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Schueremans’ Rock Werchter verdict: ‘Music unites’

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans is already turning his attention to the event’s 50th anniversary next year in the wake of a successful 2024 edition.

Belgium’s biggest music festival, which ran from 4-7 June, starred headliners Lenny Kravitz, Måneskin, Dua Lipa and Foo Fighters.

Acts such as Avril Lavigne, Jane’s Addiction, PJ Harvey, The Hives, Black Pumas, Sum 41, Yungblud, Tom Odell, Royal Blood, Pretenders, Idles and Snow Patrol also featured on the bill.

On-site improvements included a brand-new KluB C tent and an upgraded The Barn, with open fronts and new screens mounted on both tents. Tickets for the sold out 88,000-cap rock institution were priced at €309.

“Everything ran smoothly,” Schueremans tells IQ. “We are extremely proud of our team.”

The Live Nation Belgium CEO says extra precautions were put in place in advance of the event due to wet weather in the region over the past few weeks and months.

“We anticipated it already at the end end of May and started putting extra drainage on the festival site and the camping area. We ordered extra steel plates, extra sand and managed to present a top festival site to our audience.”

Fewer parking tickets were available as not all areas of the site were sufficiently dry, prompting organisers to put on extra public transport and additional space for bicycles. As a result, 20,000 bikes were parked per day – a new Rock Werchter record – while a total of 17,000 festivalgoers commuted to Werchter from Leuven and Aarschot railway stations.

“There will be some top talent available [next year] and we are holding options already”

The festival, which attracted 155,000 unique visitors over four days, passed off with no major emergencies, with the Red Cross recording 4,300 medical interventions – well down from previous years, while a mobility review that took place following significant traffic jams at the 2023 event also had the desired effect.

“Significantly fewer traffic disruptions occurred this year,” local mayor Jelle Wouters tells the Brussels Times.

Rock Werchter turns 50 in 2025, when it will return from 3-6 July, having been held every year since 1975 apart from the pandemic-hit 2020. And following complaints of a dearth of headliners affecting the wider European sector across the 2024 calendar, Schueremans says the early signs for next summer are positive.

“The top result of our 2024 Rock Werchter edition indicates we’ll be ready for our 50th edition in 2025,” he says. “There will be some top talent available and we are holding options already.”

Wrapping up, the promoter expresses pride that the overall Belgian festival scene continues to hold its own.

“Belgium has a lot of festivals. They all have their own profile and keep doing wonderfully well,” he says. “Rock Werchter, Graspop Metal Meeting and Pukkelpop sell out.

“Belgium and Belgians have a festival DNA. Smaller countries as Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland are successful in organising festivals that became cultural heritage and part of society. Music unites.”

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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European festivals expand 2024 lineups

Rock en Seine, Rock Werchter, Primavera Porto, NorthSide, Bilbao BBK, Paaspop, Sweden Rock Festival, North Festival, Best Kept Secret and Release Athens are among the European festivals that are taking shape for 2024.

AEG Presents’ Rock en Seine has detailed its 20th-anniversary edition, which coincides with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

Fred again., LCD Soundsystem, Måneskin, Massive Attack, PJ Harvey, The Offspring and The Smile are all set to headline the event, slated for 22–24 August at Domaine National de Saint-Cloud in France’s capital city.

Moonshine, The Hive Jungle, Olivia Dean, Soulwax, The Kills, Inhaler, Blonde Redhead, Róisin Murphy and Zaho De Sagazan are also on the bill for the 40,000-capacity event.

With Rock en Seine taking place just days before the start of the Summer Paralympic Games, the festival will curate a programme titled Cultural Olympiad, alongside four other major cultural festivals (Festival International de la BD d’Angoulême, Festival de Cannes, Festival d’Avignon, and Rencontres photographiques d’Arles).

Rock Werchter has added 11 new names to its 2024 lineup, which already includes headliners Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa and Måneskin

The Cultural Olympiad of Paris 2024 aims to foster dialogue between sports, culture, and Olympic and Paralympic values throughout the territory, according to a release.

Meanwhile, Rock Werchter has added 11 new names to its 2024 lineup, which already includes headliners Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa and Måneskin.

DEUS, Snow Patrol, Yungblud and Sum 41, The Last Dinner Party, Róisín Murphy, Nothing But Thieves, Avril Lavigne and Khruangbin, Michael Kiwanuka and Royal Blood will perform at Belgium’s biggest festival next year.

The Live Nation Belgium-promoted event will return to Festivalpark, Werchter, between 4–7 July 2024.

Primavera Sound Porto has also unveiled the poster for its 2024 edition, a week after announcing the Barcelona instalment.

Lana del Rey and SZA top a female-dominated bill, as Primavera continues to pave the way for gender-balanced festival lineups

Lana del Rey and SZA top a female-dominated bill, as Primavera continues to pave the way for gender-balanced festival lineups.

Mitski, PJ Harvey, Kim Petras, Pulp, The National, Justice, Ethical Cain and This Is The Kit are also among the 48 names due to perform at the 11th edition, scheduled for 6–8 June 2024 at Parque da Cidade, Porto.

Elsewhere in Portugal, the organisers of North Festival announced that next year it will move from Alfândega do Porto to Parque de Serralves, taking place on the 24–26 May.

Keane are the first name announced for the 2024 edition, returning to the country on the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough debut album, Hopes and Fears, which includes ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and ‘Everybody’s Changing’.

“Serralves, due to the quality of the infrastructure, large spaces and excellent location – a premium space in the heart of Invicta – is a natural choice for a festival that is also premium,” says Jorge Veloso, director of the promoter Vibes & Beats, “We feel that this is a change that will allow us to raise the quality of the experience offered to our audience.”

The organisers of North Festival announced that next year it will move from Alfândega do Porto to Parque de Serralves

In Denmark, NorthSide festival has unveiled the first 12 names for next year’s instalment, including Massive Attack, Troye Sivan, Unkendt Kunstner, Coi Leray and Kaytranada.

Kaizers Orchestra, Amyl & The Sniffers, Shame, Barselona, August Høyen, VETO, 070 Shake will also appear at the Down The Drain-promoted event, set for Eskelunden in Aarhus from 6–8 June 2024.

Live Nation’s Sweden Rock has added 18 names to the 2024 poster, after previously confirming Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Parkway Drive, Avantasia, Bruce Dickinson and Electric Callboy.

Joining those acts are Five Finger Death Punch, Rival Sons, Steel Panther, Graveyard, Beast In Black, Gloryhammer, Thy Art Is Murder and Ice Nine Kills.

Primal Fear, High On Fire, Richie Kotzen, Riverside, The Baboon Show, Mystic Prophecy, Dewolff, Vicious Rumors, Kebnekajse and Prins Svart will also appear at the Sölvesborg event between 5–8 June 2024.

Best Kept Secret is this year introducing New Generation tickets, offering those aged 21 or younger a 30% discount on a weekend ticket

Massive Attack are also set to headline Bilbao BBK, slated for 11–13 July 2024 in Kobetamendi, Bilbao, Spain.

The Prodigy, Massive Attack, Jungle, Overmono, Ezra Collective, Floating Points live, Underworld, Noname, JPEGMAFIA, Jordan Rakei, Death From Above 1979 and Parcels are also on the lineup for the Last Tour-promoted event.

In the Netherlands, the 2024 lineups for Paaspop and Best Kept Secret are taking shape.

The former has announced acts including Editors, Tom Grennan, Tiësto, Die Antwoord, August Burns Red for the 29–31 March event in Schijndel, North Brabant.

Best Kept Secret has announced the first 63 names for its 10th edition. Disclosure, Justice and PJ Harvey, among others, will come to the Beekse Bergen during the weekend of 7–9 June 2024.

Promoters Friendly Fire is this year introducing New Generation tickets, offering those aged 21 or younger a 30% discount on a weekend ticket.

Elsewhere, Greece’s Release Athens has secured 2024 concerts with Pulp, Massive Attack, The Smile, Judas Priest and Bruce Dickinson at Water Plaza across June and July.

 


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Dua Lipa confirms first live shows since 2022

Dua Lipa has announced her first live shows since 2022, with two European festival slots confirmed for next summer.

The multi Grammy and BRIT Award-winning singer will headline Belgium’s Rock Werchter on Saturday 6 July, and is the first artist to be confirmed for Portugal’s NOS Alive, where she will star on the main stage on Friday July 12.

The 28-year-old, who released her new single Houdini at the end of last week as the lead track from her forthcoming third album, generated $89,302,575 from her 71-date Future Nostalgia Tour last year. Future Nostalgia was ranked the 18th highest-grossing tour of 2022, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Lipa has also been strongly tipped to headline next year’s Glastonbury festival

Lipa joins Foo Fighters on the bill at Rock Werchter 2024, which will take place at the Festivalpark in Werchter from 4-7 July. Tickets go on sale on 1 December.

Tickets for NOS Alive, meanwhile, which runs from 11-13 July at Passeio Marítimo de Algés, near Lisbon, are already on sale. Single-day tickets cost €84.53, with a two-day pass costing €169.06 and three-day passes available at €203.30.

Lipa has also been strongly tipped to headline next year’s Glastonbury festival, although co-organiser recently dismissed rumours that Lipa, Coldplay and Madonna were all booked to play the 2024 event as “untrue”.

 


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2024 lineups stack up: Lolla, Roskilde and more

Next year’s festival lineups are already beginning to take shape, with artist announcements from events including Lollapalooza, Roskilde, Download, Rock Werchter, Latitude, Nova Rock, Innings Festival, Welcome to Rockville and Hellfest.

Lollapalooza this week confirmed the lineups for its Chile, Argentina and Brazil editions, scheduled for next March.

Headliners include Blink-182, SZA, Paramore (Brazil only), Feid (Chile/Argentina only), Sam Smith, Arcade Fire and Limp Bizkit.

Hozier, The Offspring, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Diplo, Above & Beyond, Dom Dolla, Phoenix, ZHU, Rina Sawayama, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Omar Apollo are also on the lineups.

The Chile and Argentina editions take place on 15-17 March at Parque Bicentenario de Cerrillos and at Hippodromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, respectively. Lollapalooza Brazil takes place 22-24 March at Autódromo de Interlagos in São Paulo.

Lolla South America headliners include Blink-182, SZA, Paramore, Feid, Sam Smith, Arcade Fire and Limp Bizkit

Lollapalooza in South America is produced by Perry Farrell, C3 Presents, Lotus Producciones (Chile), DF Entertainment (Argentina), and Rock World (Brazil).

The 2024 edition of Lollapalooza Brazil is the first to be managed by C3 Presents and Rock World (the company behind Rock in Rio) – both of which are majority-owned by Live Nation – it was announced in April.

Prior to that, Lolla Brazil was produced and promoted by South America’s leading live entertainment company T4F (Time For Fun) for 10 years.

Across the Atlantic, Denmark’s Roskilde festival has revealed 17 of 180 acts for next year’s instalment.

Foo Fighters, PJ Harvey, Kali Uchis, Blondshell, Romy and Gilli are among the acts set for the event, taking place between 29 June and 6 July 2024.

“I don’t mind admitting, this year for 2024 we approached 21 different headliners for Download… it’s been probably the hardest year”

Foo Fighters will also be headlining Belgium’s Rock Werchter, scheduled for 4–7 July at Festivalpark in Werchter.

Meanwhile, Download has announced more than 80 acts for its 21st edition, the follow-up to its fastest-selling edition in the event’s history.

Britain’s biggest heavy metal festival will be headlined by Queens Of The Stone Age, Avenged Sevenfold and Fall Out Boy in 2024.

Slipknot legend Corey Taylor, Pantera, Machine Head, The Offspring, Sum 41 and Royal Blood.

Download boss Andy Copping told Planet Rock that his booking team had found it “really tough” locking in these artists compared to previous years.

Live Nation’s Innings Festival will next year spawn a second weekend, dubbed Extra Innings

“I don’t mind admitting, this year for 2024 we approached 21 different headliners for Download,” he said. “It’s been probably the hardest year – I’ve said that in previous years before when it’s been hard to put the bill together – but this year has been particularly hard.”

Elsewhere in Live Nation’s portfolio, Latitude (UK) has secured Duran Duran a headliner for the 2024 offering, taking place in Suffolk’s Henham Park between 25–28 July, and Innings Festival (US) will return for a sixth edition next February with headliners by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hozier.

The Arizona event will next year spawn a second weekend, dubbed Extra Innings, headlined by Chris Stapleton and Dave Matthews band.

The doubleheader weekends combine live music with Major League Baseball greats and interactive baseball-themed activations. Both take place from Tempe Beach Park & Arts Park during the Cactus League’s Spring Training.

Austria’s Nova Rock is also taking shape, with Green Day, Avenged Sevenfold, Måneskin and Bring Me The Horizon set to headline.

France’s Hellfest has confirmed Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, The Offspring, Megadeath and more

The event – promoted by Nova Music Entertainment, a part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Musicrecently added a fourth day for 2024.

The 55,000-capacity festival will take place between 13 and 16 June 2024 at its longstanding home of Pannonia Fields in Nickelsdorf, Burgenland.

Billy Talent, Corey Taylor, Jane’s Addiction, Parkway Drive, Pendulum, Machine Head, Avril Lavigne, Alice Cooper, Sum 41 and Baby Metal are among the other acts slated to play Nova Rock 2024.

Elsewhere in the rock and metal festival sphere, France’s Hellfest has confirmed Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, The Offspring, Megadeath, Dropkick Murphys, Royal Blood and Bad Omens among others.

The 17th edition will take place 27–30 June 2024 in Clisson. Four-day passes for the festival are already sold out.

Many of the same artists at Hellfest will also appear at Welcome to Rockville 2024, produced by Danny Wimmer presents.

Foo Fighters, Mötley Crüe, Slipknot, Jelly Roll, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit, Queens of the Stone Age, Judas Priest, Greta Van Fleet, Evanescence, Falling In Reverse, A Day To Remember, Breaking Benjamin and Bad Omens will perform at Daytona International Speedway in Florida on 9-12 May, 2024.

 


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Live Nation Belgium CEO: ‘Demand for festivals high as ever’

Rock Werchter founder and Live Nation Belgium CEO Herman Schueremans says demand for festivals is “as high as ever” as he reports sellouts across the board.

“People want value for money and they get that at our festivals,” says Schueremans, who also has a hand in TW Classic, Werchter Boutique, Graspop Metal Meeting, Dour, Pukkelpop and Core.

Rock Werchter’s recent sell-out is a testament to this. The festival, which took place from 29 June-2 July, shifted 88,000 tickets including 67,000 combi passes (which sold out 16 May) and 20,500 day tickets.

Fans from 106 countries purchased tickets, with the top 10 including Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Ireland, the US and Italy.

But while this year’s edition – which was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, Stormzy and Red Hot Chili Peppers among others – sold out quicker than pre-Covid year 2019, ticket sales took a hit when Belgian artist Stromae dropped out of his Thursday headline slot due to health issues.

“Thursday day tickets sold out a day prior to the festival as it is a weekday and we lost headliner Stromae. The sales slowed down until we announced Mumford & Sons as the replacement, and then they picked up,” he explains.

Schueremans says that finding a strong replacement for Stromae was the biggest challenge with this year’s edition, which took place between 29 June to 2 July in Festivalpark.

Liam Gallagher, Muse, Oscar and the Wolf and Queens of the Stone Age were also part of the eight-strong all-male headlining bill.

“People want value for money and they get that at our festivals”

Reflecting on the success of this year’s edition, Schueremans says he’s particularly proud of the introduction of a new 22,000-capacity barn which is “better in all aspects than a lot of arenas”.

Despite the huge capacity, many acts performing in The Barn – including Warhaus, Charlotte de Witte, Iggy Pop, Ben Howard and Editors – were oversubscribed and improvements had to be made for crowd control.

“To reduce the pressure outside the tent, an entrance structure with staffed crash barriers and gates had to be installed,” says Schueremans. “That ensured entry into the tent was smoother and the crowding outside it was reduced. Also, a second outside screen with a PA was added.”

Elsewhere in Live Nation Belgium’s stable of festivals, TW Classic, Werchter Boutique and Graspop Metal Meeting have all taken place with sell-out crowds, with Schueremans describing the market as “very healthy”.

Alongside its festival season, Live Nation Belgium has concerts lined up with Queens of the Stone Age, The Weeknd, Christine and the Queens, Arlo Park and James Blake.

View Rock Werchter’s 2023 Aftermovie below…

 


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Herman Schueremans: 50 years in the business

Looking back on half a century in the live music business, Herman Schueremans has learned many lessons – a smattering of which you’ll find highlighted in the pages of this special anniversary feature. However, arguably his top lesson is that cycling is not only the best possible way to stay fit – it can save your life.

In 2014, Herman took a regular cycle journey to visit his mother in her residential care home, and on his way back his bike hit a patch of wet leaves and sent him tumbling. “I broke my hip,” he tells IQ. “But it was broken quite nicely – it didn’t move, there was just a fracture through it. But on the scan for my hip, the doctor noticed that my appendix was swollen, so I was told it was best to remove it while I was in hospital.”

During what should have been a routine operation, the surgeon discovered that Herman’s appendix had been leaking and was very slowly poisoning his body. Warned that the leak could lead to cancer, Herman agreed to a procedure where a team of surgeons would meticulously open up and clean his intestines, while removing anything that could not be saved. “They also coated my intestines in platinum, which would kill any infection that they might have missed. It was a big operation – 32 hours in total.”

Despite undergoing such trauma, which would normally result in a patient spending months in hospital to recover, within a week Herman was back at home. “I wanted to be back working on my festivals – the Classic and Rock Werchter,” he states, “I’d lost 15 kilograms, and I had to rest quite a lot, so I was not as active during the festival changeovers, but because I cycled every day, as a 60-year-old man I was pretty fit and healthy, so that definitely helped.”

Consequently, he urges everyone in the live music business to take up cycling. “It’s a great way to forget about our fantastic business and all the responsibilities you have. I would absolutely advise people to cycle because it’s not only healthy, it destresses you. And if you’re with friends, at the end of the bicycle ride you stop at a nice pub and have some lagers.”

Inspired by a documentary on Woodstock, he decided to create a small music festival in the town of Herent

Small Beginnings
As one of the most popular personalities in the live music world, Herman Schueremans’ career is the stuff of legend. Growing up in Belgium in the 1960s and ’70s was a frustrating time for music-loving Herman because although most international tours travelled through the country on their way to and from gigs in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, very few would actually stop in Belgium to perform. Herman would shatter that status quo.

Having toyed with electric guitar, then bass guitar, he conceded his talents were not as a musician, and at the age of 17, he began managing a local band. A year later, inspired by a documentary on Woodstock, he decided to create a small music festival in the town of Herent, a few kilometres from his hometown of Leuven. “I called it ‘The Park Festival,’ because it was in a park,” he laughs. “I booked a few local bands, and 800 people came to the first event.”

However, just weeks later, another youngster – Hedwig De Meyer – staged his new festival a mere eight kilometres away in the village of Werchter. “He also had 800 people,” says Herman. “At the time, I was also writing for a newspaper, and I was the only journalist on Hedwig’s guest list. We met and agreed to work together for the following year, and because there were fewer neighbours in Werchter, we kept that site to minimise the chance of complaints.”

That collaboration led to the first Rock Werchter festival, in 1974, and the partnership thrived, with Hedwig taking care of production logistics, and liaising with the local authorities and the Werchter mayor, while Herman concentrated on booking the artists.

Still living at home, Herman soon started using his talent to promote club gigs, as part of a move to try to fund renting his own apartment. “It wasn’t the usual promoter route because I was a festival promoter before I organised gigs, but I was able to pick up some interesting bands and that’s what kick-started everything.”

“It wasn’t the usual promoter route because I was a festival promoter before I organised gigs”

What that modest comment does not cover is the lengths young Herman would go to in order to fulfil the growing demand from audiences in Belgium to discover new talent. As a result, his ambition and confidence grew, and he would travel to London to try to meet with agents who had never heard of him. Working with a shoestring budget, he would stay in youth hostels and wait for the unsuspecting agents on their office doorsteps first thing in the morning, just to try to get a meeting.

Herman comments, “Some people become a missionary in Africa or whatever. Our mission was to put Belgium on the map and to see acts playing in Belgium and not only passing through from London to Germany to play for the American troops or to play Paris or Hamburg or Berlin.

“The big bands didn’t bother about Belgium in those days, so I started out chasing the smaller ones. That was one of the advantages of being in a small country – if you wanted to be part of the music business, you had to sniff out the new acts.”

Such was Herman’s skill in identifying emerging talent that the local Warner Records operation persuaded him to take a job in its A&R department – an opportunity that he realised could ultimately benefit Rock Werchter. “We were doing promo for Sire acts such as the Ramones and Talking Heads, as well Stiff Records, which was home to the likes of Elvis Costello, and I was able to get those acts to play at the festival,” reports Herman.

His tenure at Warners lasted close to five years and saw him rise through the ranks to head the local A&R and promo departments. But with the festival and his other promoting efforts dominating more and more time, he was given an ultimatum by his managing director. “So, I left Warners, aged 26, to finally become a full-time promoter. It was a very easy decision. Basically, my hobby became my job. And I’ve never regretted it. I still love my job.”

“Our mission was to put Belgium on the map and to see acts playing in Belgium and not only passing through from London”

Production Spin-offs
As Rock Werchter grew in the early years, there were a number of accidental spin-offs that have, in the decades since, become major players in the live music sector – namely Stageco, EML, and The Powershop.

“When we started, the festival was in one marquee where we could squeeze in about 3,000 people,” explains Herman. “When it grew, we rolled up the sides of the marquee, but the stage wasn’t high enough and people couldn’t see, so we decided to move outdoors, and Hedwig used his engineering skills to design the stage, which was the birth of Stageco as a business.

“In those days, you had supply companies like Edwin Shirley in England but bringing equipment from England to Belgium was too expensive, so we had little choice but to do it ourselves.” And it wasn’t just the staging that had to be sourced. With no decent PA or lighting equipment available in Belgium, the partners also created EML – which has since become part of the PRG group of companies. And it was a similar tale for The Powershop, owned by Hedwig’s brother, Jan De Meyer, as the Werchter principals decided that the best way to solve their power supply issue for the greenfield site was to launch their own business.

Indeed, for about the first 15 years of Rock Werchter, any profits were ploughed back into Stageco, which quickly became a year-round business supplying infrastructure to international tours – the pioneers being Genesis.

“The band’s agent, Steve Hedges, was at one of our festivals and was so impressed by our stages that he put us in contact with the band and that led to us getting the deal to supply staging for a Genesis European tour – which then went on as far as New Zealand,” says Herman.

“When we started, Rock Werchter was in one marquee where we could squeeze in about 3,000 people”

And the success of Rock Werchter was also getting Herman and Hedwig noticed. Noël Steen and Monique Van Dromme, who organised another festival, Rock Tourhout, in the west of Belgium, proposed that the two events should collaborate, to save costs and share line-ups, but at either end of the country. Theoretically, Torhout-Werchter was a great idea. Logistically, it was a huge challenge.

“At that time – 1980 or ’81, I think – both festivals were just one day each, so we’d move everything overnight from Torhout to Werchter – that’s 140 kilometres – and I mean everything: the PA system, the lot. It would have to be loaded out at Torhout, make its way through the traffic across Belgium, loaded in at Werchter, and built in time for the gates opening the next day.”
Rather than just being a one-off experiment, the twin festivals continued the practice for 15 years, until they both expanded to two-day events in 2016.

“In the early days, the twin event helped me attract bands because I was able to offer two shows rather than just one, but Werchter be- came bigger and bigger and booking two festivals started to become a disadvantage,” says Herman. “It also became bloody expensive to run a festival at two different sites. So, when we made big losses at Torhout in 1996 and ‘97, I took the decision to concentrate just on Werchter.”

While the appeal of Rock Werchter captured the imagination of music fans from day one, creating a day-to-day tour circuit around Belgium was a longer-term project. “We didn’t have a company name, but we set up a foundation called Altsien to reflect what we were doing – working with alternative acts like the Human League, Dead Kennedys, and U2, and using alternative venues, such as university aulas in Leuven, Brussels, Ghent, Liège, and Hasselt; a union venue in Mechelen; a sports hall in Deinze; and venues in provincial places like Herenthout, Zedelgem, Poperinge, etc .”

Looking back, Herman admits lots of mistakes were made, but it was the learning ground that he and his companies built their foundations on. “I could easily lose £300 on a show, which was a month’s wages. But that taught you to quickly learn from your mistakes.”

“I still operate as an entrepreneur, and Live Nation allows me to do that”

Making Belgium a European Hub
Two decades ago, when Robert Sillerman’s SFX undertook its programme of corporate klepto-mania, Herman Schueremans’ activities in Belgium were among the top targets for his vision for a global promoting empire.

“SFX first approached me in 2000,” states Herman. “I was honoured that such a big company felt Belgium was important enough. So, in May 2001, I became part of what would later become Live Nation.”

As a division of that corporate entity, Herman’s company has grown in size by a factor of six. Indeed, during the Covid pandemic, the financial protection not only allowed him to keep every member of staff but he actually hired new employees as restrictions on live shows began to ease.

“Promoting shows is an art,” he tells IQ. “I don’t have to put my financial future at risk anymore, but I do want to be successful, so I still operate as an entrepreneur, and Live Nation allows me to do that: to take risks. In fact, since we became part of Live Nation, the company has grown from about ten people to about 60 now.”

And he contends that making the odd mistake is part and parcel of the process in evolving as a promoter. “I still make mistakes, but I think that’s an important part of the process because sometimes you overestimate, sometimes you underestimate things. Especially after Covid.

“When we restarted in March [2022], one of my big worries was will I be able to give the same service?”

“When we restarted in March [2022], one of my big worries was will I be able to give the same service? And I was so happy to see that a lot of shows and tours were safe.”

Looking back on the past year, which he contends was the busiest of his career, Herman says, “It was a sort of interbellum, but not between two wars, rather between two music worlds, which made it a good lesson for everybody to rethink the business, to reinvent it.

“Most of us had a good 2022, but some suffered because they underestimated costs. But overall, the business is back, and I think 2023 will be very good. It’s all about approaching things in a positive way, without becoming greedy.”

Indeed, Herman believes there are some positives to take away from the devastation that Covid inflicted on the live events sector. “People are re-appreciating the experience of a live show or festival. At Werchter 2022, we saw so many happy people. At every festival, you have some moaners, but even the moaners forgot to moan. If we can make those people happy, then I think we are doing a good job.”

“Religion and politics divide; music unites. So, no, I do not miss politics”

Vote Schueremans!
Among Herman’s other claims to fame is a long stint as a member of parliament for the Flemish Liberals and Democrats. “I got involved because I thought that politicians kept making stupid decisions that threatened to destroy what we’d worked so hard to build,” he explains.

His political achievements include helping to introduce a decibel law that measures average noise levels over the course of an hour, as well as Herman enjoys a much-deserved beer at the Rock Werchter 2013 after party legislation to fight secondary ticketing.

Despite those positive moves, Herman is candid about his time as a parliamentarian. “Over the years, I’ve learned that music brings people together. It’s one of my slogans: religion and politics divide; music unites. So, no, I do not miss politics. But it is damned important.”

He continues, “At the same time, I’m happy that I did it, because I can see what the qualities of democracy are and that we all should support it. Being in the Liberal Party, we also managed to push through legislation to allow same-sex marriages. I think that was tremendously important because in recent years we have seen a return to conservatism, meaning it might be a lot more difficult, today, to get those laws voted through and adopted.”

His interest in political matters dates back further. Speaking from his beloved second home in South Africa, Herman tells IQ, “One of the things that gives me a lot of satisfaction is that at the time when Nelson Mandela was in prison at Robben Island, Peter Gabriel asked us to deliver the stages for the Free Mandela shows, which we did in Dakar, in London, and in New York. Delivering those stages at no cost, because that was the deal, was one of the best things I’ve done in my career… when I pass away, and if heaven exists, when Saint Peter is at the gates and starts reading me my list of sins, I will bring that up as an argument to let me in.”

“Delivering the Free Mandela shows was one of the best things I’ve done in my career”

Golden Years
Herman is rightly renowned for the development of Rock Werchter – which is set to mark its 50th anniversary in 2024 – and, indeed, the rest of his festival portfolio, which includes Werchter Boutique, Werchter Classic, Graspop Metal Meeting, and I Love Techno, as well as hugely successful partnerships with the likes of Pukkelpop and Dour.

His support for other businesses in the aftermath of the two-year pandemic lay-off helped those events enjoy successful post Covid returns. “A lot of people moved out of our business to do other things during Covid, and it was a bit difficult to get all those people back on track. But that meant the satisfaction after the festivals was double or triple because we managed to do it as a team,” he states.

“A long time ago, we decided to start paying suppliers in advance and not 30, 60, 90, or 120 days after the event. Helping people with their cash flow definitely allowed them to get back to work after Covid. And that policy helped us a lot in 2022. Don’t forget, we have a history with Stageco, The Powershop, EML, so while we don’t have a Silicon Valley like the Americans have, around Werchter we have a rock and roll music fair, and we have a common history.”

World-Class Legacy
One Herman mantra that has never changed is the lengths he goes to in order to make sure that everyone who attends his festivals is kept safe and made as comfortable as possible – from the audience to the artists to the crew. “For example, we have warm showers, day and night. So, whenever the crew or truck drivers arrive, they get their towels, and we try to make them feel at home.

“The artists’ dressing rooms are perhaps a bit over the top. But basically, when you arrive at Rock Werchter, the dressing room is yours until the end of the festival when you leave. Catering is always open; you can drink tea from a proper cup; you can eat with a knife and fork; you can drink a good glass of wine or draft beer out of a glass. It’s about hospitality.”

“I’ve been saying that a festival should be reinvented every five or even three years. It’s all about evolution”

Reminiscing on his career path, he adds, “30 years ago, I said a festival should be reinvented every ten years. But in the last decade, I’ve been saying that a festival should be reinvented every five or even three years. It’s all about evolution. This is a business where if you have the capability of listening to other people and their ideas, you can be creative, you can reinvent, and you can give young people an opportunity to prove themselves.”

And talking of the next generation, the 69-year-old festival guru admits that the pandemic triggered him to begin plotting the way forward for Live Nation Belgium and his beloved festivals when he is no longer at the helm.

“One of the main jobs I had in the last five years was to prepare our company for succession,” he reveals. “When we started the company, there were five or six people. Ten years ago, it was 30-something. And today it’s close to 60. So, as the business grows, the pyramid also has to grow.

“Now, we have a fantastic team ready to take over in the next couple of years. They do already a hell of a lot of the jobs, and I have to give them all that credit. So, I am happy that the company is in a place where I can afford to stop working in this business, and our team will deliver.” Not quite ready to hang up his promoter’s hat, however, he concludes, “My team inspire me, and I hope I still inspire them a bit. And together we are strong.

“You’re only as good as your last show, not only as an artist but also as a promoter”

“But we are not immortal, and I think it’s part of our moral duty to hand things over to the next generations to create opportunities for them. And for them to do even better – I’m sure they will.”

As for the immediate future, 2023 will be like most years for Herman Schueremans, with the highlights he’s looking forward to centring around his summer programme.

“It’s fantastic to put on the Belgian show of a European tour or a world tour – it’s a privilege to contribute to that. But festivals are something that you create with your team, and you really have to reinvent and rework every year.

“We want to treat our audience well, but at the same time, we want to bring in a younger audience, and I rely on the younger members of our team to do that.

“It is a good success story – and I still love my job every day, but I think staying humble is key. Bottom line, you’re only as good as your last show, not only as an artist but also as a promoter, also as a PA company, as a stage company.”

 


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ILMC 35: Industry heads tackle big topics

ILMC 35 kicked off with the traditional Open Forum session with this year’s host, Maria May from CAA, addressing a swathe of issues, while looking back on a monumental year for live music around the world.

May noted various statistics about the growth of the business in 2022, including the fact that ticket prices for Pollstar’s top 100 tours had increased by more than 10%, before posing a question to her guests about whether those biggest-selling productions should be doing anything to support the grassroots side of the business.

Obi Asika from United Talent Agency noted that the year ahead was looking like it would be the strongest he has ever had, reporting that his dance music and afrobeat acts were doing great business. And answering a question about the stadium business harming grassroots, he stated, “I’m more worried about the stadium effect on festivals. But I don’t see it as an issue; it’s just different.”

“We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners”

When it comes to helping grassroots acts, he added, “We have to be brave and inclusive if we want to have new headliners.”

Q Prime Management’s Tara Richardson contested: “There’s a whole generation of ticket buyers who have skipped [going to] sweaty clubs because they have been stuck indoors during the pandemic.”

But she agreed that perhaps stadiums could support grassroots venues through sponsorship or some other system. “The record labels and publishers develop talent, but the live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots,” she observed.

Addressing the issue of spiralling costs, Herman Schueremans of Live Nation Belgium admitted that most people in the business had not expected such big rises. “The bottom line is that it’s a thing of give and take – listen to each other and be nicer to each other,” Schueremans pleaded. Looking back at 2022, he reported, “By respecting people and paying part [of the money] in advance and the balance the day after show, it worked really well.

“You cannot avoid rising costs – you have to live with it and deal with it. It might mean we have to work harder but earn less. Making a profit is important, but it’s not the most important.”

“The live side seems to be the only part that does not throw money back toward grassroots”

On a related note, talking about all the various challenges that the live sector is facing, Asika pointed to the example of some of his African artists who have had all kinds of obstacles to overcome to establish careers outside of their own countries. “However complex it is, we can figure it out,” he said. “There are enough ideas and enough good people to figure it out – it’s part of the fun.”

Tackling the controversial topic of dynamic pricing, John Meglen from Concerts West noted, “Most shows do not sell out, but at the very high end it’s a very simple supply and demand issue [and] dynamic pricing is a business decision. If you sell a ticket for $100 but then watch it be resold for $500, the artist should be receiving that money, not the tout.”

Meglen suggested that blaming the ticketing system for any issues was a cop-out. “It’s up to us to set those business rules – we cannot be blaming the ticketing systems, he said. “We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue. We need to make sure that the money [remains] in our business. If we’re getting market value for our tickets, the artists are going to earn more and it’s not someone outside business making the money.”

Q Prime’s Richardson drew comparisons with the price of theatre tickets when it comes to tour pricing, but also had a pragmatic idea on how the teams involved in tour planning could better handle the subject. “Maybe there needs to be a middle ground where we involve tour accountants before we route – and we have a plan A, plan B, and plan C for the tour and the production, depending on the ticket price.”

“We have an issue of pricing, and we have a resale issue”

The session also looked at how the live music industry can attract a more diverse workforce, with the speakers agreeing that more needs to be done – from the top of the business downwards – to make true and meaningful progress.

Engaging in a debate regarding the environmental impact of the live music sector, Schueremans revealed, “At Rock Werchter 2022 we recycled or recouped 95% of our plastic. It was a hell of a challenge, but we did it and we should not just be doing it as festivals, we need to do it at all shows.”

However, Richardson concluded that rather than beat up the festivals and tours, “We’d be better off having a huge industry lobby to do something about the six big companies who are contributing most to carbon emissions.”

 


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2023 lineups: Mad Cool, Rock Werchter and more

Mad Cool, Rock Werchter, Northside, Frequency, Railbird and Ressurection have each announced a wave of new additions for their 2023 instalments.

Live Nation’s Mad Cool has unveiled an almost full lineup for its sixth edition, taking place in Madrid, from 6–8 July 2023.

Robbie Williams, Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Machine Gun Kelly, Queens of the Stone Age, The Black Keys, Sam Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Liam Gallagher and The Prodigy top next year’s blockbuster bill, with two more headliners to be announced.

The 1975, Nova Twins, Franz Ferdinand, Tash Sultana, Paolo Nutini, Jamie XX, Sigur Rós, Angel Olsen, Years & Years, The Amazons, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Jacob Collier, Touché Amoré, The Blessed Madonna, Honey Dijon, Genesis Owusu, Rina Sawayama, Rüfus du Sol, Bombay Bicycle Club and Sylvan Esso are also among the raft of acts announced this week.

Last year, Mad Cool expanded to five days in celebration of its fifth anniversary, which featured Florence + The Machine, Queens Of The Stone Age and Haim.

Aurora, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, The 1975 and Sam Fender join the Rock Werchter lineup

Meanwhile, Belgium’s Rock Werchter has added dozens of names to an already-packed lineup for 2023.

Aurora, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, The 1975, Sam Fender, Cavetown, The HU, slowthai, The Interrupters, Wadruna, Tamino, The Black Keys, Adekunle Gold and Dean Lewis have joined the bill.

Other new additions include Sigur Rós, Xavier Rudd, Paolo Nutini and Machine Gun Kelly. Adding to the list for 2 July are Lovejoy, Pip Millett, Amenra, Puscifer, Gabriels, Jacob Collier and The Lumineers.

They join previously announced acts Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Fred Again, Oscar and the Wolf, Stromae and more.

Last year’s edition, promoted by Live Nation Belgium and Herman Schueremans, shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets.

Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge aka NxWorries will be reunited at Northside

Denmark’s Northside has confirmed another slate of names for the 2023 event, taking place between 1–3 June in Eskelund park, Aarhus.

It was announced today that Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge aka NxWorries will be reunited at next year’s instalment, having released their first new single in six years.

First Aid Kit, JPEGMAFIA, Tobias Rahim, Gilli, Purple Disco Machine and LF SYSTEM have also been added to the bill.

They join previously announced acts The 1975, White Lies and Muse at the Down the Drain-promoted event.

Austria’s Frequency Festival is taking shape, with Imagine Dragons, Kraftklub, Armin Van Buuren and Alligatoah at the top of the 2023 poster. The Barracuda Music-promoted event is set for 17–19 August at Greenpark, St. Pölten.

Spain’s Ressurection Fest has assembled some of the biggest names in metal for the 2023 edition

Elsewhere, Live Nation has outlined Railbird Music Festival, a two-day music event in the US state of Kentucky.

Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan head up the bill, and are joined by acts including Zach Bryan, Weezer, Marcus Mumford, Whiskey Myers, Sheryl Crow, Charley Crockett and Jenny Lewis.

In addition to music, fans will have the opportunity to purchase from an impressive lineup of hand-selected barrels from Kentucky’s finest distilleries chosen in collaboration with co-owners Justin Sloan and Justin Thompson of Lexington’s treasured Justins’ House of Bourbon.

The festival will take place at The Infield at Red Mile, Lexington, on 3 and 4 June, 2023.

Spain’s Ressurection Fest has assembled some of the biggest names in metal for the 2023 edition, including Ghost, Slipknot, Pantera, Papa Roach, Architects, Alter Bridge and Powerwolf.

Titled Chapter XVIII Where We Belong, the next instalment will take place in Galicia, between 8 June to 1 July 2023.

 


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Roskilde, Primavera and more reveal 2023 lineups

Primavera Sound, Roskilde, Nova Rock, Rock Werchter, NorthSide and Nos Alive have added slates of artists to their 2023 lineups.

Rosalía, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Blur and Halsey top the bill for Primavera Sound 2023, which will be held in two different Spanish cities across two weekends.

Next year’s festival will take place at its usual location of Parc Del Fòrum, Barcelona, on the first weekend (1–3 June).

On the second weekend (8–10 June), the festival will take place in the Ciudad de Rock (City of Rock) in Arganda del Rey, Madrid, for the first time ever.

The Spanish institution recently debuted in São Paulo, Brazil (5-6 November), Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile (both 12-13 November) to commemorate the event’s 20th birthday. Director Alfonso Lanza spoke to IQ about the “incredible response” to the festival’s South American debut.

Elsewhere, Denmark’s Roskilde has secured a raft of household names including Blur, Burna Boy, Christine & The Queens and Queens of the Stone Age for its 2023 edition, scheduled for 24 June to 1 July 2023.

Denmark’s Roskilde has secured Blur, Burna Boy, Christine & The Queens and Queens of the Stone Age

The 51st edition will also feature Alice Glass, Japanese Breakfast, Tove Lo, Denzel Curry and Rina Sawayama. Explore the 50-year history of Roskilde with IQ‘s recent feature.

Austria’s 2023 festival season is beginning to shape with marquee festival Nova Rock confirming headliners Slipknot, Bilderbuch, Die Ärtze, The Prodigy and Tenacious D.

Promoted by Nova Music Entertainment (part of CTS Eventim’s Barracuda Music), the four-day festival is slated for 7–10 June 2023 in Nickelsdorf.

Belgium’s Rock Werchter, meanwhile, has bagged some of the biggest names in rock for the 2023 edition in Festivalpark between 29 June to 2 July.

Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys will top the bill, with support from Fred Again, Oscar and the Wolf, Stromae and more.

Last year’s edition, promoted by Live Nation Belgium and Herman Schueremans, shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets.

“Denmark’s Northside is coming together, with The 1975, White Lies and Muse lined up for the 2023 instalment”

Sister festival Rock Werchter Boutique, meanwhile, will be headlined by P!nk and One Republic on 17 June 2023 in Festivalpark.

Elsewhere, Denmark’s Northside is coming together, with The 1975, White Lies and Muse lined up for the 2023 instalment.

The Down the Drain-promoted event will take place between 1–3 June 2023 in Eskelund park, Aarhus.

Following last week’s confirmation of The Black Keys, Nos Alive has followed up with acts including Angel Olsen, Idles, Tasha Sultana, Lizzo, Men I Trust and Sylvan Esso for next year’s event.

The 15th edition is due to take place between 6–8 July 2023 in the Algés riverside, close to Lisbon.

This year’s NOS Alive, promoted as usual by Everything Is New, welcomed 210,000 people over four days and 165 artists across seven stages.

 


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