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Country State of Mind: The rise of country music

Historically bolstered by cowboy western movies and the likes of US servicemen stationed around the world, country music has been something of a niche international genre. But now, with a multigenerational audience and impressive growth figures around the planet, country music is everywhere, with acts appearing on mainstream festival stages and selling out arenas. IQ reports.

With the likes of Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey set to release country music albums this year, countless million new fans will be switching on to the genre, further elevating its success both at home in the United States and around the world.

Statistics show that country music was the second most popular genre in the US last year, behind only pop and rock, while it also showed year-on-year sales and streaming growth of more than 20% in 2023, according to American publication Newsweek.

And that growth curve is being replicated internationally where promoters are exploiting newfound interest in the genre to organise concerts and festivals for a loyal fanbase, which is expanding rapidly with an eager – and younger – set of converts.
Underlining that progress, the streaming of country music in the UK has grown by 380% in the past five years, and one in every 100 tracks streamed there is reportedly a country song.

“The UK is one of the strongest international markets for country music, and it has been building steadily for many years, but most recently, we’ve seen an explosion in the genre with ticket sales doubling and tripling and several artists selling out UK arena shows in minutes, such as Morgan Wallen, Shania Twain, and Chris Stapleton, all of whom we work with,” says Anna-Sophie Mertens, VP touring for Live Nation UK.

“Morgan Wallen played his first European show last December at The O2 [arena], which sold out in minutes, and we are already able to bring him back to headline Hyde Park six months later; this simply underlines how fast country music is growing and the size of the audience it can now reach.”

“I’m not a promoter. But I do know the country music industry”

The growth of the country genre in the UK has been helped by radio presenter Baylen Leonard, originally from Bristol, Tennessee – the birthplace of country music – but who has been living in London for the last 24 years.

While working at the BBC, Leonard recalls he always wanted to broadcast country music. “If it was a bank holiday and everybody else was away, they’d let me do a country show, which helped them cotton on to the fact that country music was a thing, so I started doing that more on Radio 2 with Bob Harris and then moved into commercial radio when Absolute and Bauer launched their commercial radio country station,” he says.

“I’d also always wanted to do a festival, and somewhere along the way, I was linked up with U-Live and met [general manager] Dawn Jones, who I now do the Long Road Festival with. Dawn and U-Live are very robust and know what they are doing, because I’m not a promoter. But I do know the country music industry, so we trust each other and do our thing.”

Having launched the first event in 2018, Leonard reports that debut attracted about 12,000 fans. “In terms of looking at a heat map, the audience comes from all over the UK, and that was one of the reasons we located it in the Midlands so it was easily accessible, because lots of people come from Scotland and the likes of London, Bristol, and Birmingham. There are also a chunk of people that will fly over from Europe.”

Non-English-speaking markets
Another European operation expanding its presence in the country scene is TAKK ab Entertainment, which formed in July last year when it brought together three generations of promoters – Swiss business pioneer André Béchir, TAKK Productions founder Sebastien Vuignier, and IQ new boss Théo Quiblier.

“We strongly believe in the genre, and we put a lot of effort into convincing artists and entourages to include Switzerland in future tours”

“André promoted all the major country artists back in the years, including Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, The Chicks, Willie Nelson, and many more,” states Vuignier. “He was also doing a country music festival at the 12,000-cap Hallenstadion every year in the 1980s. This created a strong country music fanbase in Switzerland, which we can still count on today.

“We strongly believe in the genre, and we put a lot of effort into convincing artists and entourages to include Switzerland in future tours. Thanks to a strong fanbase, we are able to reach really good figures, and we recently had sold out shows with Luke Combs and Brad Paisley, for instance.”

Across the border in Germany, Wizard Promotions is another long-term specialist. Speaking to IQ from Nashville, Wizard managing director Oliver Hoppe says that country music has been the company’s second-biggest genre, after rock, for many years.

“It’s interesting in Europe, where now you have Live Nation coming in strong, and AEG is building good things, but we’ve been doing country for a long time – we promoted Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks back in the day, and we did Brad Paisley’s first show in Germany,” says Hoppe.

“Back in 2014, the Country Music Association [CMA] decided it was going to put a bigger focus on Europe, and that’s ramped things up, but we’ve been working with country acts long before that. At the moment, the market is quite strong, and most acts come back to Germany and do better figures each time.”

“The constant stream of American artists coming and playing for the theatre-capacity audience is something new, and it’s happening throughout the year”

Further north, Live Nation Norway’s Vegard Storaas is also following a long tradition of country music promoters. “Our company founder, Rune Lem, had a poster of Garth Brooks from 1994 when he sold out Spectrum in a matter of minutes, so country has had a strong foothold here for a long time.

“There are nearly 5 million people in the US claiming Norwegian ancestry, which is almost equal to Norway’s own population. When people came back to Norway from the States, it created some sort of cultural bond between the two countries, and the music came with them. I think there are similar situations in Ireland.”

Detailing the recent local growth in the genre, Storaas says, “Before Covid, there were maybe two to four acts visiting us each year and going into the semi-big venues. You had Brad Paisley coming every once in a while, or Garth Brooks, or Shania Twain doing her thing. But the constant stream of American artists coming and playing for the theatre-capacity audience is something new, and it’s happening throughout the year. We also have a domestic group of artists, but they have their own musical direction, which is different from Nashville – they’re somewhere between country and Bruce Springsteen.”

Having specialised in the country genre for the past five or six years, Storaas says he’s witnessed a sea change. “After Covid, the willingness of American artists to invest in coming to Norway really changed – it’s gone from two or three per year to 20-30, including neighbouring genres like bluegrass and Americana.”

He points to Luke Combs as the potential catalyst. “For his world tour, he sold out, upgraded, and again sold out all his rooms in Europe,” reports Storaas. “That showed Nashville that there’s a big market here, and the reason Americans are just coming to Norway is because they can now see on their streaming charts that sometimes Norway ranks number five, behind the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. That’s a really strong fanbase for a small population.”

“The big record labels look at trends and see that Gen Z is pushing up the streaming numbers for country artists”

That support is backed up by Norway’s P10 Country radio station being one of the most listened to in the nation. “The big record labels look at trends and see that Gen Z is pushing up the streaming numbers for country artists, so I think more acts will be encouraged to record country music tracks,” adds Storaas.

Changing attitudes
There’s also been a noticeable difference in the way that American-based country acts are viewing the rest of the world when it comes to career planning.

“We’re finding that more younger acts are visiting here from very early on in their careers because they want to grow internationally as much as they want to grow in the US market,” comments Sina Hall at Semmel Concerts in Germany. “So sometimes our country shows start out in the small caps, and then we go up all the way to the arenas, depending on what artist is coming along.”

That pattern is also acknowledged by agents Sarah Casey and Beth Morton in UTA’s London-based HQ, who have been working hard to develop business internationally for the company’s country music clients.

“We are working with artists earlier than ever to develop international strategies for them,” confirms Morton. “It used to be that US artists would develop over there and then think about touring [internationally], whereas more of the clients that we’re working with now are considering international at the same time as they start thinking about the US. For example, Oliver Antony wanted to start his tour in Europe: we started in Scandinavia and finished in Ireland, and his shows blew out in minutes, especially in the UK. Dylan Gossett is another really good example. He kicked off his global tour in Europe, and again, those shows sold out in a matter of hours.”

“It can be tricky with American country acts because their international touring periods tend to be very short”

Morton cites UTA client Megan Maroney as one of the rising stars to watch. “She came over to do a UK tour last August, and we just put a September tour on sale for her. She’s very keen to go into markets that aren’t just the UK, so she’s going into Scandinavia, we’re opening up Switzerland, as well as Netherlands and Germany.

“What’s brilliant about her is that her management have been really focused on trying to build out Europe, the UK, and Australia from quite an early stage. Her hit, Tennessee Orange, was such a huge viral moment for her that she could have been booked every weekend throughout the US, but her management were keen to carve out time to come to Europe and Australia, too.”

That trend is embraced by Mertens at Live Nation. “Artists are developing international careers early at club- and small-theatre-level, and they love the experience and reception they get from their UK fans and [therefore] commit to international for many years to come. This has led to some US country artists selling more tickets in London than they do in the US, as they are so well received over here.”

She continues, “Australia, Canada, and the UK are leading the charge, followed by the Netherlands, Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), and Germany all now being part of most country artists’ touring schedules. This is sometimes extended into Belgium, France, and Spain for the right acts, and artists can easily have a two- to three-week window across Europe for touring these days.”

Semmel’s Hall hopes that period of commitment for fans of country music will be further extended as the genre becomes more popular. “It can be tricky with American country acts because their international touring periods tend to be very short, meaning we cannot have them playing as extensively as we would with other international talent. But country stars coming to Europe was once a rare event, whereas now they seem to be a lot more enthusiastic, so it’s moving in the right direction,” she says.

“The US is very single-driven because of country radio. But here in Germany, if people like an artist, they will listen to their entire catalogue”

Hall also details differences in the way that fans in Germany and fans in America consume music. “The US is very single-driven because of country radio. But here in Germany, if people like an artist, they will listen to their entire catalogue.” That, she says, has led to some interesting moments for those acts who ask their fans for song requests. “People hold up signs [for] all kinds of stuff, where artists are like, ‘Oh, my God, no one ever has requested this song before. How do you guys know this one?’ And then they are astonished when everybody can sing along.

“So artists are learning how respectful and tuned in people are to their storytelling and lyrics here in Europe, whereas at home in America, where it’s single-driven, it can be all about getting your own momentum and fighting for it. It’s quite a nice change of scenery to come over here and have such a respectful and appreciative audience.”

Fellow German promoter Hoppe, with whom Semmel has co-promoted a number of country acts, observes, “The cycle of breaking country acts in the United States is much more streamlined because if they are picked up by country radio, it can really accelerate. In Germany, as with most places internationally, we don’t have that media, so the way acts build their fanbase is by playing in the market. That’s why we encourage acts to come to Germany early in their careers to begin that build.

“What we’ve found with some acts is that they are capable of going to London to play to maybe 3,000 people, and then when they see that the German show might be in a 1,500-cap venue, they decide it’s not financially worth it. But if they do it and build up sensibly, then it does pay off in the end.”

“At WME, we’ve seen our volume of international country touring activity increase by 50% over the past few years”

Agent Shannon Saunders at WME in Nashville confirms that enquiries for her clients are picking up from overseas. “Interest in country music touring is certainly growing outside of North America,” she says. “At WME, we’ve seen our volume of international country touring activity increase by 50% over the past few years. Not only are we seeing substantial increases in ticket sales for these artists on headline touring, but we are also receiving more interest than ever from contemporary festivals to include these acts on their lineups.

“The UK and Australia have traditionally been the strongest non-NA markets for the country genre; however, we are seeing some exciting new growth in South Africa, Switzerland, and across Scandinavia. I suspect these trends will continue further into mainland Europe and into South America over the next few years.”

Summing up the evolution of the genre, veteran agent Neil Warnock at UTA says, “Considering the state of play 17 odd years ago, working with the likes of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, we’re now seeing a tsunami of interest in country music around the world. The perception change has been like night and day.

“By having such a great relationship with our Nashville office, we’ve developed something of a fraternity between Europe and America, but it has taken a long time to get to where we are.”

Warnock adds, “What’s most encouraging to me, is seeing the young artists and young managers more involved in developing acts outside of Nashville, having the trust in agents and promoters here, and ultimately seeing the value in Europe and the rest of the world. Country is really a catch-all for so many genres and styles, so we’re going to see more crossover of artists into other areas, where they’ll only continue to be accepted in more mainstream spaces going forward.”

“We made the strategic decision to work in the genre. We felt there was the potential for it to break out of a niche and move into the more mainstream market”

Strategic growth
Hall explains that Semmel first became involved in country music in 2018. “That’s when we made the strategic decision to work in the genre,” she says. “We felt there was the potential for it to break out of a niche and move into the more mainstream market. But to do that it would need a strategic approach, especially when it comes to marketing and communication.”

As a result, Semmel founded its Sound of Nashville brand for anything in the country or Americana field. “It was based on the idea that we needed to start out with small club shows, which usually don’t have a lot of marketing budget. So we’d kind of bundle them a little bit to get the most out of the budgets,” continues Hall.

“Funnily enough, right after we decided to do that strategic approach with Sound of Nashville, AEG approached us about the C2C festival in Berlin, and that obviously made total sense with our setup. We launched the first C2C in 2019, with Keith Urban, which sold out right away. Then we came back with an extra day for a three-day festival in 2020, which was one of the final events before the lockdowns came along.”

While the ban on live events was brutal, Semmel pushed ahead with its Sound of Nashville planning. “We did a lot of editorial content and reached out to artists to keep building those relationships. We did a couple of livestreamed shows, but we also took the Berlin C2C footage from 2020 and turned that into a three-hour stream that we broadcast on the date that C2C 2021 was supposed to happen. So there was a lot of activity on our side during the pandemic to keep the spark going.”

And that investment in the concept is paying dividends. “When we started out in 2018, we looked at all the data that we had access to, and the demographics told us that the average age for anything country music-related was 55 years and up. But if I pull that data now, we’re looking at an average age of 35, which is significantly younger in a very short time.”

“The big development is that we are now seeing far more headline touring playing in bigger buildings”

WME’s Saunders also believes the genre grew during the coronavirus crisis. “The heart of country music has always been with the songwriting. We saw significant growth in country music streaming during the pandemic, as consumers were drawn to music that reflects the human experience in such an authentic and universal way,” says Saunders. “This streaming growth has not slowed down. And now, with the return of the touring business, the live shows hold up.”

The genre’s continuing expansion is in no small part down to the hard work of the Country Music Association and its board, of which both Sina Hill and Anna-Sophie Mertens are directors.

“I joined the CMA board in 2020, becoming a vocal ambassador and advocate for what has traditionally been a niche genre outside of the US,” says Mertens, who has been a fan of the genre for most of her life, courtesy of her parents’ record collection.
Mertens developed and launched Live Nation UK’s first country event Highways in 2023, in partnership with the Royal Albert Hall. “The inaugural event featured Kip Moore, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean’s UK debut, and Stephen Wilson Jr. whilst also hosting additional events such as Highways Songwriters Round, Country for Kids, Late Night Special, Official After Show Party with media partners Absolute Radio Country, and a month-long exhibition of the Nashville Portraits by Jim McGuire,” she tells IQ.

That debut last year was such a success that the 2024 edition of Highways has been extended to two days and nights of programming at the Royal Albert Hall. But Mertens acknowledges that events like CMC Rocks in Australia and the travelling C2C extravaganza in Europe paved the way for her and others to follow.

“The big development is that we are now seeing far more headline touring playing in bigger buildings, and with audiences growing, we are making compelling offers to get acts over for hard ticket tours,” says Mertens. “New events like Highways offer a different and very exciting offering to artists and fans alike.”

“The landscape, especially when it comes to festivals, seems to be getting busier”

Agent Morton concurs. “The landscape, especially when it comes to festivals, seems to be getting busier,” she observes. “In the UK, there’s also the likes of Black Deer, which is an Americana and country-leaning festival, and there are new properties in Australia as well. Frontier, who promote CMC Rocks, launched Ridin’ Hearts last year in Sydney and Melbourne, for example, and and Semmel Concerts in Germany are launching the Sound of Nashville event this year.”

Indeed, Semmel will promote 20-30 Sound of Nashville-branded events throughout Germany this year. But that’s hopefully just the tip of the iceberg.

“As country music grows in more countries, hopefully the international timeframes will expand so that Nashville is not just cramming in Europe, UK, and Australia within a three-week time period,” says Hall. “At the moment, that’s all you get when you’re international. But I think we will see more touring as acts realise they need that to really break the market… It takes more than one show in Berlin to break the entire German market.

“You need to be aware that because of country’s range, it will attract different fans. There is not necessarily just one country fan who consumes everything, so you have to market artists differently if it’s Zach Bryan or Luke Combs or Kacey Musgraves,” opines Hall. “Knowing those nuances and being tuned into what’s happening in Nashville, what the labels are doing, and the feedback we’re getting from our community are absolutely essential to do the right marketing.”

A global genre
At Frontier Touring, COO Susan Heymann says, “CMC Rocks has been building the profile of country music in Australia since 2008. Our business has been focused on bringing international country artists to Australia and building the local scene through the large audiences that the international acts draw for the festival.”

“An artist can make more money playing a state fair or rodeo a couple of hours from where they live as they’ll make spending two weeks touring internationally”

She recalls, “When we started in the genre, there were only a handful of international acts who considered Australia or New Zealand as a market worth putting the time into.” But she doesn’t blame them. “An artist can make more money playing a state fair or rodeo a couple of hours from where they live as they’ll make spending two weeks touring internationally.”

Nonetheless, the metrics are changing. “There are now a lot more artists who see this as a market worth investing in. We’re now at a point where we’re selling out the festival every year, we feature 16-20 internationals on the bill, we’ve started building a sister event called Ridin’ Hearts, and we’re touring international country artists year-round, outside of the festivals,” says Heymann.

While the rollout of more events in markets where strongholds of fans have been consuming country music for years is a welcome development, Morton believes brand-new markets could be on the horizon.

“It’s pretty early stages, but I am hearing about a potential country music festival starting in the Middle East, either the end of this year or beginning of next,” she reveals. “More and more promoters in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and France are getting involved, while Live Nation are particularly keen to get into this space. But with artists like Megan Moroney and Dylan Gossett, we’ve had all the major promoters come to us wanting to work with them.”

And she is also witnessing more mainstream avenues open up. “We had Brittney Spencer open for Bruce Springsteen at BST Hyde Park last summer. That was an amazing look for her. The War and Treaty are our clients, and they’re performing at Love Supreme this summer, which is a jazz festival. So we’re definitely seeing more mainstream festivals try and get into this, as well as mainstream media starting to cover the genre as well. Dylan Gossett got one of his first plays on radio in the UK on Radio 1, and for a tastemaker like Jack Saunders to be playing a country artist like Dylan on Radio 1, I think is brilliant for the genre.”

“The C2C team has driven the growth of UK country touring out of the festival, and we promote a large number of tours each year, from clubs to arenas and beyond”

AEG Presents promoter Rachel Lloyd works closely with SJM Concerts in promoting C2C in London, Glasgow, and Belfast. She has been working in country music since 2017 but says she has been really focussed on the genre since returning to AEG Presents in 2021.

“The C2C team has driven the growth of UK country touring out of the festival, and we promote a large number of tours each year, from clubs to arenas and beyond,” says Lloyd. “It’s a great model. To be able to introduce new artists at the festival, put them in front of excited fans and the media, and then bring them back for headline touring, hopefully over and over. Ashley McBryde is a great illustration of this, she worked her way up from the [C2C] Spotlight Stage and now does incredibly solid numbers over here.

“The wave of artists that first came over [for C2C] all reported back the same thing – that UK audiences are some of the best in the world. That tempted more and more to follow, and the exponential growth of the fanbase over here pushed US teams to take it seriously.”

While C2C currently plays to audiences in England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands, at TAKK, Vuignier is hopeful the juggernaut will one day expand its routing to Switzerland. “We have been trying hard to get C2C over to Zurich, but at the moment, the festival is only running over two weekends. However, we are closely and constantly talking to all parties involved, and we are trying to get the C2C acts to play mid-week shows in Zurich, in between both weekends.”

He continues, “Drake Milligan, who sells out 5,000-cap venues in the US, played the 500-capacity Mascotte around C2C and enjoyed it a lot. This was his very first headline show in Europe, and he played for almost two hours instead of the 90 minutes planned, because the audience was so hot.”

“There is generally a lot more crossover with country music these days. Country is now cool!”

In the UK, Jack Dowling at SJM Concerts has been working in partnership with AEG’s Lloyd for two years. “Chris York was the original pioneer of C2C from our company over a decade ago and deserves a huge amount of credit for where the genre is in the UK,” he states, adding, “C2C Presents is a combination of SJM and AEG; we promote a lot of tours outside of the festival under that banner in the UK.

“We are seeing a lot more US-based acts looking to build their business in the UK from the off – they are coming in at grassroots venues, circa 250 capacities. The genre really has exploded here in the last few years, and people have seen it’s a market to invest in early.”

And Dowling is one of the many execs who is excited by what is being referred to as ‘the Beyoncé effect.’ He tells IQ, “I think this is really helping to get the youth into the market. They hear these songs and do a bit of digging into what else is out there. Similarly, people are listening to great acts like Hozier, then they find Zach Bryan because of it. There is generally a lot more crossover with country music these days. Country is now cool!”

That’s hardly news to Baylen Leonard and his team at the Long Road Festival. But his plans for future editions of the festival are simple. “While we want to grow, it’s step by step, slow and steady, because we want to maintain what the festival is, without losing sight of our values,” he says. “If you grow too big, you can lose that special atmosphere. And I think that’s one of the things people really like about the Long Road.”

Looking to the future, Mertens comments, “I am particularly excited for artists such as Lainey Wilson, Tyler Childers, Jordan Davis, and Brett Young who are all doing phenomenal business in the UK. Both Lainey and Tyler are having an incredible career moment, and both will no doubt be headlining arenas in the not-so-distant future.”

On Beyoncé’s new country album, Cowboy Carter, Mertens adds, “I hope it will help see some of the more mainstream outlets – radio, TV, all genre playlisting in streaming – dive deeper into the genre and embrace it, giving current country acts a chance. Add in Shania Twain also playing Hyde Park and landing the coveted legends slot at Glastonbury 2024, another huge moment for the genre.”

“The market is definitely increasing in size. And I think this is just the beginning”

At Frontier in Australia, Heymann notes, “Mainstream artists having country albums may not resonate with the core country fans, but the appeal of country music is so much broader than what the core fans want, so it can only help build that audience and introduce indie and pop fans to new artists and music they might not otherwise explore.”

Wizard boss Hoppe says, “The new Beyoncé album will definitely have an impact, but I see it as more of a stepping stone to help develop the market even more.”

Considering Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming album, too, AEG’s Lloyd echoes Hoppe’s sentiment. “They are such mega artists that they need to be treated like outliers to the conversation generally,” she says. “But by the sheer statistics of their reach, they will make people take notice, so if they use their platforms to highlight other artists or musicians firmly in the genre, they will create new fans.

“What would be great is to see them, or any other artist who claims the genre, invite country or Americana artists as supports on tour. That would be huge for so many emerging artists and really put the spectrum of country music directly in front of people. I’m a firm believer that there is a country sound for everyone, so I hope all this will encourage fans to do some digging.”

Saunders at WME is also embracing the Beyoncé effect. “Ultimately, this helps to widen the lane for what it means to be a country artist, creating more opportunities for all,” says Saunders. “The country music genre is more sonically diverse than ever before. I welcome any creators who want to collaborate and push boundaries to create great music for everyone to enjoy.”

In Norway, Storaas predicts busy times ahead. “The market is definitely increasing in size. And I think this is just the beginning,” he says. “Maybe 15 years ago, indie was the number-one genre; ten years ago, it was EDM; five years ago, it was rap. So maybe country could now be number one for a couple of years.”

Live Nation colleague Mertens concludes, “We are certainly seeing younger fans at concerts, especially in the 18-35 age bracket, which is super exciting. At Megan Moroney’s first London show, for instance, we saw an overwhelming amount of young fans, mainly female, and what was even more interesting was seeing fans wear t-shirts of acts such as Imagine Dragons, Troye Sivan, and others. It blew me away as I wasn’t quite expecting that association, which made me very excited for the future.”

 


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Ralf Kokemüller and Semmel launch Limelight Live

Semmel Concerts has agreed a deal with industry veteran Ralf Kokemüller to launch Limelight Live Entertainment with a remit to bring “well-known and innovative musical and show formats to the stage” as well as “developing new ideas by creative people.”

The new company will operate from Mannheim with Kokemüller as managing partner. He was managing director at BB-Promotion for over 25 years, before becoming co-CEO of Mehr-BB-Entertainment.

Among other productions, Kokemüller was responsible for the shows Ballet Revolution from Cuba, the Cats theatre tent tour, and the revue Berlin Berlin.

“I know that he still has many fantastic ideas for the European touring business with great shows in his quiver”

Dieter Semmelmann, managing partner of Semmel Concerts, is delighted to be working with Kokemüller. “We have known each other for decades and I know that he still has many fantastic ideas for the European touring business with great shows in his quiver,” says Semmelmann. “It will be all the more exciting to realise all of this together with Ralf and his new team.”

Kokemüller comments, “In order to build a leading position as a tour operator of high-quality musicals and shows in the next few years, I am pleased to have a strong partner at my side in Dieter and Semmel Concerts Entertainment, which already plays an important role in this genre and shares my philosophy. Together we will achieve many synergies and build a large portfolio in the next few years. The passion for first-class stage shows, inspiring the audience and the fun of teamwork are our common motivation.”

In 1995, Kokemüller joined BB Promotion where he worked closely with founder Michael Brenner. In a position responsible for scouting and booking, Kokemüller was involved with such international successes as Stomp, Tanguera, and Yamato. After Brenner’s death in 2011, Kokemüller served as the group’s CEO.

In 2015, after co-producing the original production in London’s West End, Kokemüller produced the original German-language production of Bodyguard. that same year, he introduced Ambassador Theater Group (ATG) as new shareholders to the BB Group, and in 2018 he orchestrated the acquisition of Mehr!Entertainment Group by ATG, and the subsequent merger with BB Group.

 


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Semmel Concerts acquires theatre in Oberhausen

Semmel Concerts has acquired the Metronom Theater in Oberhausen, a 1,800-capacity venue in northwest Germany that has been closed since 2020.

The German promoter hopes to reopen the venue before the end of the year, after making “extensive” investments in its technology and equipment.

The CTS Eventim-backed firm, which also operates the Arena Berlin, will appoint a new team to manage the theatre, led by director of operations Timo Hoppen.

The Metronom Theater was previously owned by Stage Entertainment, the leading producer of musicals in Europe.

Stage bought the venue, formerly known as TheatrO CentrO, in 2005 and extensively modernised it. It became the venue for many popular musicals before it closed in March 2020.

“We will bring people from all over North Rhine-Westphalia and delight them with great national and international productions”

“Oberhausen has a great tradition as a cultural location,” says Dieter Semmelmann, managing partner, Semmel Concerts. “This makes the task of bringing the theater back to life after a four-year slumber all the more exciting. With changing musicals and shows from our dynamically growing touring business, we will bring people from all over North Rhine-Westphalia and beyond to Oberhausen and delight them with great national and international productions. We would like to thank Stage Entertainment for their partnership in handing over the theater and look forward to making the Metronom Theater a new hotspot for live entertainment in the Ruhr area.”

Daniel Schranz, mayor of the city of Oberhausen: “The restart of the Metronom Theater is very good news for the people of Oberhausen and for our guests. The entry of Semmel Concerts strengthens Oberhausen and our Neue Mitte as a center for culture and entertainment in the entire region. I would like to thank Stage Entertainment for the long-standing and good cooperation. The new owner Semmel Concerts also has a lot of experience in live entertainment and will certainly soon expand the cultural offerings in our city with his programme.”

Semmel recently announced that award-winning film composer Hans Zimmer would perform in North America for the first time in seven years.

The smash-hit Hans Zimmer Live tour will visit North America this autumn, following a sold-out European run that shifted more than 300,000 tickets.

 


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Concerns over Rammstein & AC/DC dates played down

Organisers of Rammstein and AC/DC’s forthcoming tour dates in Dresden, Germany, have played down rumours that the gigs will need to be relocated.

Rammstein are due to play four outdoor shows at the 80,000-cap Dresden Rinne from 15-16 & 18-19 May, with AC/DC set to follow for two nights on 16 & 19 June.

But a Facebook post by the Free Voters/Free Citizens faction of Dresden City Council last week sparked fears that the gigs were in jeopardy over noise concerns.

“We have learned that the concerts by AC/DC and Rammstein planned… in the summer will allegedly have to contend with considerable requirements from the Dresden city administration,” said the statement. “A cancellation and relocation to Leipzig should be on the cards.”

While the city of Dresden acknowledged “challenges” regarding the venue, it insisted “nothing is in the balance”.

“The rumours that planned concerts in the Dresden flood channel will be cancelled or relocated to other locations are false,” said a press release.

“The city’s press release reveals that the information we received from a trustworthy source is accurate”

Responding on social media, the Free Voters say: “The city’s press release reveals that the information we received from a trustworthy source is accurate. After the concerts were publicly announced and tickets were sold, the city government noted: ‘The venue has challenges.’ Typically, ‘challenges’ are clarified before an event.

“What ‘challenges’ these are, we remain silent about. As far as we know, it’s about ‘noise pollution’. We will request access to the files as soon as possible.”

Rammstein promoter Rodney Aust of Bernd Aust Kultur Management tells Bild the concerts will go ahead.

“We are in daily contact with the city of Dresden about this,” explains Aust. “We want the concerts, the city [does] too. They will take place in Dresden.

“Due to the Christmas floods and the problems surrounding the Christmas circus, the event area is now viewed a little more sensitively. That’s exactly what we all do together. We are planning normally, the traffic light is green.”

Semmel Concerts, promoter of the AC/DC gigs, is similarly confident the dates will proceed.

“We have no reason to believe that the two AC/DC concerts in Dresden cannot take place as planned,” it assures Berliner Zeitung. “On the contrary: the band is looking forward to their Dresden fans.”

 


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Hans Zimmer’s 2024 tour surpasses 300,000 sales

More than 300,000 tickets have been sold to The World of Hans Zimmer Tour – A New Dimension, the German film-score composer’s forthcoming outing.

The international concert series comprises 30 arena dates across Europe this spring, followed by an additional 25 dates in autumn.

Seventeen dates, including Zimmer’s hometown of Frankfurt, have already sold out according to the tour’s producer, CTS Eventim-backed Semmel Concerts.

The World of Hans Zimmer Tour – A New Dimension marks a new chapter in the concert series The World of Hans Zimmer, in which the composer does not perform live on stage himself but participates as the show’s curator and musical director.

His acclaimed European tour in 2022 thrilled almost 400,000 fans in spring 2023 and was completely sold out

Soundtrack conductor Gavin Greenaway, a long-time trusted friend of the Hollywood composer, will take the helm, leading renowned soloists from Zimmer’s talent pool and a symphony orchestra. Visual projections of film sequences accompany the music.

Zimmer has completed highly successful stops around the globe with his Hans Zimmer Live tour. His acclaimed European tour in 2022 thrilled almost 400,000 fans in spring 2023 and was completely sold out.

Read the IQs feature on the tour here.

 


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Future of ‘Kaisermania’ concerts in doubt

Semmel Concerts has warned the future of veteran German singer Roland Kaiser’s ever-popular ‘Kaisermania’ concerts in Dresden could be under threat.

This summer marked the 20th anniversary of Kaiser’s shows at the annual Film Nights on the banks of the Elbe, with the 71-year-old headlining five sold-out 12,000-cap dates from 28-29 July and 4-6 August. The events were also televised live on German TV, attracting 1.77 million viewers.

However, the promoter warns the institution may have to relocate from 2026 due to plans drawn up by the city of Dresden, which could make it more expensive to continue to run Kaisermania at its current location.

“We are now in the situation that we can currently only plan until 2025 and have no security for 2026”

“The city of Dresden is of the opinion that the site on the banks of the Elbe must be put out to tender again from 2025,” organiser Dieter Semmelmann tells MDR um 4, via Maennersache. “Of course, this makes us nervous and concerned because we fear that this concept, which has been valued for many years, is now about to be suddenly changed. We are full of hope that things will change for the better in the coming weeks or months.”

Speaking to Bild, he adds: “We are now in the situation that we can currently only plan until 2025 and have no security for 2026. If we can no longer implement it in this form, we have to look for an alternative location.”

Bayreuth-based Semmel also produced Kaiser’s Alles oder Dich tour in autumn 2021 – the first major arena tour to be undertaken under pandemic conditions – which attracted 150,000 people over 27 shows.

Schlager singer Kaiser has announced a 50th anniversary German tour for May to July 2024. He will perform at open air venues such as the Kalkberg Arena in Bad Segeberg, Heinz von Heiden Arena in Hannover, Rostock’s  Ostseestadion, Königsplatz in Munich, RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne and the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.

 


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The big business of touring entertainment

It’s boom time for touring entertainment as people seek out social activities that bring them closer to their favourite TV shows and films, opportunities to learn in an interactive way, or ways of treating three generations of their family.

Touring entertainment is big business right now. As Nicolas Renna, whose company Proactiv Entertainment has been in the sector for 35 years, says: “When I first went to ILMC maybe 15 or 16 years ago, promoters that worked with family entertainment were in the minority. Feld was there, and a few others, but that was about it. Now, although we’re not equal with the music promoters, this segment has become more and more interesting for people, even the rock and pop promoters.”

Indeed, rock and pop promoters have increasingly been getting in on the action. No longer content to promote shows such as Disney on Ice, companies are increasingly creating or acquiring their own touring product. DEAG-owned Kilimanjaro Group acquired musicals producer Flying Music in 2017 (the firm behind West End production Thriller – Live and The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas) and is opening an exhibitions space in London this year. Last year, CTS Eventim-owned FKP Scorpio announced it was starting a new business dedicated to theatre and family shows, called FKP Show Creations. As well as promoting shows across Europe, it’s launching an arena touring production of beloved opera Aida.

Denis Sullivan, vice president, international tours at Feld Entertainment, has spent years in this sector. He says: “This is an evergreen industry; people don’t take time off to make a record and can tour every month of every year.”

He says the growth in demand for what can loosely be called ‘family entertainment’ is illustrated by the fact that Feld – one of the biggest firms in the business with products such as Disney on Ice, Monster Jam, Marvel Universe Live! and Jurassic World Live Tour – has a rehearsal facility that can set up two full-size arena shows side-by-side, and they both are constantly in use. “There’s something going on in them every single time. The number of products we put out ourselves is significant, and we will continue to do [so] because the audience is there.”

“The sector is growing because there’s something for everybody in our shows”

With over 12 years’ experience in the events industry, Ticketmaster’s VP client development Alex Berti spearheaded the company’s Ticketmaster Attractions segment. “We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of immersive art events, as the digital mapping and projection technology that powered these events became more accessible and more portable,” he says. “This meant producers could secure rights to an amazing piece of content and tour it around the world. That’s been a key driver to growth in this sector. For us, it’s meant supporting producers in multiple markets across a product’s lifespan and ensuring the client and the customer get the same experience in every market.”

Creating a market
Often, family show producers are pioneers – the first to go into markets that are yet to fully open to the worldwide touring entertainment industry. For many young children, a Disney on Ice show or an interactive moving dinosaurs exhibition is their first experience of live entertainment. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that family show producers are helping create the concert-attendees of the future.

What these companies are doing is giving people their first taste of an experience that cannot be replicated online, on TV, or on any other platform. They’re showing the children who come to see shows that going to see something live, at a venue, is cool.

If there is such a thing as a positive to come out of the pandemic, it’s that the growth of the sector has been accelerated by the ending of lockdown restrictions. While the concert industry is reporting being busier than ever before with the sheer number of shows on sale, demand for entertainment as a family group has been accelerated by the fact that people were kept apart for so long.

“The sector is growing because there’s something for everybody in our shows,” says Sullivan. “The shows might be predominantly targeted towards kids but mums and dads are going to go and have a great time because there’s something in it for them, too. Every successful Disney movie, for example, has something for the whole family unit.”

“Covid was a creative catalyst in our industry, producing a rapidly changing environment, which led to new models of collaboration”

And that’s not restricted to the live entertainment sector. Touring exhibitions are also seeing a boom time, reports Manon Delaury of Touring Exhibitions Organisation (TEO). “The touring exhibitions business was growing significantly before Covid, but the pandemic accelerated that,” she says. “But we’ve also seen expectations change. For example, people are craving very social experiences – people want to experience things together as much as possible. The multi-generational aspect has also become very important. And, of course, social media is a key factor.”

The other upside of the enforced pause was that it enabled exhibition organisers time to reflect, collaborate, and share information. “That led to a boom of new productions being developed and announced, and new collaborations between the private and public sectors, between entertainment and educational. That’s generated new experiences with a multi-layered, enriched approach,” she says. “These have triggered new ideas for engaging with audiences, and there are new, interesting approaches for bringing generations together to have the social moments we’ve all been craving.

“I think Covid was a creative catalyst in our industry, producing a rapidly changing environment, which led to new models of collaboration.”

Christoph Scholz is director of SC Exhibitions – an arm of long-time German music promoter Semmel Concerts. He is calling for more data reporting for the sector. “We all feel the market has grown, but there’s no data. So we need to be careful with claims about the amount of growth we’re seeing. I urge the exhibition industry to stand up and to share data on things such as ticket sales and ticket prices, because it will benefit us all.”

Scholz says 2023 is shaping up to be SC Exhibitions’ busiest year to date, with a new exhibition Disney 100 just opened at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and a second unit at the Olympic Park in Munich, a new Marvel exhibit which will be revealed in July, plus SpiderMan: Beyond Amazing, and Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.

“For this segment, we have to create the audience from scratch”

At ILMC’s dedicated strand to this sector this year, Scholz told a panel that exhibition revenues have grown from 2% to 10% of the company total.

But for anyone thinking this is easy money, Proactiv’s Renna sounds a note of caution. “This is very different to rock and pop. We create demand for shows people don’t know about; we create new audiences. If you have an artist such as Coldplay or Madonna, people know them and will come if they like the act. For this segment, we have to create the audience from scratch.”

And let’s not forget the enormous upfront costs required to get a production or exhibition on the road. Semmel Exhibitions, for instance, invested €3.5m in the Marvel: Universe of Superheroes exhibition experience before a single ticket had been sold. GAAP, an agency specialising in booking theatrical shows, spent recent years developing a new exhibition called Sensory Odyssey, which merges digital art, cinema, interactive technologies, sensorial techniques, and cognitive sciences. It raised €4m in private capital for the exhibition, which debuted in Paris.

FKP Show Creations was launched last year by the pan-European promoter. It’s spearheaded by CEO Jasper Barendregt. “In this market, it’s a bit like the Wild West at the moment,” he says. “There’s a lot of gold- digging happening. There’s a lot of content in the market, and there’s a lot of promoters jumping on it.”

It’s no wonder with such huge demand for experiences and ‘immersive’ exhibitions. “Something that changed throughout the pandemic was people were watching a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime at home, and suddenly they’re able to see it and experience it in cities. The pandemic has accelerated demand for these products,” says Barendregt.

“Being entertained while learning, playing, and participating is the new normal”

To illustrate demand for family entertainment, he says FKP Scorpio was promoting a Paw Patrol tour before the pandemic and sold “a lot of tickets,” but it was halted by the lockdowns. Of course, by the time things opened up again, the children of the people who had bought tickets had out-grown Paw Patrol, so they had to sell the tour again to a new audience. “And we did. What we’ve done is we sold a Paw Patrol tour twice. There’s a huge amount of people who want more and larger shows for really young kids.”

And Liz Koravos, managing director of Kilimanjaro Group’s new UK exhibition and cultural venue The Arches at London Bridge, says: “There has been an obvious shift in the market, likely influenced by the immersive ‘unicorn’ experiences of Van Gogh and the likes of Secret Cinema, but this can be seen through all disciplines, as the lines between exhibition, film, show, performance continue to be blurred. Being entertained while learning, playing, and participating is the new normal. With thrilling new content and the recovery of tourism following Covid, we think there is a very healthy exhibition market, and the demographic is widening.”

Ups and downs
As with concerts, demand for family entertainment can go in waves. With over 20 years’ experience at one of the most established companies in this sector, Maria Maldonado, Feld’s vice president – Latin America & Mediterranean Europe, says there have been other boom moments before things returned to a more ‘normal’ level of business: “We’ve had peaks and valleys as leaders in this industry. So, we had years in the mid- 2000s where we got High School Musical and Disney Live! on the road, or more recently when we had Frozen or Encanto out, and they were huge. We’ve seen quite a bit over the decades, and this is a growth moment.”

Barendregt says: “In the next seven or ten years, I think the big brands are going to get bigger, and there will be more demand for them to be on the road. That’s a good way to go because the marketing money was spent on the television show, television series, and so on. So going on the roll with it is fantastic.People don’t want to stay in front of their televisions, they want to experience it in real life. Especially if it’s not too expensive – somewhere between €20-€35 is where most tickets are sold at the moment.

“That’s why experiences work fantastically, because a lot of people might not be able to go on holidays, so they think, ‘If I’m not going to go on holidays, I’m going to see Jurassic World or Monet’s Garden’. Because it’s affordable; it’s more expensive than cinema, but you also get a lot more than cinema – it’s a whole experience.”

“We’re also seeing a live music component brought into exhibitions, to give them an immersive environment for the visitors”

Future perspectives
The current wave of experiences has been driven by a combination of creativity – partly inspired by technological advances, partly by demand from people to want to get closer to the action. But what does the future hold?

Proactiv’s Renna says the trend for more people producing their own content will continue. “There might be maybe less IP-driven content, because the IPs will be fewer but more powerful than before. However, events such as the Christmas Garden we do with DEAG will continue to do well. It’s about right venue, right partner, right promotion.

“Exhibitions are something we will continue to develop. It’s a large investment up front, but once you get started, it can run for many years, and it can go to many markets.”

Delaury is noticing an increasing interest in creating exhibitions dedicated to music and popular culture, such as exhibitions about the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and others. “There’s definitely a trend of bringing music experiences to travelling exhibitions, focusing on an artist, a trend, or a movement, but we’re also seeing a live music component brought into exhibitions, to give them an immersive environment for the visitors.”

It’s certainly a boom time for touring entertainment, and as more and more innovative concepts travel, it can only be
a good thing for this part of the business. Technology and creativity are working hand-in-hand to drive forward experiences that people will remember for years to come. It’s a risky business, often with huge upfront costs, but get it right and you can keep the show on the road for years without needing to take a break.

All that said, the most important thing, as Feld’s Sullivan says, is: “We want everyone happy at the end of the day and to send them home with a smile.”

The Touring Entertainment Report 2023 is available exclusively to IQ subscribers in print, as a digital magazine or online at our dedicated minisite hereSubscribe now and view the full report.

A preview version of the Touring Entertainment Report 2023 is below.

 


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Global Promoters Report 2022: Germany

The Global Promoters Report, a first-of-its-kind resource that highlights the world’s leading promoters and the 40 top markets they operate in, is now available to subscribers of IQ.

In an excerpt from the guide, IQ delves into the biggest touring market in Europe and the third-biggest in the world: Germany.

 


Germany is the biggest market in Europe and the third-biggest in the world, after the US and Japan. It generated revenues of around €5bn a year in pre-Covid times, though things are significantly tougher since the return of unrestricted shows in spring 2022, as energy prices and economic concerns squeeze sections of the market.

The German promoting business remains muscular and is largely steered by powerful consolidated groups – from local giants CTS Eventim, FKP Scorpio, and DEAG, to Live Nation – though there remain a number of hardworking independents.

Between them, the big groups account for a significant chunk of the nation’s national promoters. CTS Eventim, for instance, holds stakes in FKP Scorpio, Semmel Concerts, DreamHaus, and Peter Rieger Konzertagentur, accounting collectively for recent tours by Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, Muse, Måneskin, and others, as well as major festivals including Rock am Ring and Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside.

Live Nation GSA entered the market in 2015 through its acquisition of Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK). It brings all the expected superstar tours you would expect – Bruce
Springsteen, for one, arrives next July for four German stadium shows and another in Austria, while Sting, Lil Nas X, Bryan Adams, and Rosalía did the rounds before Christmas.

Live Nation bulked up further in September, adding longstanding independent Goodlive to its holdings. The festival, booking, and services agency brings events including Munich debutante Superbloom, electronic fest Melt!, and hip-hop and reggae event Splash! in Ferropolis; metal and punk festival Full Force in Löbnitz; and hip-hop event Heroes in Geiselwind.

“The majority of acts – especially those not in the top range or having a buzz right now – are struggling to sell tickets”

The Eventim-affiliated, Hamburg-based FKP Scorpio is, of course, a group in its own right, operating across the Nordics, Austria, Benelux, the UK, and Poland. In Germany, it has lately promoted stadium shows for Sheeran and the Stones, as well as a heavy slate of festivals – from the twin Hurricane and Southside indie events to M’era Luna in Hildesheim, Highfield in Großpösna, and Berlin’s Tempelhof Sounds.

Broadly speaking, festivals and blockbuster headline shows have remained strong in Germany this year. Cities like Berlin, Cologne, and Munich remain busy, affluent markets for live shows, with Hamburg not far behind.

But in a time of economic uncertainty fuelled by the war in Ukraine – combined with a perfect storm of post-Covid factors that have put a premium on material and staffing of all kinds – the softness of the everyday touring market is a major challenge for the German business. While the biggest acts sail on undaunted, all promoters have tales of smaller shows either half-filled or cancelled due to weak demand.

“Looking at this demographically, the younger people are going to shows more in comparison to older people, but in general it’s challenging,” says FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt.

“Of course, there are some acts that sell all the time, but the majority of acts – especially those not in the top range or having a buzz right now – are struggling to sell tickets. A lot of acts are cancelling at the moment, and not for logistical or other non-transparent reasons. They are just saying, very openly: we can’t make this tour financially work with the ticket sales and the costs we have. They are potentially playing to half the people, with double or triple the cost.”

“You put great acts on, you put great support acts on, you really think about pricing, and still ticket sales are running at 50%”

All promoters have been forced to reckon with a very different market in 2022, even as they have scrambled to honour the previous two years’ worth of Covid-era tickets.

“You put great acts on, you put great support acts on, you really think about pricing, and still ticket sales are running at 50%,” says Scumeck Sabottka, founder of independent Berlin-based Robbie Williams and Rammstein promoter MCT Agentur, who, again, notes that his flagship shows have done very well.

“Maybe next year it gets better, but I think the new normal could easily be 70%, so we need to gauge our costings and offers on that. At the moment, I think we, as promoters, are carrying a lot of pressure on our shoulders.”

German promoters in the DEAG stable include Frankfurt veteran Wizard Promotions – now under the stewardship of Oliver Hoppe, son of legendary founder Ossy – which leans in a rock direction, with Iron Maiden, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, and Scorpions all on the schedule for 2023. Hoppe junior, (who in September added the title of DEAG executive vice president, product and innovation to his Wizard responsibilities), shares the mixed outlook, “All in all we managed to entertain over a half a million visitors in the summer, and that was tough work but also an exciting exercise. But it’s a struggle. Nobody knows where inflation, labour shortages, energy costs, and the ongoing pandemic will take us.

“There seems to be a pattern that high-demand shows are still high in demand, but I am very concerned about club shows and emerging artists. I am expecting every day for some grand-scale tour to hit the wall, but so far, from what we are hearing and seeing from the market, that isn’t happening – so I think there is hope.”

“We see strong sales on A+ talent and established festivals but soft ticket sales on everything else”

Also in the DEAG family – along with UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live, whose Stuart Galbraith recently ascended to the group role of executive vice president international touring – are Christian Doll’s Stuttgart-based C2 Concerts and the German arm of I-Motion. The former’s 2022 tours include German dates for the Harlem Globetrotters; the latter, part-acquired in 2019 from US promoter Randy Phillips’s LiveStyle, operates several long-established electronic music festivals including Mayday, Nature One, and Ruhr in Love.

Sina Hall, Semmel Concerts senior project manager, entertainment, says dialogue with agents and other stakeholders is ongoing, as the market adapts to a new set of conditions. “If you look at the situation for promoters or clubs that are not necessarily part of a group of companies, most of them most likely used their money to make it through the pandemic, so they have to be more risk-conscious when making decisions now,” says Hall.

Relatively few promoters have launched during Covid times, for obvious reasons, but one exception is DreamHaus, the CTS-Eventim-backed venture helmed by former Live Nation GSA managing director and COO Matt Schwarz, which landed in early 2021 with one significant advantage over the wider market. “The beauty of being a start-up during Covid times is that we didn’t have to deal with any aftermath of cancelled or multiple-postponed events,” Schwarz noted in IQ’s recent German market report.

In other respects, DreamHaus – which operates the blockbuster Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals, as well as Tempelhof Sounds and arena shows this year for Lewis Capaldi, Yungblud, Muse, Måneskin, and others – sounds a familiar note of caution.

“We see strong sales on A+ talent and established festivals but soft ticket sales on everything else,” says Schwarz. “Pushing down the increased costs of touring and local production to the customers via higher ticket prices is not a sustainable solution. The worst is yet to come, so we are more selective in our bookings and the M.O. is ‘less is more’ for now.”

“The worst is yet to come, so we are more selective in our bookings and the M.O. is ‘less is more’ for now”

In its structure, Germany is a unique market. Under its distinctive regionalised system, local promoters with strong local knowledge typically co-promote with national promoters in any given city.

The local promoting business these days also betrays a strong corporate interest. Eventim owns a number of such promoters, including Bavaria’s ARGO Konzerte, Cologne’s Dirk Becker Entertainment, Promoters Group Munich, and Vaddi Concerts in south-west Germany.

Other prominent local operators include DEAG companies ACT (Berlin), River Concerts (Hamburg), Rhein Main Concerts (Frankfurt), Global Concerts and KBK (both Munich) and Handwerker, based in Unna; Hannover Concerts, in the northern German city of the same name; and Undercover, based in Braunschweig and operating in northern Germany and beyond, which was acquired by BMG in 2020 to lay the foundations for a new live music and events unit.

Some local promoters have expanded well beyond their original regions: Semmel Concerts, now a major national player, focused on Bavaria and Eastern Germany when it first launched more than 30 years ago.

These days, its shows span Germany and Austria and its calendar includes three postponed Berlin dates on Elton John’s farewell tour next May, as well as concerts by Hans Zimmer, Céline Dion, John Cale, and others next year.

“It makes the business kind of boring if there are only three or four big corporates fighting each other”

In a globalised era where scale and network clout count more than ever, Germany is hardly the only market in which independent promoters have inexorably been absorbed into international groups. Ben Mitha, managing director of Hamburg-based Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, the persistently independent promoter founded by his grandfather, doesn’t condemn any other company for doing so, though he maintains that the market needs indies for its all-round health.

“I totally understand those people, especially in these last two challenging years, who are seeking shelter under a corporate umbrella,” says Mitha. “At the same time, it makes the business kind of boring if there are only three or four big corporates fighting each other. I think you also need those independents out there doing it for the passion or investing in some niche that might not be interesting for the big companies.”

Karsten Jahnke’s forthcoming shows include a Hamburg appearance for Robbie Williams as well as dates for Avril Lavigne, Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice, Elton John, and numerous smaller acts. This year’s successes have included The Cure and 49 nights at Hamburg’s Stadtpark for the Open Air series, with Deep Purple, Sting, Joe Jackson, Michael Kiwanuka, and Olivia Rodrigo among those collectively selling 170,000 tickets.

Among the market’s other nationally focused indies, is Berlin-based booker and national promoter Z|ART, founded in 2014 by Max Wentzler and Hauke Steinhof. Wentzler says there are enthusiastic audiences out there for fresh talent but suggests spiraling costs can easily have a brutal effect on promoters, even when a show is an apparent success.

“We are used to suffering in the live business, but it is haemorrhaging a little bit,” says Wentzler. “Margins have been decimated, basically, and it feels like all the income is being eaten up by security, ticketing, and stagehand companies, and also venues, who have increased their rates in response to energy prices because they are going to get hit with a huge bill.”

“Margins have been decimated, basically, and it feels like all the income is being eaten up”

Other independents include Hamburg’s a.s.s. concerts & promotion. Part of the Mehr-BB Entertainment Company, a.s.s. has operated as a booking agency and tour promoter for German and international rock, pop, folk, jazz, and world music artists since 1979, presenting up to 1,200 concerts a year.

A Covid-era consolidation saw two more Hamburg-based concert promoters, Funke Media and Neuland Concerts, merge to form what the company describes as “one of the largest owner-managed concert agencies in Germany.”

Operating as Neuland Concerts and working as both promoter and agency, Neuland’s current schedule includes dates for German stars Ina Müller and Max Mutzke. In Munich, Astrid Messerschmitt’s United Promoters has a superstar pedigree, having worked shows for Eric Clapton, AC/DC, and others, as well as maintaining a longstanding relationship with legendary veteran Marcel Avram.

Hamburg’s Music Minds Productions has also seen it all and has recently staged shows for 50 Cent at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena and The Police’s Andy Summers in Hamburg and Berlin. Of the market’s standalone festival promoters, Cosmopop is responsible for the 28-year-old Time Warp electronic festival in Mannheim and its international editions in Brazil, Chile, and the US; Opus produces the renowned Jazzopen Stuttgart; while ICS (International Concert Service) controls Wacken Open Air in Schleswig-Holstein, which remains one of the world’s biggest and most-esteemed rock festivals.

“I would wish that in many cases solution-oriented thinking could come forward instead of ego-driven thinking”

The market is competitive and tough, with even the winners licking their wounds after a bruising year. Superbloom managing director Fruzsina Szép – recently profiled in the German editions of Rolling Stone and Vogue as the one and only woman in charge of a German festival – believes more collaboration would benefit all.

“I don’t see any other festivals as competitors,” she says. “I’m really happy to have many great festivals in Germany, in Europe, in the UK. And if we have to tackle the same problems, then why not learn from each other to make it better?

“I’m very much in balance with my own ego, and I would wish that in many cases solution-oriented thinking could come forward instead of ego-driven thinking. People shouldn’t be afraid to say, ‘Well, we had problems, we had challenges.’”

 


The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.

To access all content from the current Global Promoters Report, please click here.

Semmel Concerts claims double win at Germany’s LEA

Semmel Concerts took home two honours from the first full-scale Live Entertainment Award (LEA) ceremony since the pandemic began.

More than 1,000 guests attended the event, which recognises excellence in the German live sector, at Frankfurt Festhalle this past Wednesday (22 June).

Semmel CEO Dieter Semmelmann was named Promoter of the Year and also received the award for Concert Hall/Arena Tour of the Year for Roland Kaiser’s Alles oder Dich tour, which was produced by the Bayreuth-based company. Staged in the autumn of 2021, Alles oder Dich was the first major arena tour to be undertaken under pandemic conditions, and attracted 150,000 people over 27 shows.

“My whole team has fought with courage, passion and vision for every event”

“Like many in this industry, my whole team has fought with courage, passion and vision for every event, and even accepted the challenges of resuming major tours under difficult conditions during the past year,” said Semmelmann. “So I dedicate this award to all my colleagues, on stage and behind the scenes, because mammoth undertakings like this have only been, and will only ever be possible with boundless loyalty, a lot of determination and countless helping hands.”

A jury of 24 experts, made up of media representatives and industry specialists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, decided on the winners of the LEA, awarded for outstanding achievement in 2020 and 2021.

Elsewhere, Cologne promoter Roland “Balou” Temme was posthumously honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Temme, who died last August aged 67, organised tours by the acts such as Peter Maffay, Udo Lindenberg and David Garrett with his companies Think Big and RTK.

Other winners included Austria’s Nova Music Entertainment for Nova Rock Encore (Festival of the Year), Nils Bodenstedt and Uli Mücke (Artist Manager/Agent of the Year), and Telekom Deutschland and Live Nation Brand Partnership & Media for the creation of digital live experiences on the Magenta Musik 360 portal (Cooperation of the Year).

Two new categories were also created this year due to the special circumstances in the assessment period: Industry Alliance of the Year went to the Music Industry Forum, Events Industry Forum, Swiss Music Promoters Association and Austrian Events Industry Interest Group, while the award for the artist alliance of the year went to booker Maria Paz Caraccioli Gutierrez and photographer Martin Diesch.

In addition, the inaugural honorary LEA was awarded to longtime BDKV (Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry) president Jens Michow.

 


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Friday round-up: World news in brief 17/12/21

Welcome to IQ‘s weekly round-up of news from around the world. Here, in bite-sized chunks, we present a selection of international stories you may have missed from the last seven days…

AUSTRALIA:
TEG, the Sydney-based live entertainment, ticketing, and technology company, has appointed impresario Randy Phillips to the board of directors. The live music veteran most recently served as president and CEO of LiveStyle. Prior to that, Phillips was CEO at AEG Live for 13 years, where he promoted world tours for artists such as Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber. Phillips, whose role will be both advisory and operational, will contribute to the expansion of the TEG footprint in live entertainment, including the creation of unique, owned, or co-owned, and financed intellectual property.

GERMANY:
Semmel Concerts has set up its own booking department under the name SCE Artists & Events. “Of course, the booking area has always been an important part of our company DNA, which we are now professionalising and making more visible with the Artists & Events department,” says MD Dieter Semmelmann. “We act as a partner and networker between artist/production and customer. Due to our experience and our diverse portfolio, we are able to offer and implement individual and tailor-made concepts for our partners.”

FRANCE:
Midem, a music industry conference and festival in Cannes, has been officially axed after 55 years. The impact of Covid-19 forced the organisers to stage events online in 2020 and 2021. An in-person event was scheduled for June 2022 but has now been pulled. The event launched in January 1967 with the promise that execs could “do all your business in six sunny days in Cannes,” and it became a crucial fixture of the music industry calendar.

SPAIN:
The organisers of marquee Spanish festival Primavera Sound have warned that they may have to find a new host city in 2023 due to a “lack of interest and agreement” from Barcelona city council. Primavera Sound has taken place in Barcelona for 20 years and has recently expanded internationally with sister events in Los AngelesChile , Argentina and Brazil. The flagship event will mark its 20th-anniversary next year with an expanded edition.

UNITED STATES:
The 10 people who died in a crowd crush during Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston last month accidentally suffocated, according to the Harris County medical examiner. The victims, aged 9 to 27 years old, died of compression asphyxia, the examiner’s report concluded. Another 300 people were injured among the audience of 50,000 people. Travis Scott has requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits he is named in relating to the Astroworld disaster.

NORWAY:
More than 160 music festivals across the country are to benefit from the latest round of compensation from the Norwegian government’s scheme for organisers and subcontractors in the cultural sector. Kongsberg Jazz Festival, Oslo World, Vossa Jazz, Night Jazz, Trondheim Jazz Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival, Beyond the Gates, Midgardsblot Metal Festival, Nordland Music Festival and Risør Chamber Music Festival are among the festivals that will receive a share in 2022. It was recently announced that the scheme, which has been running since 2020, will be continued until the summer of 2022.

UNITED STATES:
Opry Entertainment Group (OEG) has announced AXS as its official and exclusive ticketing partner. Under the partnership, AXS will provide its full suite of solutions for all OEG properties on a single platform, streamlining tour and show ticketing operations. OEG properties include the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, its Ole Red venues in Orlando, Gatlinburg, Nashville, Tishomingo and the recently announced Ole Red in Las Vegas (expected 2023). The partnership also creates new opportunities to align with AXS’s parent company AEG and its live event business, AEG Presents.

 


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