PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Best of 2022: Phil Bowdery’s golden term

Ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months. Here, Gordon Masson learns about Live Nation legend Phil Bowdery’s remarkable 50-year career in the industry…

Education is a mantra in Phil Bowdery’s life. “I’ve said to my children many times, ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say,’ because I was out of school by the age of 15, playing in a band,” he confesses. Still, as one of the doyens of the live music sector, his early departure from school hasn’t served him too badly.

Starting life on the road as the drummer for a band called Choc Ice, Bowdery’s early experiences saw him rubbing shoulders with some of the great and the good of the music business. “Our guitarist was Gordon Gaynor, who I still catch up with now and again,” he says. “But our claim to fame was we had a little bit of a break and made a record with Pye, which was the label in those days.”

Gaynor tells IQ, “I met Phil through Ray Stiles, who was bassist for the band Mud. So Phil joined us on drums, gigging most weeks, and when we stayed out the night I’d share a room with Phil, which was a laugh. When we went to Germany for the first time, we lived on pizza for a month, playing three [one-] hour sets a night – great fun!”

“We used to meet Stevie [Wonder] and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together”

Bowdery continues, “We became the backing band for Mac and Katie Kissoon. Katie is now one of Eric Clapton’s backing vocalists, but she and her brother had quite a big hit at the time, and we ended up on the road with The Supremes and also Stevie Wonder, which were both Arthur Howes tours.”

Gaynor comments, “We used to meet Stevie and his band at a hotel in Mayfair, and we all went on the tour bus together. I remember to this day, Phil and I sitting in Stevie’s dressing room as he played us tracks from his first synth album, Music of My Mind; it blew us both away. I have some really fond memories with Phil.”

Indeed, another claim to fame was Bowdery’s part in one of Wonder’s biggest hits. He recalls, “One day at soundcheck, he had this huge boombox that he was using to record stuff, and he asked me to play a rhythm while he recorded. So, in theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life, which is pretty nice because I now promote Stevie Wonder in Europe.”

“In theory, I played on the original demo of You Are the Sunshine of My Life”

When the wheels came off…
The heady heights of life as a support act were short-lived, however, and Bowdery put aside the drumsticks barely a year after hitting the road. “Things in the band were beginning to fall apart, and suddenly the van wasn’t working, and that was sort of the final straw,” he recalls.

“I was 16 at the time, but I still wanted to be involved in music, so I became the non-driving roadie for Mud, who were from my hometown. I got paid £12 a week. When I was old enough to drive, Mud started to have hits, and as the band got bigger and the crew got bigger, that enabled me to become their production manager, then the tour manager, and then I became part of the management team.

“With Mud we were doing clubs and things – there was a chain in Manchester that owned three venues where we’d open up the first club, we’d be middle of the bill on the second, and top of the bill on the third one. So you ended up doing three shows per night in three different venues, which made it worthwhile. When I think about it, we’d break our heads to play a show – I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig.”

“I remember going from London to Sunderland [a distance of 275 miles (443km)] for a £40 gig”

Sound Moves
When Mud’s fame began to wane, Bowdery saw the potential to earn some extra cash for the act. “We purchased the sound system,” he explains. “I did the deal with Dave Martin, from Martin Audio, himself. And on the back of that, we started a rental company, which I was running as well.”

The shrewd piece of business opened unexpected doors. “The sound company did work with Renaissance, and when their manager, John Scher, decided not to fly in their regular guy from the States, I became their sound engineer,” explains Bowdery.

And his enthusiasm obviously impressed. “I quickly became the band’s tour manager and toured America with them.”
That introduction to America lit a fire. Following Renaissance, Bowdery found himself on back-to-back tours with Charles Aznavour across the States, and, thanks again to the sound rental operation, he also began his long association with Leo Sayer.

“I quickly became the [Renaissance]’s tour manager and toured America with them”

“I came to Barry Clayman via the sound company, as we were working with some of the acts that MAM were promoting,” says Bowdery. “Barry and I just hit it off from day one – I still speak to him on a daily basis, often multiple times.

“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour. I think the first tour was 1979. Leo and I got on like a house on fire, so it got to the point where he asked me to work for him full-time, so I left the sound company and Mud and worked for Leo straight through to ‘85, when he came off the road.”

In the meantime, Barry Clayman made the decision to depart MAM having sold the business to Chrysalis. “I’d always recognised Phil’s potential, so a few years after the Chrysalis deal, I decided to start my own company – Barry Clayman Concerts [BCC] – and I asked Phil to come with me,” Clayman tells IQ.

“When I decided that humping gear was no longer for me, I became Barry’s promoter’s rep for a Leo Sayer tour”

Bowdery recalls, “A year or so into BCC, we got Michael Jackson and did our first tour with him in ‘88. That really helped establish the company as a serious player.”

Indeed, Clayman reveals, “We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket bought in person at a box office or a ticket outlet. Phil ran all of those shows. In fact, at one date when Jackson failed to appear, it was Phil who went on stage to calm the crowd and explain the date would be rescheduled.”

Bowdery says, “I introduced computers to BCC. Michael Jackson’s tour manager, John Draper, had the first Mac I’d ever seen – this bright-green machine, and it just changed everything. Instead of sitting with a piece of paper, a calculator, a pencil and a rubber, doing costings, we started putting them into sheets with formulas.

“We did seven Wembley Stadiums with Michael Jackson – 560,000 tickets, and every single one was a paper ticket”

“I’ll never forget Barry asking what would happen if we put the ticket price up by 50 pence: he couldn’t believe that we could make all the calculations so quickly… I’ve still got all the old figures. I sometimes like to go back and have a look and just see how I did things.”

Leaving on a jet plane
Having Clayman as a mentor, Bowdery took on more and more responsibility, but his first fully promoted tour turned out to be a bittersweet memory.

“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997. Even though it was a Barry Clayman tour, the credit line was ‘Phil Bowdery for Barry Clayman Concerts,’ which I really appreciated,” he states. Sadly, it would be the final time Denver would visit Europe.

“We played golf a couple of times, and he was talking about this new plane that he’d just bought as a kit and how he was looking forward to seeing it when he got back home. And that was the plane he died in, literally four or five weeks after we finished the tour.”

“The first tour that I promoted, completely sold it myself, was John Denver in 1997”

Immersing himself in the international side of BCC’s operations, Bowdery started to rub shoulders with many peers who have since become colleagues at Live Nation.

“It allowed me to learn the European side by starting to use different promoters around Europe. So, through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones – for whom I sort of acted as his agent from about 1987 – I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson.

“That’s how I crafted my European knowledge, by getting to know all those guys – and most of them are now part of the Live Nation family, so it definitely helped that we had pre-existing relationships from when we were all independent.”

Johansson, who these days is Live Nation’s chairman of international music, recalls, “We met for the first time in Holland: Phil was there with The Rubettes for a TV show, and I was there with ABBA for the same programme. Ever since we have worked together with almost every artist in the world!”

“Through the likes of John Denver or Tom Jones, I got to know Leon Ramakers and Herman Scheuremans and Thomas Johansson”

Further south in Europe, Rob Trommelen at Mojo Concerts acknowledges Bowdery’s no-bounds enthusiasm in helping the artists he works with. Explaining that he knows Bowdery from his days as tour manager with Mud, Trommelen tells IQ, “I always enjoy Phil’s stories about his adventures [in the Netherlands] during the trips they made to a variety of clubs and local discotheques – he knows the names of many villages in the middle of nowhere. One day, he even showed me a video in which he joined Mud’s backing dancers!”

Of course, Bob Sillerman’s corporate kleptomania changed the live music business forever, and in 1999 when SFX turned its attention to BCC, Bowdery found himself as one of the principals in the new expansive operation – a position he built upon as Sillerman cashed out to Clear Channel Communications just four months after the BCC acquisition.

“When the company evolved, a position for a European touring chief became apparent,” says Clayman. “Phil was out of contract, but I suggested they speak to him and he became the new number one. I had great confidence in him because I always knew he had what it takes. He was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base – it’s me who asks him the questions these days.”

“[Phil] was a great learner and was always asking the right questions to expand his knowledge base”

With Bowdery given the title of executive VP, touring, Europe, when Live Nation spun off from Clear Channel in 2005, his role further expanded when he was promoted to executive president of touring, international, working closely with local partners to set up offices in Australasia, Asia and China, as well as Live Nation’s international touring activities.

Clayman adds, “I take huge satisfaction [in seeing] how successful he has been. On top of being a great music man, he’s a good guy, and he’s great with his staff.”

Born leader
Because there are a full 24 hours in a day, workaholic Bowdery’s role in recent years has extended outside of his Live Nation remit. For more than six years, he has been chairman of the UK’s Concert Promoters Association, while more recently he has been heavily involved in the creation of LIVE, the UK trade body that represented the live entertainment sector so well during the pandemic restrictions.

Explaining how he first became involved in trade associations, Bowdery says, “Barry Clayman was one of the founding members of the CPA, along with Harvey Goldsmith, Paul Crockford, Danny Betesh, Stuart Littlewood and Carole Smith, who just celebrated her 30th year as CPA secretary. If Barry could not make a meeting, I’d go in his place.

“On top of being a great music man, [Phil] is a good guy, and he’s great with his staff”

“Back then, it was all about a PRS fight: they wanted to increase promoter rates from 2% to 6%, but thanks to the CPA, we managed to contain it at 3%.”

Indeed, the CPA recently emerged from another negotiation with PRS that saw rates rise to 4.2% of gross sales. “It’s tough, especially in the current environment,” admits Bowdery, who nevertheless piloted the CPA’s campaign to stymie PRS attempts to increase the tariff to 8%.

“With VAT going back to 20% from April, along with the PRS’s 4.2%, we’ll have 25% coming off the gross before we even start,” he warns. “That’s why we’re challenged, in the UK, to try to match offers that promoters make, particularly in America where there’s no tax in some instances. But it could be worse if it wasn’t for the fact that the CPA has given us a voice.”

Tres Thomas, senior vice president of operations and the global director of touring for Live Nation, commends Bowdery for his leadership skills, both within the company and at the CPA.

“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything”

“Like myself, Phil is pretty much the road guy who has done everything,” says Thomas. “When I first met him, I was working with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Deep Purple, and Phil was the guy who started with production and settled the show afterwards – we’d argue over nickels and dimes and catering bills and all those things, but he was always a gentleman and always respectful.

“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn.”
Thomas adds, “Phil has done a wonderful job of mentoring the next generation – Sophia Burn, Ellen Proudlove, Gary McIsaac… He realises that the business will not be ours in ten years, so he’s making sure the next generation is prepared to take over.”

Covid
The importance of trade associations and support organisations has, of course, been underlined during the past couple of years, as the global pandemic shuttered touring activity around the world, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without gainful employment.

“Phil taught me that the promoter/artists/agents table could be round – it didn’t need to be squared off, with battle lines drawn”

Revealing how his normal day-to-day routine simply stopped, Bowdery tells IQ, “I had Clannad playing the London Palladium on the 17 March [2020], on their final tour. At the meet-and-greet in Birmingham, three days before, they all had gloves on. That was the first sign I’d seen of any response to the virus. But then I got a call from UTA telling me that someone who was at the gig got Covid. It was all so new to us that we started scrambling to put in safeguards.

“Then, when I was at a meeting at Heathrow on March 16, I got a phone call, and I was told ‘The office is closing. And by the way, the Palladium is closed. That’s it. No show tomorrow.’ And from that moment, my study at home became my office.”

While the industry initially started rescheduling gigs by a matter of weeks, it became apparent to Bowdery that Covid could be around for much longer, and he realised, along with a number of peers, that live music was dangerously under-represented in terms of government lobbying.

“The theatre business got pretty loud pretty quickly. But nobody was talking for us: there were a lot of people jumping up and down, but nothing was happening for us, so there was an urgent desire to at least try to be heard and put our situation front and centre as much as we could.”

“The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better”

Bowdery, alongside Kilimanjaro Live’s Stuart Galbraith and ILMC’s Greg Parmley, set about creating the LIVE trade association and putting together a strategy to lobby government ministers about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of professionals that depend on live entertainment for their income.

“I think we achieved an awful lot,” says Bowdery, underplaying the complexity of the task. “I really believe the reduction in VAT was down to us. I believe that the government’s creation of the relief fund was down to us. And there was an awful lot achieved by doing the test events – Melvin Benn’s test events at first, then everybody else elsewhere doing test events to prove that our industry is adaptable, and if people wanted to go to events, then we were more than capable of finding a way of getting them there safely.”

Understandably proud of those achievements, Bowdery says, “The CPA still means an awful lot to me, but LIVE is something that is even better – it gives us that umbrella organisation we’ve always been missing. In saying that, it’s important that we have all the different organisations feeding into LIVE because that will help to keep the balance: particularly with the Production Services Association, which is the production side; with Mark Davyd and the Music Venue Trust; and also the concert halls and the National Arenas Association because that gives you representation from the grassroots to the biggest venues, again keeping the balance with everyone.”

“We all owe [Phil] a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business”

Bowdery’s efforts have not gone unrecognised. “The work he has done with the LIVE group over the last two years has been stellar – a steadying hand during a very rough voyage,” notes Emma Banks, co-head of CAA’s London-based operations. “We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the time and effort that he spends for the good of the business, never looking for any glory for himself.”

DF Concerts chief Geoff Ellis says, “Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has internationally, so it’s been a pleasure to serve on the CPA board with him.

“His work through the pandemic with the CPA and LIVE has helped immeasurably. When I was meeting with all the political parties in Scotland to talk about the insurance problem, Phil took the time to meet with the cabinet secretary responsible for culture to make sure the Scottish government understood the problems of our industry.”

Bowdery himself tips his hat toward the unprecedented collaboration between industry rivals throughout the pandemic, noting that their willingness to work together for the greater good bodes well as the business recovers. “When something like a pandemic happens it just makes you realise how much the strength of coming together makes a difference,” he says. “Information is power, and sharing information with each other has worked really well.”

“Phil is one of the best promoters in the world, and there are very few who command the same respect that he has”

Universal Love
Many of the people that IQ spoke to for this article note Bowdery’s extraordinary communication skills, pointing out his ability to solve problems with ease, as well as the unique relationship he maintains with artists.

Bowdery believes those attributes were picked up through his desire to be in the live music business. “I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic,” he says. “But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road: that taught me life. I had to think on my feet, and when you do that you are communicating.”

Hinting at where he honed his legendary negotiation proficiency, Bowdery recalls a game he’d play with musicians in hotels where the goal was to taste all the whisky behind the bar without paying for a drop. “That was all down to communication and building a relationship with the barman. There was no harm done, but it was all about the ‘gift of the gab’.”

He adds, “I’ve always made sure when I go to a club or theatre or wherever that the person who works on the door genuinely knows that they are as important to me as the guy in the office who is paying the band. Let’s face it, if the door isn’t open, nobody gets in. So I try to ingratiate myself with people and I’m not above communicating with everyone. Everyone is equal.”

Being the long-term manager for Michael Ball, and the agent and tour director for Tom Jones, his approach to dealing with artists is equally simple. “You need to have empathy,” he says. “Without artists, we don’t have jobs. We facilitate them to play to an audience: there is no industry without them.”

“I left school at 15 with no qualifications – I was not academic. But I was streetwise, and my education was being on the road”

Changing Landscape
Examining some of the technological breakthroughs he has witnessed during his distinguished career, Bowdery underlines the power of the Internet as a game changer. “It’s changed completely the whole marketing aspect of what we do,” he observes. “There was a time when it was only the younger artists that benefitted, but now it’s everyone.

“It really hit home with One Direction. Then agent Paul Fitzgerald and managers Richard [Griffiths] and Harry [Magee] tasked us to do the tour without using any print. And we sold out the entire European stadium tour on social media.” Reluctant to identify particular gigs as career highlights, Bowdery nevertheless namechecks certain acts. “Tom Jones, who I love, of course,” he states, while he admits he would have loved to have worked with The Beatles and Elvis Presley, especially as he has heard so many legendary anecdotes from Tom Jones about his Vegas days with Elvis.

He also lauds Live Nation chief Michael Rapino for his role in changing the live music business. “I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with him when he worked in the London office,” Bowdery says. “That’s stood me in good character since because if I need to speak to him – and it’s not something I do that much – he’s always ready to talk. But I think so much of the global growth for the live music business is down to Michael Rapino. His vision is incredible, and he knows what works.”

“If everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever”

The Future
With 85-year-old mentor, Barry Clayman, still going strong as a promoter, Bowdery, likewise, isn’t entertaining any ideas of stepping away. Indeed, if everything pans out as planned in 2022, he’s looking at one of his busiest years ever.

“Obviously, the huge success of Coldplay throughout Europe is just enormous, and Harry Styles has two sold-out Wembley stadiums plus Manchester plus Glasgow,” he notes. We’re actually getting into holding stadium dates for 2024,” he reveals. “It’s obvious that the need and desire of everyone to get back to business – and for fans to catch up on two years without live shows – is alive and well.

“I have Genesis, Crowded House, Sting and Westlife going out as the last artists I’ve had to reschedule. Wembley Stadium with Westlife, for example, should have been in 2020 and is now going to happen in ‘22 – we’ve nearly caught up.”

However, as with many in the industry, Bowdery remains concerned over the pandemic’s impact on the live music supply chain. “Talking to major staging contractors, trucking companies, production services, is worrying,” he reports. “It’s all very well me booking a tour, but if the sound isn’t available or if the stage can’t get there, then the artist won’t be able to perform.”

“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then standing there watching it”

But he’s hopeful that the satisfaction he derives from organising gigs is also felt by others along the length of the supply chain. “There are so many people in our industry that have changed vocation, not out of desire but out of necessity, so we are going to suffer shortages, and that’s why everyone’s working so hard at the moment to try to make sure that they are aligned with their suppliers. But it’s not easy.

“The biggest thrill for me is actually seeing that show that I had the idea for; and then put the deal together, got it on sale, built it; and then standing there watching it. It’s still a rush, and I think lots of people who are involved in working on live music experience the same feelings, so I’m confident that we’ll get some of the people back from the likes of Amazon or whoever they switched their skills toward during the pandemic.”

He adds, “I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best acts in the world, from Streisand to Coldplay to Bruce Springsteen to BTS to Tom Jones. But it’s not one particular artist that I associate that feeling of joy – it’s every single show, be it at a club or a stadium, Dave Gahan at Shepherd’s Bush Empire or BTS or Springsteen at Wembley Stadium – the same effort has gone in, in theory, to actually put that together. Getting that satisfaction is what I love.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 110 of IQ Magazine.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Best of 2022: 60 years of KJK

Ahead of the return of our daily IQ Index newsletter on Tuesday, 3 January, we are revisiting some of our most popular interviews from the last 12 months. Here, we celebrate 60 years of legendary German promoter Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion…

When Karsten Jahnke registered the company name back in 1962, the enthusiastic music man had already been immersed in his favourite genre –jazz – since the decade before but admits that running a company that would allow him to indulge in his passion was never really a goal.

“The first jazz ball I promoted was 1959 for a band of a friend,” he recalls. “Afterwards, I remember receiving a letter from the authorities telling me that I needed a type of licence to put on such a show.”

At the time, Karsten was working in an export company in Hamburg, but with his evenings free, he would organise shows when he found the time and otherwise spent his waking hours listening to jazz records and trying to contact the representatives of the artists he liked best.

Finally, in 1962, his employer persuaded him it was maybe time to chase the dream, and with the registration of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK), he took possession of the licence that local government had been urging him to obtain for his concerts and events.

“When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things, so I made sure to have an expert for the technology,” he tells IQ. “I had a fantastic start because I was working with a German ‘nonsense’ group called Insterburg & Co. and every year we had between 80-150 sold-out shows with capacities of 1,000-2,000. So for ten solid years, we made money.”

““When I started, I had one assistant and one freelancer because I have no knowledge about the technical side of things”

The success of the boutique KJK operation also attracted the attention of Germany’s powerhouse promoters, and Karsten would often find himself working with Marcel Avram and Marek Lieberberg at Mama Concerts, as well as Fritz Rau, who dominated the German market from the 1950s right through to the 80s. Those collaborations saw Karsten working with the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Santana, and Neil Diamond, expanding his roster beyond its jazz routes.

Indeed, while losing money on the odd show was, of course, part of the reality of being a promoter, the first time Karsten experienced real difficulties was 20 years into his career. “It was 1983, and Marius Müller-Westernhagen cancelled a tour one day before it was scheduled to start,” says Karsten.

“I was insured by an English company who said they would pay, but all of a sudden it was six months later, so I employed an English lawyer, and after 18 months we got the money, which at that time was DM650,000. It was a lot of money [about €330,000 in today’s money], and if we had not got it back, the company would have been bankrupt.”

While a passion for the art lies at the heart of everything Karsten does, he is a realist when it comes to working in the industry. “I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money,” he states. “We had a lot of successful tours and, okay, sometimes you lose some artists – Depeche Mode we lost, Herbert Grönemeyer we lost. But some, like The Dubliners, we’ve booked for their entire 40 years. And we still have Peter Gabriel and we still have The Cure, so to be honest, I’m really happy.”

I like music, but it makes no sense if you like the music and you can’t make money”

Keeping it in the Family
Although Karsten was always keen to keep his eponymous company within the family, sons Torsten and Heiko found careers elsewhere, albeit Torsten still designs many of the company posters and artwork, while Heiko curates ÜBERJAZZ Festival and works with the company’s booking team on certain acts. Instead, the family business skipped a generation, with grandson Ben Mitha assuming the CEO role in 2014 alongside his grandfather and long-time chief Hauke Tedsen as the company’s three general managers. But it wasn’t always a certainty that Ben would take over the reins.

“During my school days, there was always this soft push and wish of Karsten to get somehow involved in the company,” he reveals. “But I kept my options open to do something different. So when I finished my A levels, it was a choice for me to either go into sports journalism or go Karsten’s way.”

The decision was made during an open house visit to Hamburg University. “Part of the programme was a journalism lecture,” says Ben. “There were, like, 2,000 people in there and about 2,000 more trying to get in. So I realised, no matter how good I think I am, pursuing a career as a journalist would be challenging. So I made the decision to go into music business and never regretted it.”

Keen to learn his trade, Ben found a role as an intern for Ted Kurland in Boston, while embarking on dual studies for both a bachelor degree and a merchant degree. “After three years, I had both degrees, and then I just started working my way through at KJK, starting as a booker and working my way up to managing director as I assumed more and more responsibilities.”

“We are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre”

“Of course, he started really when he was three years old in the StadtPark during the summer,” interjects Karsten. “Little Ben was always around, and he loved it.”

“It’s true,” says Ben. “My mom did the box office at Stadtpark, so I was always hanging around and playing in the bushes and stuff like that. So I suppose I got the experience from very early on.”

Karsten describes Ben’s path to the top as natural. “As a school pupil, he started to work at the company during his holidays. And after his A Levels, he started his own company, Digga Events, a full-service agency for security and stage personnel that now also handles concert production. So when he decided to join our company, it seemed like a very logical next step, and I was really happy to have a family member on board to have him leading the company into the future.”

And Ben’s impact on KJK’s activities over the past decade has been obvious. “When I started at the company, I started to open up the general roster in a more diverse and wider way,” he explains. “So we are now in a position where we pretty much have a specialist or a booker with knowledge of pretty much every genre except the classical market and German folklore (schlager) business, which we don’t cover.

“The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him”

“While Karsten loves jazz, I originally come from the hip-hop and urban world,” he adds. “There are a few names I’m working with now, like Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, J. Cole, who definitely are some heroes from my teenager years. It makes me proud to be a small, tiny part of their art.”

That passion for music is something passed down the generations, and Ben is in no doubt about the legacy his grandfather has created for the family.

“Karsten’s 70th birthday was a big party at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg with 1,200 guests,” recalls Ben. “It was remarkable how many domestic and international stars showed up – Paul Weller, The Dubliners, Nils Landgren, Til Brönner, Herman van Veen, Justin Nozuka – as well as loads of politicians and celebrities. It was really impressive to see how many people travelled to Hamburg just to honour this guy.”

And he says his first trips to the Royal Garden Hotel similarly underlined his grandfather’s status in his eyes. “The first ILMCs I joined Karsten at, I could see that everybody knew him, everybody liked him, everybody respected him and wanted to speak to him. Seeing his standing on the international stage showed me how well respected Karsten is throughout the business.”

“[Karsten] taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes”

So with such a sage to learn from, what has the grandfather’s best advice been to the new company leader? “He taught me that life is too short to deal with assholes,” says Ben. “Besides that, I try to follow his style and manner of doing business. We have a saying in Germany that he is a typical Hanseatic businessman, which means he is always laid back, calm, loyal, trustworthy and respectful. That’s something he showed me from the very beginning, and I try to keep that spirit alive. Your word is your bond.”

Covid
Marking the company’s 60th anniversary while the German market is still trying to manoeuvre its way out of Covid restrictions will undoubtedly put a dampener on celebrations, but it hasn’t stopped the KJK staff from working tirelessly to prepare for their return to action.

“During the last two years, there was a strong focus on local and domestic artists because those were the only ones available and the only ones present in Germany,” Ben observes. However, he pours scorn on suggestions that emerging domestic talent has benefitted.

“Germany only had a few newcomers that came through, because the only thing they could do was streaming or some social media stuff. Otherwise, there was a huge lack of options and possibilities for the newcomers to come through,” notes Ben. “Obviously, the more popular and well-known domestic artists had a platform because all the attention was focused on them. But everything that comes after them struggled during the last two years. So I wouldn’t say that the domestic scene has experienced much growth.”

“Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place”

Examining the changes to the German market during the pandemic, Ben notes the arrival of both DreamHaus and All Artists Agency, but he believes the new sense of camaraderie within the country is also boosted by the very unique nature of the way in which the live music business operates in the nation.

“As it stands right now, we are all very cooperative and there’s a spirit of solidarity, but once you open the gates and the normal competition comes back in, this will be shifted to the side pretty quickly,” he laughs.

He continues, “Germany is one of the very few countries that still has so many local promoters in place. Everywhere else is more centralised and the big players can easily take over a whole country by storm. It doesn’t work that way in Germany because of our historic background and also from the cultural differences within the country – the people from Bavaria are very different than we are in the north; the people in Eastern Germany are very different than the Western people, and stuff like that.”

Nonetheless, KJK is not immune from attracting suitors, and the pandemic has seen a number of approaches from corporations keen to add the Hamburg-based experts to their portfolio.
“We had some offers, but I was not interested,” Karsten tells IQ. “I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”

“I want us to remain independent, and with such a young guy by my side, I can be happy.”

Ben says, “Yes, a couple of bigger corporates approached us. Corona has been hard for all of us, but the company came through pretty well because we had good years before the pandemic, and we had lots of money saved that we could use to get us through this crisis.

“If we were to sell the company, it would be because the deal would bring us certain benefits: maybe access to another pool of artists that we couldn’t get access to without being part of a corporate, or maybe synergies in the label world. But so far, everybody who approached us just wanted to give us a ton of money for 50% of our annual revenues. And that’s not interesting for us at all because we don’t need to sell anything or to generate money.”

Talking through KJK’s Covid experience, both Karsten and Ben emphasise the strength in remaining independent, as they managed to retain all 46 staff and used government furlough schemes to keep staff on full pay when they were not otherwise working normal hours.

Detailing some of the company activity during 2020-21, Ben says, “We started with drive-in concerts, and then we took on seated shows at the Stadtpark with a very reduced audience – only playing one-quarter of the overall capacity. We also did a streaming series, and we came back in summer 21 with a whole bunch of open- air social distance concepts.

Loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career

“None of the shows made us any money, but they helped to keep us busy and to keep the whole infrastructure around us alive with all the suppliers, the crews, the bands, and the artists. This was one of our main concerns, as we saw it as our responsibility to keep our suppliers and the people we need open, ahead of things getting back to normal, otherwise we might have a huge lack of suppliers. So, that was our main intention for our pandemic shows.”

That loyalty toward employees is one of the reasons that many staff remain at the company for their entire career. “I started on first of April 1994, which makes it 28 years and counting,” says Frehn Hawel, the company’s head of communications, noting, “I’m not the only person clocking in around 30 years – there’s our third general manager, Hauke Tedsen, there’s Peter Gramsch head of our local department, and in my team I have Kai Friedrichsen who has also been here around 30 years. We have a long history of people who dedicate their lives to this company.”

And Hawel epitomises the family feel to KJK, having worked his way up through the ranks organically. “I was friends at school with Karsten’s youngest son, and when we moved into our first bachelor pad together, Karsten’s wife, Girlie, offered us some box office jobs to boost our income,” says Hawel. “My job during the day ended at five o’clock in the afternoon. So it was perfect to go to Karsten’s office, pick up everything and start in the box office at seven o’clock.”

Determined to find a full-time job with Karsten, Hawel even spent his holiday time doing an internship in the booking department at KJK. And it paid off when in 1994 a vacancy arose. “Unfortunately, it was not as a booker, but as a bookkeeper. But it got my foot in the door, and a couple of years later our press team left to join BMG’s record labels and, after a bit of persuasion, Karsten trusted me to step into the job. He just said ‘I think you’re my new press guy then.’ And that was that.”

“Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost”

With the company now around triple the size it was in the mid-90s, Hawel oversees a team of five people, all of whom are being moulded in the KJK tradition. “Karsten is an artist man, first and foremost,” states Hawel. “Ben is similar but he has a laser focus on the business side of things, too – they kind of feed off each other in terms of that Ben comes from an economic point of view. A company that’s only looking at figures will not have the connections to the artists that we have with our artists, so it works very well and the transition has been smooth.

“I know it was a relief for Karsten when Ben joined the company because Ben has a strong entrepreneurial side that allows him to see opportunities and then do the research to make sure they will be a success. The good thing from an employee’s point of view is we know the leaders will steer the ship, and we can trust them totally, and that’s been underlined by this pandemic – thanks to their leadership we’re emerging even more closely knit than we were before.”

Reeperbahn Festival
That concept of considering the needs of the industry is a Jahnke family trait. The company is a partner in the massively successful Reeperbahn Festival, with Karsten being one of the event’s founders.

“I met Karsten for the first time in 2004, when the company [had] already existed for more than 40 years,” Alex Schulz, managing director of Reeperbahn Festival, tells IQ. “I was searching for a professional promoter for my idea for Reeperbahn Festival because it was quite clear that we could not establish this event with only my company, which had absolutely no experience in artist booking, etc.

“It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music”

“The option to establish a platform for new talents and established acts that Karsten personally liked – no, loved – was definitely one of the driving forces. And from the first edition of Reeperbahn Festival in 2006 until now, Karsten is present at as many programme events as possible, from midday until midnight, four days in a row. Every year, about one week before the event starts, Karsten will call me in order to ask me to send a list of recommendations for both the conference sessions as well as concerts.”

Karsten states, “It wasn’t a new idea, but the Reeperbahn in Hamburg is the absolute right place to present new music. And now the conference is getting very big, alongside maybe the biggest showcase festival in Europe. The first idea was to present unknown bands, but now it’s an international festival and I think we’ve developed it well.”

Schulz believes that Inferno Events’ partnership with Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion has been crucial to the success of Reeperbahn, while the close relationship between the operations involves many of KJK’s staff working directly on the event. “Petra, Alina, Anja, Jessica, Frehn, Karen and Stefan are just a few of the people in the team that we share our daily business with,” he says.

“About ten years ago, Karsten introduced me to Ben, and I appreciate his point of view and advice very much, especially since we have been working closer together for the last two years.”

For his part, Ben comments, “At the beginning, we had the wrong strategy [for Reeperbahn], so we lost a ton of money because we just had too many venues and too many unknown bands involved. We thought about bringing bigger acts to smaller venues and charging specific venue tickets or day tickets to make up the finances, but that wasn’t the case, so we made big losses and that forced us to adapt the concept.”

“No matter how efficient and how successful we are, [Reeperbahn] would not be possible without the gov funding we receive”

Expanding the remit of the event to appeal to an international audience was part of the solution. “In the end, this is the success of Reeperbahn – it’s now a global brand,” says Ben. “People from abroad know that if you want to take your first steps in Europe, you can do it via Reeperbahn because you have everything in one place.

“But no matter how efficient and how successful we are, the festival and conference would not be possible without the government funding we receive, as the capacity is just too small to generate enough income to cover the costs on our own. But thankfully, this is recognised by the German government and the city of Hamburg who provide funding.”

The Future
While KJK’s principals carefully plot the company’s path out of the pandemic, its independent style already has it a step ahead of some of its peers in Germany. A number of promoters in Germany participated in the nation’s voucher scheme when the pandemic first hit the events calendar, but KJK opted out.

“I think it was mainly a tool for people who had cashflow problems,” says Ben. “So we decided not to participate, and I’m now hearing a lot of partners are facing huge problems because the scheme ran out at the end of last year but people now want refunds of their vouchers.”

“We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose”

Smooth Transition
The passing of the leadership baton to his grandson gives Karsten satisfaction on a number of levels. “Ben is now doing all the great shows that I promoted before. And that leaves me to do my favourite music: jazz,” says Karsten, who has created a genre-specific series called JazzNights. “In this series, I work with live venues like the Elbphilharmonie or the Old Opera in Frankfurt or the Philharmonic in Cologne, all the concert halls and so on. And musicians and audiences like these venues, so it’s been a great success.”

He adds, “When I was young, jazz was the most important music in Germany, in the 50s. Rock came in the early 60s, but the 50s was all about jazz. And for me, it’s the most interesting music. To be honest, it’s a privilege to promote music that you like, and even better if you don’t lose money.”

Not losing money is a bit of a family mantra. “Live Nation or AEG can easily say, ‘Okay, we might lose money in Germany, but that’s not a problem because we can cross-finance the tour with the UK leg or US or something like that,’” opines Ben.

“From our point of view, we only have this one market in which we can compete, so we have to be more thoughtful and careful about the offers because if we lose money, it’s not shareholder money, it’s our own money. And we don’t want to get in the situation where we can’t pay our wages or Karsten has to sell his house.”

But Ben also sees that process as an advantage. “We are more hands-on simply because it’s our own money that we might lose. So we put harder work into projects to make them a success.”

As for company expansion, Ben believes that “smart growth” is the way forward.

“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now”

“We’re quite happy with the independent position we have in the market right now, and we also get a lot of trust and respect from our clients and the managers we work with because they like our hands-on approach.

“But at the same time, we look left and right. So, for example, we just took over the Baltic Soul Weekender, which is a huge soul-, r&b-, 60s-, Mo- town-related event, which perfectly fits our company’s strategy and our company brands. It’s a smart acquisition that totally makes sense.

“We also launched a new company called KJ Projects, which is currently running a 4,000-capacity tent venue in Hamburg because there’s a huge lack of venues of this size in the city. This is another smart approach for us to grow the brand. And we’re talking to a couple of venues and a couple of smaller boutique festivals that might fit our brands and be good add-ons.

“This is more or less our strategy: we’re always pretty niche with most of our core business, so we want to stay in that niche and look left and right to identify other niches that could make sense for us.”

And with Karsten able to devote more of his time to jazz, he’s more than happy to leave the future in Ben’s safe hands. “I happened to develop real friendships with many artists over the years, especially with Herbie Hancock, but also Branford Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Herman van Veen, and, of course, John Sheahan of The Dubliners,” says Karsten. “I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve always worked with artists whose music I really like – it can’t get much better than that in this business.”

This article originally appeared in Issue 109 of IQ Magazine.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The New Bosses 2022: Vegard Storaas, Live Nation Norway

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Stella Scocco, club and entertainment manager of Södra Teatern in Sweden. The series continues with Vegard Storaas, promoter at Live Nation Norway.

Storaas started booking student festivals as well as being an agent for up-and-coming artists while in college. After college, he secured a job at Music Norway, an export office that helps Norwegian artists in international markets. In 2016, he joined Live Nation where he spent the first three years in a team with Martin Nielsen before becoming a promoter in 2019.

As a promoter, Storaas has worked on building the company’s portfolio of urban and regional festivals. One of the highlights has been NEON festival, a pop festival that started in 2022 that sold 18,000 tickets for each day.

From the very beginning at Live Nation, Storaas has looked to identify opportunities with unfulfilled potential in the market. One of these is country music, which is growing internationally and which punches above its weight in Norway. After two years of rescheduling, Storaas finally got to promote two arena shows for American country singer and songwriter Brad Paisley this summer, which sold 20,000 tickets.

 


At college, you were booking festivals as well as representing emerging talent. How did you learn those skills and who did you turn to for advice?
The short answer is I didn’t. It was learning by doing all the way. I picked up a few things from former students and the Internet (surprisingly there is a lot to learn from interviews and articles) and went with my gut. It felt a bit like steering a rollercoaster built by non-graduated students.

I had a teacher at university that I turned to for advice. He used to work in the industry as a promoter and manager so he knew a lot. He was good at pointing me in the right direction when I was in deep water, which by my (and probably his) recollection, was pretty often.

You worked at Music Norway for a while. Are there any areas where you think the commercial live music industry could work better with export offices?
Export offices like Music Norway use a lot of resources to help the industry build networks in the main export markets. That is crucial for success. Meanwhile, there are several commercial companies like Live Nation and FKP Scorpio that have offices across Europe and North America and close working relationship with colleagues in the most important markets.

Let’s say a major label and a global promoter in a small market such as Norway made a coordinated push on an emerging talent through its respective systems. If it happened simultaneously, I think chances are that this artist would break the surface and have something good to build on. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I think there are some unfulfilled synergies that haven’t been really exploited in that space.

“We had a whole pandemic to come up with the plan [for Neon festival], now we have to prove we can stay”

Launching a pop festival like NEON in an uncertain marketplace was a risk. Just what made the event such a success?
Several factors I’d say. We had the festival on the first weekend of June, the same day as the last exam for students (Trondheim – where NEON takes place – is the most popular city in Norway for students). It effectively became the event that kicked off the summer. Our line-up was made up of only domestic talent, which was deliberate. With quarantine and different Covid rules in every country when we launched, our thinking was that it would feel safer buying tickets for domestic artists.

By on-sale, it had been over two years since the domestic artists that normally sell lots of tickets had played restriction-free shows. Naturally, there was extra demand in the market and this I think accumulated in NEON, being first out. Also worth mentioning is Karpe, our main headliner, who recently sold 110,000 tickets in Oslo. We had several great urban acts lower on the bill that together with Karpe created a strong package.

2023 will be like a second album; we had a whole pandemic to come up with this plan, now we have to prove we can stay.

Your shows with Brad Paisley prove that there is a strong demand for country music in Norway. Are there any festivals in the pipeline?
Can’t say I haven’t thought about it. There might be a market for it. But there are some challenges, too. Country music doesn’t have the same position in every European market. The interest varies significantly, and historically that has made it difficult to build a festival tour that makes sense for American superstars. The festivals that exist are spread out in period, size, and profile; some are domestic talent-leaning, others focus on Americana etc.

Many big country artists come to Europe to build a broader audience and want to play contemporary festivals rather than traditional country music festivals. So, even if there is a country festival, a wish-list headliner might want to do Glastonbury instead. Taking all this into account, country in Europe is not the easiest, but let’s see what the future holds.

“The live industry in Norway is a lot more than Oslo and new talent”

And what about other musical genres – are you looking at other gaps in the market for shows?
There is a running joke in the office that I have music taste as if I were in my late 60s. I laugh but it’s a bit true. Many of the artists I discovered while searching through my father’s record collection in my youth fascinate me as a promoter. First and foremost because it’s good music and great musicians but also because there is a market for these artists. Fans are loyal and have got purchasing power. The live industry in Norway is a lot more than Oslo and new talent, and while we remind ourselves of that, I think some of these legacy artists are left behind.

It’s been impossible to navigate this space without help from my very good colleagues, Rune Lem and Martin Nielsen, that I learn something from every day. If I could be half the promoter that they are, I would be happy with my career.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
Free the music industry from TikTok! It’s a good question. The truth is that it’s probably several things that should be changed to make it a better place. Our peak season just passed, and there is no doubt that everybody has been working full speed this summer. We have been out of practice, which has required extra time and energy on the same tasks. It hasn’t come without a cost. I see many [people] are worn out and tired after these months.

During Covid our industry paused and many people started reflecting on their jobs. Some realised that they had been in a hamster wheel for too long, so they quit. The lifestyle wasn’t healthy. If the industry doesn’t create systems to avoid constant overload, where it’s not just about keeping your head above water, I’m afraid more good people with great skills will quit, too. Professional and highly qualified workers are key to any success. I think we all have seen recent examples from this summer where lack of experience led to disadvantages. We could learn from other workplaces and look at how more institutionalised industries do it. It’s crucial that we take care of our own.

“We could learn from other workplaces and look at how more institutionalised industries do it”

Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
Pre-pandemic I travelled to the UK three or four times a year to meet agents, managers, and colleagues. For me, as a new promoter, these tours were very fruitful, and equally challenging when they suddenly stopped. Only rescheduling what was already in the pipeline didn’t help with the development [of relationships].

Now that we are back to normal, I am continuing where I left off pre-Covid as these relationships are super important. As a promoter, it’s about making the agents trust me as the right guy for their artist. But I don’t think the relationships between us have changed that much. It’s similar to how it’s always been: dealing, wheeling, beers, billing. That said, during the crisis, there was a rare feeling of companionship between agents and promoters, as we were all in it together. It would be fantastic if that kept going.

What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Norway?
Norway is twice the length of the UK but has only half the population of London. We slide in at number 215 on population density and stand three metres away from each other while waiting for the bus. We love our freezing cabins with no plumbing and our dry humour. I guess we can be seen as a bit cold in the beginning. It takes time. It’s in our DNA. But once we warm to people, become friends and fans and you capture our hearts, there is a whole lot of love to give. Keep that in mind for next time. It’s not you, it’s us!

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The New Bosses 2022: Resi Scheuermann, Konzertbüro Schoneberg

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Maciej Korczak, co-founder at Follow The Step in Poland. The series continues with Resi Scheuermann, promoter and organiser at Konzertbüro Schoneberg in Germany.

Born and raised in the countryside near Würzburg in Bavaria, Scheuermann spent her youth either in dance studios and concert halls/clubs, or reading everywhere possible. After school, she spent one year in Australia and New Zealand, working as an au pair, learning English and travelling.

Back in Germany, she moved to Berlin and studied literature and cultural studies with a focus on cultural management and marketing and – more importantly – got to know the Berlin nightlife of live music.

After graduating she undertook some internships and helped electronic music collective O Mato to organise a festival in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as some parties in Berlin. She then landed a marketing and communications job at Konzertbüro Schoneberg but quickly moved back to her strengths of booking and organising concerts, thus kickstarting her promoter career.

Today, she leads Konzertbüro Schoneberg’s Berlin office where she promotes her own growing roster, booking tours for Germany and organising most of Konzertbüro Schoneberg’s shows at all capacities in Berlin.

Scheuermann is also a co-founder of the feminist association fæmm, which aims to bring more female power and support to the male-dominated music business.

 


Did you deliberately go to Australia to improve your English, knowing that you wanted to work in the music business, or was that just a happy coincidence?
Mainly I went to Australia to experience new adventures (and improve my English). In Australia, I was surrounded by so many musicians and singer-songwriters, as the country has such a big and great (street) music culture. This experience had a big influence on me: it made me listen to new kinds of music and I got interested in new genres. But to be honest, I didn’t know yet that I would be part of the music scene in my future, but this trip definitely shaped the idea.

Fæmm sounds like a fantastic initiative. Can you tell us more about it?
In the beginning of 2020, four inspiring women and I, all of us working in the German music business, founded the queer-feministic initiative fæmm. We strive to give FLINTA (female, lesbian, intersex, trans, and agender) persons who work behind, on, and in front of the stage a platform to be seen and heard. We want to create a network for FLINTA persons in the cis-male-dominated music scene. That’s why we offer networking events in cities and during festivals (Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg and c/o Pop in Cologne).

We also have different social media formats such as interviews, we curate playlists, have (party) cooperations, podcasts, and panels (e.g. I spoke at Reeperbahn Festival 2021 at ARTE stage on the panel Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll). We have our own radio show fæmm.fm, a newsletter with FLINTA event tips for Berlin, and an electronic music channel on Soundcloud called “anders.” where FLINTA sets are promoted. We want to create awareness, solidarity, and equity in the music business and help other FLINTAs to get connected.

“I can only be a good promoter if I am 150% into the music and into the artists who I work with”

Can you give us an idea of what acts you already have on your roster and how you have helped develop their careers in Germany?
I only have acts in my roster that I personally really love. I can only be a good promoter if I am 150% into the music and into the artists who I work with. My roster shows my love for different genres: I have some lovely acoustic artists (Ocie Elliott and Penny & Sparrow) as well as some very cool (female-fronted) indie rock/pop/synth acts like Mattiel, and and Jasmyn.

To develop these artists in Germany, I use my growing and very diverse network. As I belong to the “younger” generation, I try to work with them as well as with very experienced colleagues. I also push my artists beyond the mainstream media and try to work with independent (social) media and partners to reach a high range and variety of audience.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
The biggest highlight was when I became a promoter as I [originally] started with marketing at Konzertbüro Schoneberg. Next to my job, I also do some freelance work in my “leisure time” and this year I had the honour of booking the RAW+ Festival in Berlin with my friend and fæmm colleague Marie. We managed to book a very cool and diverse 90% FLINTA line-up, which made us very proud and happy. I also worked for The Rolling Stones show in Berlin as a backstage manager.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
We need equality in all aspects, not only in gender. The entertainment industry is still led by white cis men, but we need to include humans in all positions – not only as interns – with different/all gender, origin, religions, believes and looks, to make the industry equal and safe for everyone.

“We all need to make proactive efforts in our thinking and work to change the gender imbalance”

If you could offer the 18-year-old Resi one piece of advice, what would it be?
You can work in the music business. When I was a teenage girl and went to concerts, I didn’t really know what efforts and work lie behind the shows. I could only see a stage with an artist who I loved to see. I didn’t know how the industry works and that I could be part of it – it seemed like a completely different planet. I could never imagine the variety of jobs behind the stage. That has to change – we need to tell the youth what they can become besides the classic dream jobs like teacher, doctor, or firefighter.

Gender imbalance (mostly at festivals) has been an issue again this year. Are there any proactive efforts that promoters can make to help address these problems?
Yes, it is a question of will, money, and attitude. Give them chances, stages, and believe in them. But not only promoters need to change their attitudes, even the media like [radio stations] and artists themselves do. (FLINTA) artists need to build up their core teams [to be] more diverse. Media needs to give FLINTA and other marginalised groups the opportunity to get heard and seen. We all need to make proactive efforts in our thinking and work to change the gender imbalance.

As a young promoter, are there any particular events or forums that you visit to try to discover the next big act, or where you can grow your network of business contacts?
Yes, I am travelling to several festivals with work and/or [voluntarily] to participate actively in networking events, workshops and to visit lots of concerts. I am also in touch with several other initiatives, associations, and agencies, trying to visit their networking events, showcases, and concerts. I read lots of music blogs and magazines and listen to podcasts, playlists and lots of music on several platforms. And, of course, I use social media.

Berlin has some unique venues. Which one is your favourite and why?
That’s difficult. I think my favourites are Lido, Privatclub, silent green and Tempodrom. They are all very different and very unique and that is exactly the taste of Berlin – you never love one thing – you love the whole package.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The New Bosses 2022: Maciej Korczak, Follow The Step

The 15th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 114 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2022’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous New Bosess 2022 interview with Lewis Wilde, head of music partnerships at DICE. The series continues with Maciej Korczak, co-founder at Follow The Step in Poland.

In 2015, at the age of 23, he opened concert agency called Follow The Step (FTS) with his business partner Marcin Szymanowski. The first concerts organised by the agency included Post Malone, The Internet, Anderson .Paak, Mount Kimbie, Rhye, and Autechre.

In 2016, FTS opened a club called Smolna, which quickly became the most popular techno club in Poland, hosting DJ’s such as Tale of Us, Kiasmos, Jeff Mills, Amelie Lens, Dubfire, Charlotte de Witte, Laurent Garnier, Miss Kittin, Sam Paganini, Fatboy Slim, and many more.

Nowadays, FTS owns two music venues – Smolna and Praga Centrum – and seven festivals (World Wide Warsaw, Made in WWA, Summer Contrast, FEST Festival, On Air Festival, and Undercity). Artists such as Jorja Smith, Tame Impala, Jamie XX, The Chainsmokers, and Stromae have headlined at FTS’s events in 2022.

FTS also organises over 100 international headline shows per year, including Louis Tomlinson, Alan Walker, Avril Lavigne, Melody Gardot, Hardwell, Robert Glasper, Boris Brejcha, Rise Against, Denzel Curry, and is constantly growing and developing.

 


Your career, so far, has been pretty remarkable. Tell us a bit about how you managed to book Steve Aoki and Kygo while you were still a teenager?
Determination is the key! At the age of 19, I’d already organised plenty of high-school events. I’ve booked overseas electronic artists for them like cyberpunkers or Tiga. My goal back then was to work for one of the most popular venues in Warsaw at the time, and I was told by the manager of the venue that in order to do that I have to bring them a big overseas act, so that’s what I did – three weeks later, we’d done the Steve Aoki show thanks to my booking, and it was a sold-out event.

“We decided to open a techno club there called Smolna…we like to call it a Polish Berghain”

There were already some big promoters in Poland when you launched Follow The Step. What was your strategy to make the business a success?
Passion! The whole Follow The Step team honestly love what we’re doing and we are always hungry for more. Our company doesn’t have a certain strategy, we’re just simply doing the best we can, and we’re always up for new challenges.

Follow The Step was officially launched in 2017 as a booking agency for international DJs for Polish venues and clubs. From the very start, I wanted to focus on the booking, so I was lucky that I met co-owner of the company – Marcin Szymanowski – who is focusing on the business side of our company.

At first, we wanted to book club nights and then we became interested in small gigs. After a while, we started looking for a place for our office and this way we’ve found a dumpy basement in the centre of Warsaw, which we restored and [then] decided to open a techno club there called Smolna. We like to call it a Polish Berghain, and it was our springboard to establishing a concert agency in Poland, talking to agents, and networking.

Nowadays, being at IFF [the International Festival Forum] I’m talking to agents about artists that could easily fill up Polish arenas but also we’re entering new markets like Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

“I’d make [the industry] more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on”

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
It was definitely organising a charity concert to support Ukraine when the war started, together with television station TVN, in less than two weeks. We sold out the show for 10,000 people and raised over $2m (€2m).

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I’d make it more gender balanced as I think it’s still something that the industry must work on. That’s why in Follow The Step most of the employees are women, and we very much believe that they can work within every sector of music industry from production and sponsoring to media and marketing.

For a young company, the pandemic must have been tough. Can you tell us a bit about your Covid experience?
It was a tough time for sure and full of uncertainty about what was going to happen next, but we’ve used this time the best way we could. We were doing everything we could to maintain the company, and our main goal was not to fire a single person as our employees are the most important to us; we know that we can’t do anything without our team. We were lucky that we got support from our government, so it also allowed us to do that.

We were also the first agency in Poland that managed to do gigs and a festival during Covid and managed to give people some entertainment in a safe way. We also decided to take a risk and organise FEST Festival for 30,000 vaccinated people, as one of very few festivals in Europe in 2021.

“I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency”

Setting up seven festivals in less than six years is very impressive. What tips would you give to other people who are looking to launch new events?
Try and don’t give up! Also don’t be scared to dream. When I was first starting, I never thought that I’ll end up having seven festivals, headline shows, and events, or over 70 people in our agency. But If you’re passionate enough and [you don’t mind sacrificing] most of your personal life, then it’s definitely something worth trying. But please remember that music and festivals are addictive, so you have to remember your [loved ones] and don’t give all of your time to work, as it’s easy to forget when you’re always hungry for more.

Having a good bond with agents and artist managers is crucial. How did you maintain contact with people during the pandemic, and do you feel that the working relationship between agents and promoters has changed over the past couple of years?
We’ve been in touch with agents and artist managers mainly through Zoom meetings. I think that what has changed during the pandemic is that people in the music industry started to be nicer to each other and actually care how the other person is feeling and checking on each other – I guess this time showed us that we’re all just humans at the end of the day.

“I see Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe”

What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Poland?
That every single person that came to their concert is there for a reason. We have one of the most dedicated music audiences in Poland. And probably the craziest.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see [myself and also] Follow The Step being one of the leading concert agencies in Eastern Europe. I really want us to expand to other markets. It would be perfect to be able to offer artists a whole tour in this part of Europe and not just Poland. This is our goal now!

IQ 114 is available now. To subscribe, and get access to our latest issue and all of our content, click here.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Peter Taylor, Cuffe and Taylor

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) last month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster. 

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with Patrick Janssen, marketing manager at Live Nation GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria).

The series continues with Peter Taylor (he/him/his), founder of Cuffe and Taylor in the UK.

 


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
Taking the Lytham Festival in my hometown in Lancashire from a one-day, 4,000-capacity event to the 2022 festival, which ran over ten days with an overall attendance of 200,000 people. And if I’m allowed another: getting Britney Spears to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre!

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Have courage and determination. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up, and remember to be kind.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Selling my bar contract in the early days at a stupidly low price was a mistake that taught me a lot, very quickly.

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place
Keep educating ourselves and each other. To be honest, having just finished the RuPaul Drag Race UK Tour, I actually learnt a lot myself about gender and how people identify. I also think music and show business have always been good industries for people to feel inclusive and safe.

“Getting Britney Spears to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre was a personal triumph”

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry.
Not specifically, but I’d say there are still undertones of homophobia in our industry and we’re still very white-straight-male dominated. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve experienced this. I have the confidence to call people out these days and I’d like to think we’ve moved on a bit now.

A cause you support
Pride Nation. It’s an initiative across our parent company, Live Nation, to promote inclusivity among our LGBTQ+ colleagues. It’s a good channel for education and learning, plus it supports some amazing organisations.

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
Well… I’d say the Christina Aguilera show I’m promoting in Scarborough this year. She is an iconic LGBTQ+ act, and we’ve just finished our 2022 tour with Lea Salonga – a massive gay icon, not least because she’s a real Disney princess!

Your favourite queer space
In Lytham, where I live, we’re next door to Blackpool, so anyone visiting me always has a trip to Funny Girls! I also went to Wilderness Festival last year and that felt really inclusive and welcoming.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Hatice Arici, Charmenko

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) last month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster. 

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with Georgie Lanfranchi, tour manager/production coordinator at Only Helix in the UK.

The series continues with Hatice Arici (she/her/hers), promoting director/artist agent at Charmenko in Turkey.

 


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I don’t think that I have achieved that point yet but I am working toward it every day. For 15 years, I worked mostly unpaid and unregistered since the independent underground scene is not really a part of the music world in Turkey – luckily it is changing. I believe, in such a world, even existing is a triumph, waking up every morning, breathing, and being stubborn about what you do.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Be persistent, stubborn. Don’t listen to the sound around you or even in your head that tells you that you could not do that. Always believe in your guts and stay calm. It all works out.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Mistakes are the best teachers, and I was so lucky to have many of them. It is really hard to choose, although I would like to believe that I haven’t [made] the best yet. Every day is a new opportunity to make mistakes. Maybe coming out so late might be the only thing that did not help me, but [better late than never].

Mistakes are the best teachers, and I was so lucky to have many of them

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry
This is a male-dominated industry like almost everywhere in the world, but where I am, in Turkey, it’s particularly bad. Our pride events and official marches have been cancelled for years now. Last month, 400 people got arrested just because they wanted to do the pride march. Our existence is being cancelled by the government [on a] daily basis; staying sane is the biggest challenge itself.

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
The next possible pride march and following events without police violence in Turkey.

Your favourite queer space
Şahika, Karga, any place where I don’t feel threatened.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Live Nation UK elevates Maddie Arnold to promoter

Live Nation UK has elevated Maddie Arnold to promoter in its concerts division.

Arnold, who has spent five years with the company working with the likes of J Cole, Machine Gun Kelly, Halsey and Idles, is now responsible for her own growing roster including Ashnikko, Jazmin Bean, Cassyette, Lauren Sanderson, Matt Maltese, Bleach Lab, Caity Baser, Ellie Dixon and Jazmine Flowers.

“Since Maddie joined us she has proved herself to be someone really special,” says Andy Copping, Live Nation UK executive president. “Maddie picked up the promoting side of our business very quickly and it soon became clear that she would become a bona fide promoter in her own right.

“Maddie has fast tracked her way from being an assistant, then an associate promoter to becoming a full-time promoter with consummate ease. Maddie’s knowledge of the business, her connections and aptitude completely set her apart from her contemporaries. I am proud to have Maddie on my team.”

“Having worked in a few areas of the music industry, it was at Live Nation where I finally found my feet”

Arnold has previously held positions at Festival Republic and WME.

“Having worked in a few areas of the music industry, it was at Live Nation where I finally found my feet,” she says. “I soon realised promoting was something I was passionate about, I wanted to learn quickly and was eager to get stuck in.

“The support I’ve had throughout the last five years has been outstanding, constant mentoring, guidance and encouragement from my peers and managers. Although I’ve been building my roster for a few years now, I’m over the moon to now be doing this full time and to continue breaking new and exciting artists.”

Last week, IQ revealed that IME Music owner Ian Evans has joined Live Nation UK, while the company has further bolstered its ranks in the past few months by acquiring London-based music and arts live events company Parallel Lines Promotions.

Stephen Vondy of Liverpool Sound City and I Love Live Events also recently joined the firm as a promoter.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

DEAG sales soar, return to pre-pandemic levels

Deutsche Entertainment (DEAG) has reported a return to form in the first quarter of 2022, with sales returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The Berlin-based live entertainment group generated sales of around €31 million in the first three months of 2022 – up 2,700% from Q1 2021 when operating sales were €1.1m and reported sales were €4m.

Sales in Q1 of this year were even higher than the first quarter of 2018 (€27m) and the first quarter of 2019 (€25.5m).

According to the promoter and ticketing agency, the increase is largely down to a number of events in all of the company’s national markets (Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark).

Notable events for DEAG in Q1 2022 included concerts by Simply Red and Texas in the UK and Bonnie Tyler in Switzerland, the international literature festival lit.COLOGNE, electronic festival “Mayday – 30 Years” in Germany, and Dita von Teese’s burlesque tour in the UK.

In addition, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) in Q1 came to around €2.8m, up from €2.4m in the same period of last year.

“Finally! we can shift into a forward gear operationally once again and do what we burn for: to host exciting events”

For the first time in DEAG’s history, the ticketing segment was profitable in the traditionally weaker first quarter – a growth which is expected to continue throughout the year.

Overall, sales for the financial year of 2022 are expected to multiply year-on-year and significantly exceed pre-corona levels, says the company.

“Finally! Following the paralysis of the entire live entertainment industry caused by corona, we can shift into a forward gear operationally once again and do what we burn for: to host exciting events,” comments Prof. Peter L.H. Schwenkow, CEO of DEAG.

“The audience reactions and our first quarter figures show that we are extremely successful with this. We increased our operating sales by a factor of twenty-eight, a result that we owe entirely to our operational strength.

“Our EBITDA is also clearly positive. The Covid-19-related conditions have since eased further, so we will be burning off event fireworks in the coming quarters. For example, we will stage concerts with stars such as KISS, Ed Sheeran in the UK, Iron Maiden, Zucchero, Die Toten Hosen, Anna Netrebko and Die Ärzte, as well as open-air festivals such as Nature One, Belladrum and Sion sous les étoiles. We are excellently positioned for the restart of the industry. In 2022 as a whole, we will massively increase our sales and even significantly exceed the pre-corona level.”

DEAG says it has already sold more than 6.3 million tickets for events in its core markets for the coming quarters. On the basis of ticket sales and the “bulging event pipeline,” the company expects its upward trajectory to carry on in 2023.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

NZ promoter quits after 30 years due to restrictions

A New Zealand promoter has called it quits after 30 years in the business, blaming the government’s lack of support for the events and entertainment sector.

Phil Sprey, owner of Wellington’s Capital C Concerts, counts Elton John, Alice Cooper and Bon Jovi among his clients but says two years of Covid-19 restrictions has ruined the business he built over 30 years.

He says the “final straw” was the government’s decision yesterday to remain in the red traffic light setting, which limits indoor concerts to 200 people.

“Nobody’s giving clear, long-term answers – and on that basis you can’t do international deals,” Sprey told The Stuff.

“For domestically based promoters it’s becoming nigh on impossible at the moment because you can’t write a contract.”

“We haven’t had an artist in over two years, so I thought, let’s finally pull the plug”

Before the pandemic, Capital C specialised in major stadium-sized concerts. Since Covid-19 hit there had been no bookings to keep the business afloat, and no help from the government, he said.

“We haven’t had an artist in over two years, so I thought, let’s finally pull the plug.

“Instead of passing my business on to my eldest son, I had to make him redundant, unemployed and now can’t even leave him anything more than a memory,” Sprey said.

The long list of shows brought to Wellington by Capital C also includes KISS, Moody Blues, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, Sol3mio, Little River Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Herman’s Hermits and The Searchers.

The government announced last month it was extending the Events Transition Support Payment scheme, which offers a 90% subsidy of unrecoverable costs to events with more than 5,000 people cancelled due to restrictions.

For Sprey, who couldn’t arrange international acts because of the pandemic, there were no bookings in place to claim on.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.