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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Stefan Lehmkuhl, BMG

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager at Festival Republic in London, UK.

The series continues with Stefan Lehmkuhl (he/him/his), freelance curator & live entertainment consultant at BMG/Ruined My Rainbow in Berlin, Germany.

Stefan Lehmkuhl grew up in Münster thinking he was the only gay boy in the village. I never learned anything proper after school other than live entertainment and a bit of music journalism. At least, I didn’t get any certificates or degrees, until today.

I worked as stagehand, security, cup collector, paramedic, music journalist, then festival booker (Melt, Lollapalooza Berlin), tour promoter (Robyn, Fever Ray, The xx), co-founder & CEO (Goodlive), curator (Theater des Westens), you name it. Actually, I always got the feeling I was the only gay boy in the village in my career [as well]. It’s been a ride.

Around the age of 40, I got sober, took a break after corona, and sold my company shares [in order] to reflect on what it is that I wanted to do in the future.

Right now, I programme a beautiful theatre (Theater des Westens) in Berlin on behalf of BMG, working with a wonderful queer team, and am in the process of starting a queer-owned company called Ruined My Rainbow with some amazing people.

Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
To have managed to set up a truly diverse team for the running of a new concert project at Theater des Westens. We didn’t manage to present a diverse enough lineup so far, but I’m proud to say that behind the scenes, from programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best. I wouldn’t say we excluded them, but they are certainly the minority on our payroll.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Cormac b2b fka.4ma.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Probably the same as non-queer young professionals: set boundaries, don’t do anything you’re not feeling comfortable with; practice self-care; [give] your opinion and leave when you get bullied for [it]; connect with other queer and young professionals and support each other; ask your queer elders [Feel free to get in contact!]. I only say all this because I didn’t do any of it. I only recently started and see [now] what I missed out on.

“From programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
After 20 years of working my ass off, I kind of earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry when I got there. I would have seen that as a mistake if you would have told me ten years ago, but it was one of the healthiest decisions I ever made for myself. The job can be pretty toxic, and if I want to help and change things in the future, I needed to refill my batteries and reflect on my experiences.

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
In the face of the Rammstein ‘row zero’ [controversy], bubbling ‘Me Too’ stories of industry legends, gender-balanced lineup debates, and ongoing white cis-male dominance in the business, I wonder when the time of the next generation in the industry will finally come and when the outburst within the industry will finally be louder.

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
Sometimes I worry that we see the same phenomenon in the industry that we see in society: first there is a glimpse of hope that things will change, and then the alliance of gatekeepers gains momentum again. I’m terrified of what’s happening in Europe politically; it feels like America’s ‘Gilead’ tendencies post-Trump are undermining the progress of the last [few] years. It is crucial for the industry to forge ahead, refusing to succumb to regression and instead embracing genuine progress. To achieve this, the industry must cultivate a greater sense of courage and boldness.

“After 20 years of working my ass off, I earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry”

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
I’d love for it to become a truly diverse and gender-balanced environment, especially at management level. It will automatically turn into a less toxic and safer workspace that’s more attractive to work in for people.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
Quotas in all fields of the industry: lineup, staff, security, management… all fields! (I know ‘equitable’ isn’t the same as ‘equal’ but both go hand in hand for me.)

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
Melvin Benn.

Do you support any LGBTIQ+ causes?
Allout.org – at the moment, especially, [due to] the absolutely terrifying situation for LGBTQIA+ people in Uganda and potentially Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and for putting pressure on governments to issue humanitarian visas.


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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Meet this year’s queer pioneers

IQ Magazine has revealed the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – the third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee – are individuals that have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

The third instalment comprises agents, promoters, tour managers, marketing executives, consultants, founders and more – all of whom identify as LGBTIQ+ and, in the face of adversity, have made enormous contributions to their respective sectors.

In alphabetical order, the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 is:

Christina Austin, music agent, United Talent Agency (UK)
Hila Aviran, director of entertainment & tours, PixMob (US)
Johanna Beckman, senior creative curator and promoter, FKP Scorpio Sweden (SE)
Amy Greig, booking agent, Runway Artists (UK)
Adem Holness, head of contemporary music, Southbank Centre (UK)
Kane Kete, client development manager, Ticketmaster (AU)
Ippei Kimura, booking/marketing/tour manager, Creativeman Productions (JP)
Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager, Festival Republic (UK)
Stefan Lehmkuhl, freelance curator & live entertainment consultant, BMG/Ruined My Rainbow (DE)
Lucy Mackenzie McNae, tour manager (Josef, Twin Atlantic), Two and a Half TMs (UK)
Saskhia Menendez, innovator at Keychange, board of directors at F-List Music (UK)
Dev Mistry, global internal comms manager, DICE (UK)
Frederik Diness Ove, founder, Queer Music Agency (DK)
Boyan Pinter (Boiadjiev), founder/director, SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase (BG)
Scott Robson, event manager, ASM Global (UK)
Roman Samotný, director, Queer Slovakia (SK)
Marie-Christine Scheffold, senior booking agent manager, Selective Artists (DE)
Karim Siddiqui, senior booking manager, Live Nation (US)
Areti Tziorta, marketing manager, TEG Europe (UK)
João Pedro Viana, music agent, WME (UK)

Throughout the next month, IQ will be publishing full-length interviews with each person on the LGBTIQ+ List 2023.

Subscribers can read the full Pride edition now. Click here to subscribe to IQ from less than £8 a month – or see what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below.

Check out 2022’s cohort of queer pioneers here, and 2021’s cohort here.

Stefan Lehmkuhl to book BMG’s Theater des Westens

Goodlive co-founder Stefan Lehmkuhl has been appointed to the top booker role at BMG’s Theater des Westens in Berlin.

Lehmkuhl is best-known for his two decades of success curating and producing festivals such as Melt Festival, splash!, and Lollapalooza Berlin.

He, along with co-founder Thomas Resch, stepped down from Germany’s Goodlive in July 2021, making way for a new management structure.

After a two-year hiatus from the live industry, Lehmkuhl will now book concerts, residencies and theatre productions for the historic 1,7000-capacity theatre, which BMG recently took a two-year lease on.

Working alongside him at the venue will be event producer Parker Tilghman, known in Berlin and beyond by their alias Pansy. For the last decade, they have created acclaimed underground performance events and club nights in some of the city’s most prominent institutions like SO36, Deutsche Oper, Volksbühne, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and more.

BMG Chief Content Officer Dominique Casimir says: “Taking a two-year lease on the Theater des Westens was a statement of intent. The appointment of Stefan and Pansy shows the extent of our ambition. Stefan is known for his creative booking and for producing events with visual flair and artistic integrity. With his help we will take the Theater des Westens to an entirely new level and make it a premier entertainment destination in Berlin.”

“Early feedback from artists and managers has been positive, with particular interest in the residency format”

Lehmkuhl adds: “I am excited to join in collaboration with BMG as my first consultant and curation project after a two-year hiatus from the industry. We are offering artists completely new opportunities that have not existed in Berlin before in a truly gorgeous setting.

“We are open to collaborating with agents, managers and event organisers, internationally and nationally, even beyond music, and welcome inquiries. I am grateful for Dominique’s trust and look forward to working with her, Pansy and the team at BMG. Early feedback from artists and managers has been positive, with particular interest in the residency format.”

Pansy comments: “The new format will be of particular interest to established artists who want to present a high-end show at a beautiful venue in the heart of Berlin rather than embarking on a regular tour. We look forward to pairing them with local, underground performers that keep our city so special and unique.”

Michael Schacke, Undercover CEO and responsible for BMG’s live strategy in GSA, said: “With the opening of Berlin’s Theater des Westens for live concerts, residencies and performances, the next piece of the puzzle of BMG’s live strategy falls into place. With Undercover as tour and local promoter in GSA and the Taubertal Festival, TDW now adds one of the most beautiful and exciting live venues in Europe that gives us more opportunities to work with artists and their management in the live segment.”


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Germany’s Goodlive announces reshuffle

Germany’s Goodlive has announced a new management structure “in preparation for ‘the roaring 20s’ of the post-pandemic live entertainment industry”.

Co-founders and managing partners Stefan Lehmkuhl and Thomas Resch have announced their departure from the company, leaving Fruzsina Szép, Julian Gupta and Justus Mang with greater responsibility.

Gupta, alongside his role as managing director of Ferropolis-based festival splash! (cap. 30,000), will also assume responsibility for the festival booking team at Goodlive.

In addition, he will also take over the management and booking of Freiburg-based festival Heroes, which Goodlive partnered with in early 2020, working alongside the festival’s founder Lukas Apfelbacher.

Szép, who was appointed MD of Superbloom in 2019, will be primarily responsible for the Munich launch of the festival.

“[Fruzsina, Julian and Justus] have one of the best teams in the world at their disposal”

Meanwhile, Mang heads Goodlive Artists, the company’s touring arm (description), which recently expanded to Austria.

In the future, all three will actively support the management of Goodlive, alongside the remaining confounders and managing partners at the company Marko Hegner and Mirko Roßner. The fifth cofounder of Goodlive, Matthias Hörstmann, left in 2017.

Stefan Lehmkuhl says: “I am incredibly proud and delighted that trusted friends like Fruzsina, Julian and Justus will play a more leading role in shaping the future of Goodlive. They have one of the best teams in the world at their disposal, and many of the people I’ve worked with over the years are taking on more responsibility for some of the projects I’ve had the pleasure to help shape over the past 20 years.

“Personally, I long for a period of pause and reflection on whether and in what capacity I see my future in the live entertainment industry after the pandemic, and I am happy to have the privilege of taking a longer break after more than two decades of never standing still.”

“We feel well-positioned to further expand our role as an independent alternative in the festival and touring market”

Thomas Resch adds: “When I stumbled into the live entertainment industry 25 years ago at the young age of 18, I could not have imagined where this journey would lead. It was a very exciting time with many challenges and even more unforgettable moments.

“During the last years, Julian Gupta has firmly shaped splash! and achieved a great deal. I am sure that under his leadership, our strong team will master all other challenges and that Goodlive will continue on its successful path.”

Marko Hegner, MD, Goodlive, says: “We feel well-positioned to further expand our role as an independent alternative in the festival and touring market from 2022 onwards and are incredibly excited to finally tackle projects that had already been planned before Corona, such as Superbloom Festival in Munich, Heroes Festival in Freiburg and the launch of Goodlive Artists in Austria.

“I have a lot of respect for Thomas’ and Stefan’s decisions to put their own needs first after a pandemic that was demanding for all of us, and I am grateful that together we have succeeded in optimally positioning Goodlive for the future in terms of personnel during a longer preparation phase.”


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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees

The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.

Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.

The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.

“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”

Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.

The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”

“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”

The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.

In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.

“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.

ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”

Lehmkuhl, who runs German festivals including Melt, Splash, Superbloom and With Full Force, added that a lot depends on how long the shutdown continues for.

“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.

“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”

“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”

Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”

As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”

In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”

Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”

Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.

“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”

Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.

The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.

“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.

The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”

Vulcu added that support packages offered by governments in western European countries such as Germany and the UK may put newer markets at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to receive support.

Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.

Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”

Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.

“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”

Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.

Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.

For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.

The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.

“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”

The next IQ Focus session State of Independence: Promoters will take place on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET. To set a reminder head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s session back below, or on YouTube or Facebook now.

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IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’

After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.

The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.

Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?

How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about the IQ Focus Festival Forum: The Next Stage session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.


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