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Holding the line: Jazzopen talks 2021 plans

Jazzopen Stuttgart is on track to welcome more than 30,000 fans to open-air venues across the city this September, for what will be one of the biggest events in Germany’s increasingly sparse 2021 festival calendar.

The long-running city festival was originally scheduled for July, but the team postponed that event – which included names such as Lenny Kravitz, Jamie Cullum and Corinna Bailey Rae – to 2022, instead booking an entirely new line-up for a replacement 2021 festival in September.

Sven Meyer, managing director of Jazzopen organiser Opus (Jürgen Schlensog, Jazzopen’s promoter, is Opus CEO) says Jazzopen was able to take advantage of its good relationships with agents, as well as direct lines to certain bands, to get together a line-up in a fraction of the time it would take normally. “We have very good contacts with UK and US agents, and so we are booking either direct with management or, in most cases, with agents in the UK,” he explains. “[These relationships] have developed over many years, so it was a really fast process of getting on the phone to a lot of people, and also being creative where have direct contacts: Parov Stelar, for example, has played the festival before, so it’s was just a quick check to see if he was keen to play.

“For obvious reasons we had quite a few ‘no’s, but also lots of ‘yes’es.”

“Either make it work, or we don’t do it”

In addition to Stelar, Jazzopen 2021 will welcome international stars such as Liam Gallagher, Ben Howard, Katie Melua, Lianne La Havas, Amy MacDonald and Laura Pergolizzi, as well as German band Element of Crime, Swiss singer-songwriter Sophie Hunger and Italian singer Mario Biondi. MacDonald tweeted in April that when she got the offer from Jazzopen, she “may have shed a little tear!”

It is hoped that the international artists will not have to quarantine on their arrival in Germany – Meyer says it is currently under discussion “and I think it will go through” – but the preference is for them to already be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Meyer praises the speed of the vaccine roll-out in Germany – at press time, 36.5 million Germans, or 44% of the population, have had at least one jab – and says he’s confident the festival should be able to go ahead in its revised format in September. Plus, “you can still play open-air in September” in Stuttgart, he adds. (By October, it’s too cold.)

While a seated event is nobody’s first preference, Meyer says Jazzopen is also prepared should the coronavirus situation in Germany deteriorate. “We have reduced the capacity of our main venue, which under normal circumstances is 7,000, to 5,800, to make sure that if the authorities expect us to have a seated venue only, we can still seat everybody,” he explains.

“All the big festivals in Germany have been cancelled, so it’s a fairly brave decision”

“The other thing is that we have a number of events, these big outdoor shows – it’s not like two days with 40,000 people a night,” he continues. “We have a maximum of 7,000 per night, and in the smaller concert venue it’s only 1,000. So we are in a special situation compared to something like Rock im Park, where you have two or three days and a massive audience every day. We are very lucky in that respect.”

“We are also in a very good position because we are not in the touring business,” Meyer adds. “Particularly in Germany, which is a federal country, you could be fine in one state and not in another, which is horrible. So being based in one city, with the shows spread out over a couple of days, is a much better situation.”

As expected, fans must be either fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or produce a negative test to gain entry to the festival.

Meyer estimates they are putting around 33,000 tickets on sale in total – and says they couldn’t have considered going any smaller.

“If we have a real downturn in the [coronavirus] situation and lockdowns and everything, we might come into situation where we’d have to call it off – but Jürgen and I already agreed that we would consider a even more reduced capacity,” he explains, “in the line with the actual government rules at time of the festival. So we either make it work or we don’t do it.”

“Our competitors are saying, ‘Go for it! Raise the flag for our business’”

Meyer says Jazzopen is proud to be able to go ahead in some capacity this year ahead of a return to normality next summer. “The reception we’ve got from the market and from customers is that people would love to see the festival, and artists would love to play there,” he comments, “and we are the first to stick out our necks and say, ‘Okay, we’ll do it.”

“All the big festivals in Germany have been cancelled, so it’s a fairly brave decision. Hopefully we will be rewarded for that.”

Meyer adds that other festivals in Germany are rooting for Jazzopen, having not been able to go ahead themselves.

“Some people are obliged to go for a certain date, or can’t change the nature of the event, and obviously that creates a degree of jealousy,” he says. “But even our competitors, they give us a ring and say, ‘Hey, go for it! Raise the flag for our business.’”

Jazzopen Stuttgart 2021 takes place from 10 to 19 September. The festival returns to its traditional dates next summer (7–17 July 2022).


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More concert venues become vaccination centres

Further music, entertainment and sports venues in Europe and North America are gearing up to become mass inoculation centres, as the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine continues its roll-out in the UK, with more countries set to follow suit, and other competing vaccines near approval.

IQ reported earlier this month that venues in the UK and Germany, as well as members of Belgian festival association FFMWB, had offered up their facilities as vaccination centres amid the ongoing British vaccination programme and ahead of European Medicines Agency approval for the 27 EU countries.

In Germany, joining the previously announced Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf is Stuttgart’s Liederhalle, a historic concert hall (2,100-cap.) and convention centre which will reopen in the new year following a recent renovation with the capacity to immunise 2,500 people a day.

According to German news agency DPA, there are now more than 440 vaccination centres set up across Germany, with locations including converted exhibition centres, sports halls and hotels.

Historic concert hall Liederhalle will have a vaccination capacity of 2,500 a day

DPA reports that German health minister Jens Spahn is relying on EU approval of the first vaccine “shortly before Christmas”, with the first vaccinations then beginning within two to four days. It is being left to Germany’s federal Lands to deliver the national vaccination programme, though the federal government expects immunisation centres are expected to be at full capacity by mid-January.

In Luxembourg, which is similarly waiting on EU approval to begin its vaccination programme, the 2,300-capacity Halle Victor-Hugo in Limpertsberg, Luxembourg City, has been announced as the country’s first vaccination centre, serving the Luxembourgish capital.

Luxembourg has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac) for 1.3 million doses of vaccine, with which it will be possible to immunise 800,000 people (nearly 150,000 more than there are Luxembourgers) against Covid-19, according to Les Frontaliers.

Canada, along with neighbouring America and Mexico, has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and began inoculating its earlier this week.

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, at a conference centre

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, with a conference centre in the city of Sherbrooke, Center de foires de Sherbrooke, chosen as one of the sites, given its history of providing vaccinations against seasonal flu. The 60,000sqft venue was, therefore, “ideal as a place for the delivery and administration of the first doses of the vaccine”, reports local daily La Tribune.

The UK, meanwhile, continues to add new venues to its national vaccination programme, which has given more than 137,000 people their first Covid-19 jab (of two) so far.

Hull’s 25,000-seat KCom Stadium is the latest major sporting venue to be transformed into a mass vaccination facility, with people from “priority” groups (the over-80s and National Health Service workers) receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Tuesday (15 December).

James Crick, associate medical director for Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, tells the Hull Daily Mail, that, thanks to “location vaccination sites” like KCom Stadium, more vulnerable people identified as priority cohorts will be able to receive the vaccine. […] In the meantime, I urge everybody to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS services while we carry out this vital work.”


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DEAG takes control of Christian Doll’s C2 Concerts

Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has revealed the first of its in-the-works European investments, today (3 June) announcing the acquisition of a majority stake in Stuttgart-based C2 Concerts.

The stake in C2 Concerts, a musical producer, tour operator and local promoter in southwest Germany, rounds off DEAG’s regional coverage in the country. The live entertainment company also has representation in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, North Rhine-Westphalia and Frankfurt/Main.

The move marks the continuation of DEAG’s “buy-and-build” strategy. In its recent Q1 financial report, the German promoter alluded to the C2 acquisition as one of a number of ongoing investments expected to generate sales growth in its core markets of Germany, England and Switzerland.

Founded by Christian Doll and Christian Ludewig in 2010, C2 Concerts has expanded from its origins as a mainly local outfit to become a national tour operator. The company achieved turnover of €7 million in 2018, selling around 400,000 tickets for 200 events. By acquiring a stake in the concert promoter, DEAG aims to boost the ticketing side of its business via MyTicket, which the live entertainment company fully acquired in January.

DEAG has worked with C2 Concerts for a number of years. In 2018, the promoters launched the Christmas Garden in Stuttgart, attracting over 125,000 visitors. The format will be rolled out at two further locations in southwest Germany over the coming years.

“With DEAG, we are looking forward to intensifying our cooperation with a first-class partner in the live entertainment business. Both sides will benefit from this”

Due to past collaboration, the DEAG management board expects rapid integration of C2 Concerts into its group.

“The even closer cooperation with C2 Concerts in the future will give us the opportunity to continue growing profitably with an extended value-added chain,” says DEAG chief executive Peter Schwenkow.

As well as securing the company’s regional presence, Schwenkow also notes that the C2 Concerts investment offers “significant synergy potential in the live entertainment and ticketing business.”

“With DEAG, we are looking forward to intensifying our cooperation with a first-class partner in the live entertainment business,” comments C2 Concerts managing director and co-founder Doll. “Both sides will benefit from this.”

The DEAG executive board believes that, as part of the DEAG Group, C2 Concerts can realistically expect medium-term sales growth to over €10m.


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New Fall Fest to continue after preliminary bankruptcy

Hamed Shahi-Moghanni, managing director of Germany’s SSC Group, has confirmed all future New Fall Festivals will go ahead as planned, after its SSC Festivals GmbH subsidiary was put into preliminary bankruptcy.

New Fall Festival has taken place in Dusseldorf since 2011, with a successful spin-off event in Stuttgart launching in 2016. Speaking to the Stuttgarter Zeitung last week, Shahi-Moghanni explained that the 2017 editions of the festivals failed to meet expectations and that SSC Festivals, the company behind the event, had been forced to file for preliminary bankruptcy.

Speaking to IQ, Shahi-Moghanni explains that after a strong 2016, SSC took the decision to increase the festivals’ capacity for 2017. “We put the capacity higher than the previous year’s, and we actually sold more tickets,” he says, but that the boost in sales didn’t meet the increase in capacity. “The target was to sell 15,000–16,000 [tickets] and we didn’t reach that.

“Basically, we took a chance and it bit us in the ass!”

Despite the preliminary bankruptcy, Shahi-Moghanni emphasises that New Fall Festival will be unaffected, and that he plans to announce the line-up for October 2018 this March. No SSC staff were let go, with just the SSC Festivals company being temporarily wound up.

Shahi-Moghanni emphasises that New Fall Festival will be unaffected, and that he plans to announce the line-up for October 2018 this March

“It was such a huge story in German press,” he continues. “In the US everyone closes companies all the time, but in Germany it’s not so common – it’s a cultural thing.

Shahi-Moghanni says SSC Festivals has two to three months of preliminary bankruptcy before the real deal – German law required him to approach the state of Dusseldorf and say, “I have trouble and I need to manage this”, he explains – but even if the company is wound up, there is “no question” of the festival ending.

“The question is what you do with this kind of situation,” he says. “If it leads you to you making it [the festival] better, it’s a good thing.

“Whatever happens – whether I go forward with this company or not – we’re going to create an even better festival for the future.”

New Fall Festival 2018 will take place in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart from 25 to 28 October.


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19yo stagehand killed in accident at A7X show

A 19-year-old stagehand lost his life last night in a tragic accident at an Avenged Sevenfold show in Stuttgart.

The man was killed during load-out at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle (15,500-cap.) when another crewman, a 26-year-old, fell on him from 20m (66ft) while taking down the band’s lighting truss. The other man is in critical condition in hospital.

According to Bild, it the first fatal incident at the venue since its opening in 1983. The paper also identifies the victim as ‘Marvin P’.

In a joint statement, Avenged Sevenfold sent their “thoughts and prayers to the man in the hospital, both families involved, all of the local Live Nation crew and everyone else whose lives have been affected by this terrible accident”.

“This is such a stark reminder of how quickly an accident can happen and lives shattered in the process”

“We love our crew so much, as well as the many local staff who are essential to our show every night, wherever we are around the world,” it reads. “This is such a stark reminder of how quickly an accident can happen and lives shattered in the process.”

Support act Disturbed dedicated “the rest of this tour to our fallen brothers”. “The horror and heartbreak felt by everyone on the tour is beyond words,” they wrote on Facebook.

Tonight’s show, at the Mediolanum Forum in Milan, has been cancelled due to illness.


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