cotswolds-based Nibley Festival has announced that this year’s event will be its last, shortly after Bradford’s Bingley Festival announced that its 2024 edition will not go ahead.

Promoters of both festivals have cited rapidly rising production costs as the reason why running their event is no longer viable. Portsmouth rock and metal festival Takedown also recently postponed to 2025, citing “challenging trading conditions” among other factors.

AIF warns that, without intervention, the UK could see over 100 festivals disappear in 2024 due to rising costs and has reiterated the need for temporary support from the UK government to lower VAT from 20% to 5% on ticket sales for the next three years.

“It’s with grave concern that we again sound the alarm to government upon passing this critical milestone,” says AIF CEO John Rostron. “UK festivals are disappearing at a worrying rate, and we as a nation are witnessing the erosion of one of our most successful and unique cultural industry sectors.

“We have done the research: a reduction of VAT to 5% on festival tickets over the next three years is a conservative, targeted and temporary measure that would save almost all of the festival businesses that are likely to fall by the wayside this year and many more over the years to come. We need this intervention now.”

 


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Paléo fest set for biggest revamp in 30 years

Switzerland’s Paléo Festival is undergoing its biggest makeover in more than three decades ahead of its 2022 comeback, booker Dany Hassenstein tells IQ.

The 30,000-cap Nyon event, which sold out in record time, returns from 19-24 July for its first edition since 2019. Kiss, Sting, DJ Snake, Stromae and Rag’n’Bone Man are among acts on the bill.

Organisers consider this year to be a major turning point in Paléo’s history due to the introduction of a raft of features including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system. Due in part to the installation of the NStCM railway depot, it will also see the most significant alteration to the long-running festival’s layout since it moved from the lakefront to Plaine de l’Asse more than 30 years ago.

“The major boost to undertake all these changes came from our audience last December when we sold all the tickets for the 2022 event within a record-breaking time”

“With all the changes we have on track, it will be the biggest reshaping of the festival since 1990,” says Hassenstein, speaking to IQ. “Some were planned already for 2020 and some have been invented and planned during the pandemic-related break. Not only it will improve the festival experience for our customers, the process of innovating and developing new project was also vital for the team to get through this terrible period.

“But the major boost to undertake all these changes came from our audience last December when we sold all the tickets for the 2022 event within a record-breaking time. It not only massively reduced some financial uncertainties; this incredible loyalty of our audience also gave us the last kick to prepare a return at the hight of their expectation.”

In addition, the former Arches and Detour stages will be replaced by two new spaces: the Vega stage and the electronic music-focused Belleville venue.

Tickets will be delivered via the Paléo Tickets blockchain-based mobile app, while the festival is also implementing a system of washable and returnable dishes in a bid to reduce the volume of waste and single-use. All plates, bowls, cups and jugs will be returnable as part of the event’s sustainability efforts.

 


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Major Swiss festivals cancel 2021 editions

A number of Swiss festivals have called off 2021 editions, citing uncertainty about whether major events will be permitted to take place this summer.

The 45th instalment of the annual rock festival Paléo Festival Nyon, scheduled to take place between 19–25 July, has been cancelled as “the situation is still too uncertain to consider organising the festival in its usual form”.

However, the organisers revealed that they are working on a ‘Covid-compatible event’ with a reduced capacity and size, and an extended duration. Health conditions permitting, it will take place from 8 July to 8 August 2021.

Greenfield Festival 2021, due to take place in Interlaken, Bern, between 3–5 June with headliners Volbeat, Korn and Billy Talent, has also been called off.

“Just when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, it moves even further away than it already was,” reads a statement from the organisers.

“We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed, which measures we would have to integrate”

“The situation around Covid-19 is simply not getting better fast enough internationally and in Switzerland in particular. Since we don’t know whether major events will be allowed at all, we simply lack planning certainty. We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed and which measures we would have to integrate.”

Rock the Ring (cap. 15,000) has also been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to “the lack of planning security for large events,” says the organiser. The event was planned for 17–19 June in Hinwil, with a line-up that included Foreigner, Three Doors Down and Airbourne.

However, CTS Eventim’s stable of Swiss events, which includes Open Air St Gallen (1–4 July) and SummerDays and Seaside Festival (3–4 September), are taking a wait-and-see approach.

On 4 February, a statement was published on their respective social media pages saying the organisers are “working on various scenarios and protection concepts” for each festival but that ultimately, it’s uncertain whether the events will be able to take place.

At the time of writing Blue Balls Festival is set to go ahead from 23–31 July in Lucerne; hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld is holding onto its 7–10 July date and pop event Zürich Openair is on for 25–28 August.

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition in January, as organisers say it’s “impossible to plan with any certainty” due to the limitations of the pandemic.

While it was announced in February that Montreux Jazz Festival will take place at least partially in the digital realm in 2021, livestreaming all performances from its 55th edition as part of a plan to protect the festival against future disruption.

The lack of certainty around Switzerland’s summer season prompted the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA), along with 26 of the country’s festivals, to call for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.

Last month’s appeal relayed three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.

Elsewhere, in neighbouring Germany, CTS Eventim and Goodlive have cancelled a slate of the market’s major festivals.

 


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Paléo, MJF cancel, other Swiss fests await guidance

For the first time in 45 and 53 years, respectively, there will be Paléo Festival Nyon or Montreux Jazz Festival this summer, as several Swiss festivals take the decision on whether to cancel into their own hands.

In addition to Paléo (which would have taken place on 20–26 July) and Montreux Jazz (3–18 July), other smaller festivals to have given up on 2020 altogether include Rock the Ring (18–20 June) in Hinwil and Blue Balls Festival (17–25 July) in Lucerne.

The cancellations come as authorities in Switzerland yesterday (16 April) declined to be drawn on whether summer festivals would be allowed to go ahead, putting off the decision until a meeting of the Federal Council on 27 May.

Other major events, such as OpenAir St Gallen (25–28 June), SummerDays and Seaside Festivals (28–29 August), hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld (9–11 July) and pop event Zürich Openair (26–29 August), are taking a wait-and-see approach, with OpenAir St Gallen lamenting that the missed opportunity to provide the festival with a “clear decision” about the summer. “We need an order from the Federal Council as a legal basis” for any cancellation, it says in a statement.

According to Paléo, which has yet to announce its 2020 line-up, even in the absence of a formal ban on festivals, it “still couldn’t guarantee the smooth running of the event” amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“We need an order from the Federal Council”

“Paléo is a temporary city that welcomes some 50,000 people every day. All conditions must be met to start the huge construction work, which relies on a whole chain of service providers, suppliers, artists, sponsors and technical teams,” organisers explain. “It’s highly likely that artists will postpone their tours and that the delivery of key equipment for the festival will be hampered due to the current climate. In view of these elements, maintaining the festival in July 2020 is not possible.”

“This Thursday, 16 April, the Swiss Federal Council announced that it would be gradually easing some of the protective measures against the coronavirus, but keeping the majority of the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures in place,” reads a statement from MJF, which put off its first line-up announcement late last month.”As such, it is now impossible for us to consider holding an event on the scale of Montreux Jazz Festival in July, just as it is for our fellow organisers of other summer festivals in Switzerland and around the world.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence over all other considerations.”

“This is the first time the festival has had to be cancelled in its 53 years of making history, bringing people together and producing legendary musical moments,” festival organisers add. “Until the very end, all of us here in the festival team were still hoping to share these magical moments with everyone who, like us, cannot imagine a summer without the Montreux Jazz Festival.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence”

“Our thoughts go out to the staff members, artists and their support teams, technicians and engineers and to all our partners who make the event possible, from local hotels and businesses, to everyone who lives in Montreux, and of course our loyal festivalgoers.”

“It’s a tough break,” adds Paléo. “This postponement will inevitably have heavy financial repercussions for the festival. Indeed, as a non-profit organisation (non-subsidised), Paléo generates close to 80% of its revenue through the sale of tickets, and food and beverage during the event. In this complex context, the organisation is working hard to mitigate the impact of this postponement.”

To help Paléo, says founder and president Daniel Rossellat, fans should keep hold of their tickets until July 2021, when the festival will return.

By not formally extending its ban on mass gatherings, the Swiss government is bucking a trend seen in many of its European neighbours, including Luxembourg (no large events until 31 July), Germany (31 August), Belgium 31 August), France (mid-July), Austria (30 June) and Denmark (31 August).

 


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Futureproofing festival wristbands: Dutchband Q&A

The festival wristband industry has seen significant innovation in recent years, as suppliers have incorporated payment solutions and anti-counterfeit measures, as well as experimenting with ever more sustainable and durable materials.

For over 17 years, Dutchband, the largest supplier of event wristbands and consumption tokens in the Netherlands, has provided fraud-resistant, user-friendly and efficient wristband and payment solutions to over 1,000 events worldwide.

IQ checks in with Dutchband managing director Michiel Fransen to discover how the company is keeping gatecrashers out and making products more eco-friendly, as well as finding out what lengths the team will go to in order to ensure speedy wristband delivery.

 


IQ: Can you give me a brief description of who Dutchband are and what work you do?

Michiel Fransen: Dutchband has been active in the wristband and cashless payment business for close to two decades. Initially started as one of the first companies to use digital printing technology for wristband production, we have also introduced other innovations such as our unique payment tokens, vending machines, point-of-sale (POS) terminals and, of course, our high security SealStation solution (pictured), a semi automatic machine that seals wristbands on fans safely, quickly and comfortably.

We are proud to work with many of the bigger festivals in Europe. Festivals like Solidays and Fete de l’Humanité in France, the UK’s Download and WeAreFSTVL, German festival Rock am Ring, Poland’s Open’er, Lowlands in the Netherlands, Paleo in Switzerland and the Defqon1 and Mysteryland franchises all have used our solutions for either access-control wristbands or cashless payment.

We have seen an influx of new kinds of festival wristbands entering the market in recent years. What sets Dutchband apart from other companies working in the sector?

We differentiate ourselves mainly by always looking for ways to improve on the products that are currently offered in the market. We do this not only in terms of the physical properties of the products themselves, but also by exceeding customer expectations when it comes to service and reliability as a supplier.

There are quite a few cases where festivals have contacted us just before, or even during an event, to arrange delivery of additional wristbands or payment tokens. We understand the importance of helping out our customers in these cases and will do everything to arrange timely delivery, even if it means that one of our team has to jump on a plane to do so.

Dutchband Q&A

In terms of new developments, what are the most exciting innovations that Dutchband has implemented in recent years?

What I’m really excited about is our new range of wristbands, made entirely from organic and recycled materials. This perfectly matches our ambition to help our customers further reduce their environmental footprint. This means we can now offer sustainable alternatives for our entire product range, from SealStation wristbands made out of recycled soda bottles, to payment tokens produced from our own production waste.

Being more sustainable is the top of the priority list for many working in the live event industry, what do you believe are the other main challenges facing the wristband sector today and how is Dutchband tackling them?

The biggest challenge is to keep outsmarting the counterfeiters (and cheeky visitors) trying to get into the event for free. I believe that with our fully tamperproof, closureless SealStation wristband, we can really help festivals tackle this problem.

This foolproof design applies not only to our higher-end solutions but – and this is quite unique for this industry – even to our most basic Tyvek wristbands, made out of a plastic fibre that resembles paper, as a standard come with overt and covert anti-counterfeiting measures.

Looking to the future, what does Dutchband hope to achieve?

We keep on innovating to bring sustainable, reliable and easy-to-implement payment and accreditation products to the leading festivals of the world. Just like in the Netherlands, we want to be the people to call globally if you need a good solution and you need it now.

 


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Switzerland market report: positive signs

Probably the gravest thing you can say about Switzerland as a live music market is that it has all manner of first-world problems.

It’s a fact that not every Swiss ticket sells and not every show is a hit. But in a market of just 8.5 million people, where a vast mass of concerts and festivals nonetheless turned over CHF576m (€515m) in 2017 [source: PwC], saturation will always be a threat.

It’s also true that a market that has traditionally prided itself on its independence is now squarely on the international corporate map, with Live Nation, DEAG, Eventim and AEG all much in evidence. But that’s the way of the world, for better or worse. And in the meantime, plenty of Swiss independents report healthy trading.

This year, by some accounts, feels like a slightly rocky one, if only by Swiss standards. Festival ticket sales are down and a number of promoters are openly steering clear of big, risky events, sensing a softening of demand. And then again, for every cautious projection, you’ll find someone who will happily tell you that business has seldom been better.

Live Nation, for one, is on the up. Ask Live Nation GSA COO Matt Schwarz about saturation and he notes the possibility while making it clear that it’s not yet anything resembling a problem for his business.

“We don’t feel that at all – our ticket sales are exceptional and still growing,” says Schwarz. “Moreover, international acts still love playing Switzerland. However, there has been a huge volume of international tours in the market. Spending capital is available but at some point it has its limits. [But] so far, we have not experienced buying resistance in general.”

“Our ticket sales are exceptional and still growing. International acts still love playing Switzerland”

Live Nation acquired large indie player Mainland Music last December, in a move that gives the corporate a Swiss grassroots presence where it has previously dealt mainly in arenas and stadiums. The year before, it treated itself to a majority stake in Openair Frauenfeld, Europe’s largest hip-hop festival.

“Numbers are constantly growing,” says Schwarz. “With our new partners we have steady feet on the ground to optimise and increase our number of shows, and subsequently our ticket sales.”

Elsewhere, examples of healthy, world-class names are easy to find. Zürich’s 15,000-capacity Hallenstadion is one of the most successful arenas in the world in its size range, while festivals such as Paléo, Montreux Jazz, Frauenfeld and Open Air St.Gallen represent the top end of a huge nationwide offering of outdoor summer music events. By some accounts, all this activity threatens to burst the market’s seams.

“The country is still the same size it was in 2017,” says Good News CEO Stefan Matthey, with a nod to the last time IQ covered Switzerland in detail. “It’s got four languages, which means more or less four different markets, and every field has got its own festival.”

One thing that has changed, on the domestic talent front, is Switzerland’s hipness to new musical trends. “It used to take everything three years to get to Switzerland, and then there would be a wave of Swiss bands that would go nowhere because the world had moved on,” says Stefan Schurter of booking and management agency Deepdive Music.

“Now, people listen to Spotify, like they do everywhere else, and we are no longer two or three years behind the trend. Whereas people used to say [adopts bored voice] ‘oh, Switzerland – that’s the home of Yello and Krokus,’ now it’s, ‘Oh, Switzerland, that’s the home of Sophie Hunger or Zeal & Ardor!’ And there are so many other great Swiss artists now.”

“We can see more and more amazing Swiss artists coming through especially within the last couple of years”

Indeed, agent Théo Quiblier at Two Gentlemen in Lausanne, tells IQ that Sophie Hunger’s Molecules tour is on track to sell 20,000 tickets on headline shows in Switzerland alone by the end of the year. “We can see more and more amazing Swiss artists coming through especially within the last couple of years,” he comments. “Each year, more and more Swiss acts are also touring abroad which is great. There’s also now an agency called Orange Peel Agency, run by two amazing young people, taking care of Swiss artists only. All in all, the future seems to be bright for the Swiss scene.”

Promoters
With four national languages – French, German, Italian and Romansh – Switzerland could be a recipe for sectarian discord, but in fact it’s generally a model of co-operation. Promoters largely keep to their own parts of the country – German speakers in cities such as Zürich, Bern, Basel and St.Gallen; French in Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux. For shows outside their patch, they work with partners. Many shows are co-promoted, very few promoters operate in isolation and the market is generous but finite.

“Normally, you can do one, maybe two shows in Switzerland for an international artist,” says Stefan Wyss, director of multifaceted, Zürich-based indie Gadget, whose home-grown band Hecht plays the Hallenstadion in October – one of a tiny handful of Swiss bands to rise to that level.

The French part of Switzerland is smaller and doesn’t support as many tickets as the German part, adds Wyss, “but when your artists play there, you need the expertise of someone local. We work with [Sion-based fellow indie] Takk. We promote all their artists here and they promote all our artists in the French part. That’s how we all work – it’s a different market over there.”

 


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The secrets behind festival sell outs

Since Coachella opened its festival gates in mid-April, the 2019 festival season is now well and truly upon us.

As ticket sales remain a point of contention and concern for many events, IQ speaks to ten festivals that appear to have no problem shifting tickets and selling out year-on-year, to find out the secrets to their success and how they continue to distinguish themselves in an increasingly crowded festival arena.

 


 

Byron Bay Bluesfest
Australia’s most-awarded live music festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest turned 30 this year – and the landmark edition was one of the most successful to date. Before the event, festival director and owner Peter Noble noted that all ticket sale records had been broken.

In order to ensure consistently healthy ticket sales, Bluesfest uses a mixed marketing strategy, including traditional methods, use of online channels, and face-to-face marketing campaigns.

“Our marketing strategies focus on the festival experience and also the great lineups that we have here,” Noble tells IQ. “We have focused on customer retention over the past number of years and around 40% of ticketholders are repeat purchasers, which we are very proud of.”

Recognised as an “industry leader” within the management of live music festivals, Noble states that Bluesfest is unworried by the licensing laws imposed by the New South Wales Government on music festivals.

“We are well regarded as a safe family event with three generations of patrons joining us annually,” Noble tells IQ. “We will continue to review our extensive procedures and practices in close liaison with emergency services, various government bodies and through a detailed risk management approach.”

 

Wacken Open Air
Wacken Open Air also celebrates its 30th edition this year and enthusiasm for the anniversary event is high. Tickets for Wacken 2019 sold out in four days, and in the words of co-founder Thomas Jensen: “Quite obviously, we are doing something right.”

In order to improve, the Wacken co-founders have always placed great value on what festival attendees have to say, actively responding to suggestions.

“We invite the fans to give us their feedback via means such as our social media channels or in person at a Q&A session with both me and my fellow co-founder Holger Hübner,” explains Jensen.

“There is always room for improvement – no matter how well things are working out,” stresses the Wacken boss.

Jensen talks about this year’s lineup, saying the festival aims to “maintain the right balance of sticking to our roots and offering innovations,” placing new acts alongside integral, longstanding Wacken Open Air performers. “This is why Parkway Drive can be found next to Slayer as one of our headliners in 2019.”

The festival has received some slack for having “a very German touch,” says the Wacken co-founder. However, guests come from all over to attend what is now the world’s biggest heavy metal gathering, and, “since the metal family is probably the most open-minded community on Earth, everybody is welcomed with open arms.”

 

Paléo Festival de Nyon
From its origins in the town assembly rooms of the French-Swiss town of Nyon, Paléo Festival has grown to become an important European music event. Each year, more than 280 concerts and shows take place for 230,000 visitors across the 84-hectare festival site.

For more than 20 years, the festival has successfully and consistently sold out.

“One of the keys to Paléo’s success is that it distinguishes itself from other events by not only providing musical entertainment but by giving place to a whole experience,” says festival director Dany Hassenstein.

“Between music, street theatre and performances inspired by the circus or architectural installations, Paléo is an extraordinary global village for the audience,” he says…

 


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