Festival leaders look to domestic artists for 2021
Gathering speakers from Australia, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Festival Forum: Reboot & reset delved into the states of those local markets and their various timelines for reopening.
Moderator Beatrice Stirnimann, of boutique event Baloise Session, explained that when her event was cancelled early on in 2020, it allowed the organisation to spend time concentrating on a series of livestreaming shows, leading her to quiz her fellow speakers about how they have spent the last 12 months.
Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, disclosed that the company had to get creative during last year’s first lockdown by developing digital versions of festivals to prepare audiences for the rescheduled 2020 festivals, although he admitted that this year’s diary is now looking precarious as well.
Thanscheidt said tickets are currently on sale for events, but nobody is buying at the moment. “I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe,” he stated, adding that he believes a lot more events will cancel their 2021 events in the coming weeks. “We have to think about strategies to keep people on board to have the best possible outcome for 2022.”
“I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe”
Jim King reported that AEG Presents took a view to pause and review what the situation was during the past year, while the company tried to be a voice to support the various organisations that have been lobbying on the industry’s behalf. “With the success of the vaccination programme in the UK, it’s giving us a foundation to build off,” he said. “What is important for us [in the UK] is that we now have these ‘not before’ dates which brings all the stakeholders together in the industry so everyone can align. That means that the planning side now becomes easier, although it’s still not easy.”
Jessica Ducrou of Secret Sounds explained that the company has recently rescheduled its 2021 edition of the Splendour in the Grass festival from July to November. “We’ve been offering refunds to people, but the retention is high at 90% despite rescheduling three times. So that shows that people are really looking forward to events reopening,” she said.
Tommy Jinho Yoon of International Creative Agency revealed that there are shows currently happening in Korea, but a travel ban means there are no international acts performing at the moment. “I’ve been doing the same as everyone else at the moment – basically putting out fires,” he said.
Explaining that his events generally twin with festivals in Japan to share acts, Yoon observed that optimism appears to be is higher in that country than Korea, which informed his decision not to plan any festivals in 2021. However, he revealed that the shows he is booking for Q1 and Q2 of 2022 are in conjunction with artists who are also confirming Australian dates, hinting that international touring could be on the way back sooner than some people imagine. “When our shows go back on, it’s going to be intense,” said Yoon. “Machines are not going to replace that.”
Exploiting domestic talent makes sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel
For her part, Ducrou told her peers that Australia is gradually getting back to business. “Domestically, artists are touring not at full capacity, but the shows are getting bigger,” she said, noting that the government recently gave approval for a festival at Easter with a 50% capacity and other restrictions.
“Using domestic talent is where Australia is at the moment. Shows are getting bigger and density is getting higher, so I’m optimistic,” added Ducrou. But in terms of international acts, she stressed that the mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country remains the biggest challenge.
On a similar note, King said exploiting domestic talent made sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel. Therefore any AEG events this summer would likely be dominated by UK artists.
However, Thanscheidt said that having only domestic artists would not work for some of Scorpio’s festival brands, where restrictions such as social distancing or zero alcohol policies wouldn’t be a good fit either.
But Thanscheidt also ended on a positive vibe, by repeating a theme that has run throughout the discussions at ILMC, thanks to regular calls that the FKP Scorpio team have had with the likes of AEG Presents, Eventim Live, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct as part of Yourope’s Solutions for Festivals Initiative. “The teaming up by different companies in solidarity is, for me, a very astonishing and very good outcome,” he declared.
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M’era Luna rebooks all 2020 acts for next year
FKP Scorpio has announced that all acts billed to play the 2020 edition of gothic festival M’era Luna will be returning in 2021.
The promoter was forced to call off M’era Luna 2020, along with twin festivals Hurricane and Southside, Highfield, Deichbrand, Elbjazz and Limestone, when the German government imposed a ban on large-scale events until the end of August.
The 25,000-capacity festival will return from 7 to 8 August 2021, headed up by ASP, Gdansk and the Sisters of Mercy.
“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner,” says FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt, who spoke on the recent IQ Focus Festival Forum panel.
“The rapid reconfirmation of our entire line-up would not have been possible for our visitors without a great effort of our team and our artists. Thanks for all parties, but especially to our guests who have kept us in this difficult time with a lot of support, the loyalty.”
“We are very happy that we could reward the solidarity and patience of our guests in this manner”
Scorpio has also reconfirmed a number of headliners for its Hurricane and Southside festivals, including Seeed, Martin Garrix, the Killers, Kings of Leon and Rise Against.
Thanscheidt references FKP’s ‘three-ticket solution’ programme, which offers all ticket holders three options: transfer tickets to 2021, opt for a credit voucher in accordance with government regulations, or ask for a cash refund.
Several festivals have announced a high rebooking count for 2021. In the UK, metal festival Bloodstock has confirmed 95% of its 2020 acts for next year, says festival director Rachael Greenfield.
Scotland’s Trnsmt has also retained a high proportion of acts for next year, including headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and Lewis Capaldi, whereas From the Fields’ Bluedot Festival announced the rebooking of headliners Bjork, Groove Armada and Metronomy concurrently with the cancellation of its 2020 edition.
Primavera Sound today (27 May) announced its line-up for 2021, reconfirming acts including Iggy Pop, the Strokes, Tyler the Creator and the National.
A recent Festicket survey has indicated that appetite for next year’s festival season is high, with over 75% of 110,000 respondents saying they would book tickets for 2021 events within the next eight weeks.
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Festival leaders talk uncertain future in latest IQ Focus session
Representatives from some of Europe’s best-loved festivals took part in the second of IQ’s virtual panel sessions yesterday (14 May), reflecting on the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on this important seasonal sector of the industry.
Available to watch back now here, as well as on Facebook and Youtube, the session saw AEG Presents’ Jim King, FKP Scorpio’s Stephan Thanscheidt, Bloodstock Open Air’s Rachael Greenfield, Roskilde Festival’s Anders Wahren and Montreux Jazz festival’s Mathieu Jaton offer their opinions on the biggest challenges facing the festival industry post Covid-19 and the steps the sector must take for recovery.
Although Thanscheidt stated FKP was “planning on having a normal season in 2021”, others did not share his optimism.
For King, the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis will continue to harm the sector until a vaccine is created. “I am severely doubtful that anything is going to take place this year and I’m somewhat doubtful about Q1 next year,” said AEG’s CEO of European Festivals.
The festival supply chain is of particular concern to King, given the number of independent festivals that face collapse due to the current situation.
“These community festivals provide income for freelancers and suppliers of all sizes,” said King, citing a recent Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) report which warns that 92% of its members could be bankrupted by refund requests.
“I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too”
“If those festivals are impacted, the supply chain will be dramatically affected as well. This has a massive ripple out to the wider industry,” said King. “The impact will be seismic, and that’s an understatement.”
The panel agree that fan confidence had taken “a battering”, and that the coronavirus crisis will lead to fans having less money to spend. As a result, “there’s going to be a correction across costs generally” to account, argued King.
“Artists are going to get paid less because staff and suppliers are going to get paid less – everyone’s going to have to take a big bite of this to protect our relationship with the fan.
“Some [artists] won’t tour if they have to take a cut. But I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too.”
Beyond the pressure on costs and artist fees, guests referenced the incompatibility of festivals with any form of social distancing measures.
“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work,” said Greenfield, who cancelled the 2020 edition of Bloodstock earlier this month. “To be able to have a good time you can’t separate people – that’s not what a festival is about.”
“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work”
Wahren, head of programming at Roskilde Festival, which was forced to cancel this year due to the Danish government’s summer-long events ban, agreed that “it’s all or nothing”.
“I can’t see us running a festival wearing masks or standing one metre apart.”
For Wahren, alternative forms of live events such as drive-in concerts, although fun, are mere stopgap solutions and “not what we are in this business for”.
Session host and ILMC head Greg Parmley asked each guests for a positive lesson that the last two months had taught them. Unanimously, all spoke of an overwhelming sense of audience loyalty towards their events.
Full festival tickets for Roskilde 2021 sold out in a matter of hours earlier this week, with 85% of ticketholders holding onto their tickets for next year. Thanscheidt cited similar numbers for FKP’s twin festivals, Hurricane and Southside, with 75 to 80% of fans expected to retain their tickets for 2021, and Greenfield put refund requests for Bloodstock at just 8%.
“We also managed to roll over 95% of bands for next year, which surprisingly wasn’t at all difficult,” added the Bloodstock director.
In Germany, parliament is set to pass new laws regarding the refund system in the next few days, said Thanscheidt. The German government is among those to protect corona-hit event organisers by allowing them to offer credit vouchers instead of cash refunds.
“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so”
And beyond the fans themselves, panellists highlighted the solidarity shown throughout the industry, with many pulling together to support others in need.
However, a more unified approach to tackling the crisis is needed. According to Thanscheidt, “it’s time to team up and start lobbying on a pan-European level.”
For Jaton, the unification should go further still. “The first steps right now are to save the industry in individual countries, but we are an interdependent industry – we are very dependent on the US, so if there is a problem in the US, that’s half our festival gone [talent wise].”
King agreed, saying that, as an industry, “we have still not set out what our key objectives are”.
“Everyone’s thinking very differently about when we recover. We’ve got to put in a longer term plan over multiple cycles and we need to align on how we can collectively come out of this.
“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so.”
The next IQ Focus session, The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, takes place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 p.m. BST/4.30 p.m. CET, with speakers John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).
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FKP Scorpio “proud” of 2019 festival season
The eleventh edition of Rolling Stone Beach took place from 15 to 16 November, signalling the “successful completion” of the 2019 festival season for Hamburg-based promoter FKP Scorpio.
Four thousand fans attended the two-day, indoor event at Weissenhäuser Strand holiday and leisure park, which saw headline performances from the Specials and Elbow, as well as appearances by Maximo Park, Teenage Fan Club and the Charlatans.
FKP Scorpio, which is majority owned by German powerhouse CTS Eventim, now promotes twelve festivals throughout Germany, including Rolling Stone Beach sister festival Rolling Stone Park; twin festivals Hurricane and Southside; heavy metal event M’era Luna; and the newly announced Seaside Country Festival.
“Whether it’s a small-town, multi-day open air or an intimate indoor festival format, our festivals are as diverse as their audience,” comments Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO and head of festival booking at FKP Scorpio.
“Whether it’s a small-town, multi-day open air or an intimate indoor festival format, our festivals are as diverse as their audience”
“Each one has its own character and it is a lot of fun to develop it year after year for the benefit of our guests. We are proud to look back on the past months and are already looking forward to the festival season 2020, which begins with the Plage Noire here on the Weissenhäuser beach in April.
“The festival landscape has grown steadily worldwide in recent years and is constantly changing,” continues Thanscheidt. “Fortunately, our broad portfolio allows us to try out and develop a wide variety of formats. This may include innovations in accommodation and dining, elaborate designs and decoration, as well as a history in which guests can immerse themselves on site.
“Today, festivals are holistic live experiences that are just as memorable as the stage programme itself.”
The promoter has already announced the first acts for its 2020 events, with the exception of the Rolling Stone festivals and Metal Hammer Paradise. FKP’s A Summer’s Tale festival is taking a one-year hiatus in 2020.
More information on festivals and pre-sales can be found here.
The Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2019
IQ: Panellists, what do you anticipate being next year’s greatest challenges, both for you and for the wider industry?
Emma Bownes, vice-president of programming, AEG Europe: I think most of the industry is concerned about the impact of Brexit on the music industry – will it lead to restrictions on travel for British acts?
The government have to make sure that musicians, particularly smaller ones, can continue to tour the EU easily without the need for visas – and similarly for European artists – while they develop as artists and build their fan-bases and careers.
Beverley Whitrick, strategic director, Music Venue Trust: So much attention is being focused on Brexit that it makes it even more difficult to advance with the changes needed to protect the grassroots of the music industry. Not surprisingly, enormous and necessary energy is being spent trying to safeguard international touring and ensuring that the UK continues to be a leader in music.
Trying to reconcile what is needed at home with these global concerns poses the greatest challenge for 2019.
Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director, FKP Scorpio: A challenge faced by both the touring and festival sectors is the rising costs in all areas, such as personnel, production, administrative expenses and, especially, artist fees. Of course, ticket prices cannot – and should not – be scaled limitlessly, so we need to find ways to optimise and allocate these expenses.
Okan Tombulca, managing director, eps: I think our biggest challenge will be the same as for the rest of the industry: labour. Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff – security, stagehands, event co-ordinators – as well as equipment.
“Europe-wide, there is a huge problem with the availability of staff”
Kim Bloem, vice-head promoter, Mojo Concerts: The biggest issue over the last two years is the lack of personnel and materials for the number of events taking place from May to September. The number of shows, festivals and special events is rapidly increasing in this period, and therefore building crew, technicians, riggers, security personnel, etc., get exhausted because they’re working crazy hours.
We need to make sure live music remains a safe working place for everybody, but getting the number of people needed is very challenging.
Okan Tombulca: I think 2019 will be the biggest year in 20 years in terms of the number of events going on.
Jules de Lattre, senior agent, United Talent Agency: The issue of ticket pricing, both on the primary and secondary markets. Although significant progress was made in 2018, how to combat illicit secondary-ticketing practices will continue to be an issue we deal with on a daily basis.
As the secondary market becomes more regulated but not fully eradicated, will a more widely used and accepted model of dynamic pricing on the primary market emerge?
IQ: How about the biggest opportunities?
Jules de Lattre: As music consumption on ISPs explodes, there will be increasing opportunities for fans to fully connect with artists in the live space.
Mark Yovich, president, Ticketmaster International: There are more opportunities than ever before to empower artists to connect with their fans and harness their live experience. Whether that’s through digital tickets or facial recognition, we are continuing to innovate in a wide range of products that are changing the landscape of the live business.
“Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience”
Emma Bownes: This year saw a great deal of progress made in terms of restricting the ability of professional ticket resellers to acquire and resell large amounts of tickets with a huge mark-up. The British government introduced new legislation to ban resellers from using bots to purchase tickets in bulk, secondary ticketing sites Get Me In! and Seatwave are closing down, and the O2 and the SSE Arena, Wembley, both introduced a digital ticketing system featuring a dynamically changing barcode system that ensures tickets cannot be copied or shared on secondary sites.
Hopefully, 2019 will see further action to ensure that live music is accessible to the widest possible audience.
IQ: Can you identify any key market trends you expect to see emerging next year?
Stephan Thanscheidt: Concentration of power. Next to the continuously evolving activities of FKP Scorpio in Germany and abroad, as well as the strategic partnership with AEG, the live sector of [FKP majority owner] CTS Eventim is growing further due to purchases in Italy and Spain. The same can, of course, be observed at Live Nation and other international companies.
Beverley Whitrick: More grassroots music venues will close unless people who claim to be supportive actually start demonstrating that support through their actions.
Stephan Thanscheidt: Another observation is the formation of investors and investment groups who don’t have a background as a promoter buying up festivals all over Europe.
“Apart from music and comedy, we see the market for speaking events growing”
Mark Yovich: One word: mobile. We’ve been saying it for years, but 2018 saw a huge spike in the percentage of mobile traffic and, more importantly, mobile ticket sales. We think mobile-first with everything we do, from how fans discover events through to digital methods of entry.
Beverley Whitrick: Local activism and campaigns to support music will grow. Both artists and audiences are getting more vocal about the value of live music to communities, local economies, and health and wellbeing.
Emma Bownes: Alongside the music programming you’d expect to see at both venues, we’re seeing a lot of shows coming through the O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley, that are aimed at more of a family audience: Hugh Jackman, Cirque du Soleil, NBA, Harlem Globetrotters, Strictly Come Dancing, WWE…
We’re also hosting Superstars of Gymnastics at the O2 – a major new showcase of the sport, featuring Simone Biles and Max Whitlock.
Kim Bloem: My colleague Gideon Karting promoted a show with K-pop band BTS this year, which was huge, so that is definitely something that we expect to see emerging in the market in the next few years.
Also, apart from music and comedy – the latter of which is a genre that sees massive audience interest – we see the market for speaking events growing. This year, Barack Obama did a couple of events, and I hope we can have his wife Michelle come to the Netherlands at some point. We can hopefully embrace this kind of role model and learn from them how we can all contribute to a better world.
“I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry”
IQ: What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
Mark Yovich: The Sunday night at Reading Festival for Foo Fighters. Their London Stadium gig was amazing and I can’t wait to see them again.
Emma Bownes: Sheffield Wednesday turning things around and making it to the play-offs.
Jules de Lattre: We have a very exciting summer of major international festivals planned for Christine and the Queens in 2019. Considering how strong and unique her live show is, I expect the summer will have a significant impact on this campaign. I’m excited for festivalgoers to see and experience this incredible show.
Mark Yovich: Muse and Fleetwood Mac are some other great stadium shows I’m looking forward to, as well as Billie Eilish at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in early 2019.
Beverley Whitrick: Continuing to meet amazing people whose passion for music makes the work we do worthwhile.
IQ: Finally, what, if anything, could the industry do better together in 2019?
Okan Tombulca: In Germany, we have a twice-yearly meeting of all festival promoters and service companies, to share information about health and safety and develop one set of rules for the whole country. I’d like to see much better communication between all sectors of our industry, to share knowledge, help each other and work better together.
“Anyone in the business should do whatever they can to provide support to those in need”
Kim Bloem: Be a bit nicer to each other, work more closely together, and try to reduce the amount of paperwork and covering our own asses all the time. If we work hard and well, we should be able to trust each other’s judgment.
Jules de Lattre: Conversations about mental health are becoming more commonplace and I hope will continue to do so. Anyone in the business should look around them and do whatever they can to provide reliable health and wellness support to those in need.
Gender diversity and equality in the music industry as a whole – from the presence of female-fronted acts at festivals to gender pay gaps and fairer access to leadership roles in the music industry – will also remain a major talking point in the year to come.
Mark Yovich: Accessibility is a huge issue in our industry and we’re working closely with Attitude is Everything on their Ticketing Without Barriers campaign to make sure more is being done.
There seems to be some great momentum, and now is the time for us all to come together to find solutions to ensure equal access to live entertainment.
Stephan Thanscheidt: We need to stand united against political and societal injustice.
Music is being used by groups who are against democratic values and human rights – so why shouldn’t we do the same for freedom and peace?
‘We’re hoping for sunshine!’: FKP sanguine on festival summer
Powerhouse European promoter FKP Scorpio is gearing up for a strong summer festival season, despite the difficulties posed by the “saturated” German market , according to CEO Stephan Thanscheidt.
Speaking to IQ, Thanscheidt says the majority of Hamburg-based FKP’s festivals are performing “very well”, amid decreased demand after years of bad weather.
“We see that the previous years of bad weather are taking their toll, but we are still doing well and some of our festivals continue to perform very well,” he explains. “The decreased momentum in demand concerns the whole industry, not only us.”
Upcoming events in Scorpio’s German festival portfolio include A Summer’s Tale (1–4 August), Chiemsee Summer (16–19 August), Highfield (17–19 August), Metal Hammer Paradise (2–3 November), Rolling Stone Weekender (9–10 November), the new Rolling Stone Park (16–17 November) and Arctic Monkeys- and Arcade Fire-headlined flagships Hurricane and Southside (22–24 June), as well as festivals in Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland.
FKP founder Folkert Koopmans says he expects around 60,000 people to attend Hurricane, which is held at the Eichenring racetrack in Scheesel, northern Germany – down from 78,000 last year. Koopmans attributes the slump to the “extreme weather conditions” that have plagued German festivals in recent years – such as at Hurricane and Southside in 2016, and to a lesser extent Hurricane 2017 – as well as soaring artist fees and security costs.
Other major events are also seeing a downturn: Rock am Ring and Rock in Park 2018 saw declines in audience numbers of 20,000 and 5,000, respectively.
“We see that the previous years of bad weather are taking their toll, but we are still doing well”
“We share the view of other promoters that inclement weather, combined with higher costs and a rising awareness of safety, is responsible for the current situation,” clarifies Thanscheidt. “On the other hand, we’ve proven that we are well prepared for all the issues mentioned above.”
Of the 2018 FKP events that have already taken place, Thanscheidt highlights Plage Noire, a gothic ‘dark culture’ festival that sold out in just three weeks, as being particularly successful.
“Plage Noire has been a tremendous success, leaving the team and the visitors with smiles on their faces,” he comments. “We seem to have shared the vision of a festival combining music, comfort and culture with our guests: Plage Noire was sold out in just a few weeks, when people didn’t even know what bands would be playing. We rewarded this trust with acts like ASP, Subway to Sally and VNV Nation and infused everything with a melancholic story about a mysterious wandering soul looking for her lost love.
“The story was not just words: With the help of actors, installations and even a full blown horse carriage we made sure that her presence could be felt by all of our guests.”
Sales for next year’s festival are “going extremely well”, he adds.
On the ‘comfort’ aspect – Plage Noire, like sister festivals Rolling Stone Weekender and Metal Hammer Paradise, at the Weissenhäuser Strand holiday park in Wangels, on Germany’s Baltic coast (no tents in sight) – Thanscheidt says the company continues to see a “high demand for service and comfort”.
“The days of boring advertising are over”
“That’s due to a shift in our target group,” he explains. “More and more adults, even in their 50s and 60s, are discovering music festivals as a great retreat from their daily lives. After Rolling Stone Weekender was sold out eight months prior, we decided to launch Rolling Stone Park, a sister festival in Europa-Park, Rust, offering even more comfort for our guests. It’s scheduled for 16 and 17 November this year, and we’re very excited about that…”
Thanscheidt says challenging market conditions have also driven FKP Scorpio to adopt alternative, “creative and modern”, ways of publicising its events.
“Examples of this,” he says, “are a series of funny promotional videos we released for Hurricane and Southside, or collaborations with influencers on YouTube and other media. Our credo is simple: Our content must be worth our customer’s time, even if it is promotional. The days of boring advertising are long over.”
FKP has three festivals this weekend – Greenfield in Switzerland, Best Kept Secret in the Netherlands and Sideways in Helsinki – then it’s onto Hurricane and Southside, the former of which Thanscheidt reveals is still the highlight of his festival season.
“It’s my favourite because the musical variety, the 20-plus-year-long tradition and the atmosphere are just awesome,” he concludes.
“To be honest, though, after a few years of bad weather, I’m hoping for some sunshine this year!”