Swede Sensation: Sweden Market Report
When arena-dwelling Swedish metal band Sabaton attempted to get back out on the road again in early 2022, the challenges of late-pandemic international travel soon scuppered the plan. So it was replaced with another: a tour of just about everywhere in Sweden.
“We did 30 dates and sold 40,000 tickets,” says promoter David Maloney of All Things Live Sweden. “It was unique because no one has done a tour like that, ever, in Sweden. We played markets where we sold 2,000 tickets in a town where 4,000 people live.
“They are an arena band – they have a show next year at the [former] Globe in Stockholm, and they’ve sold 10,000 tickets for that. But rather than sitting at home complaining, they said, ‘Fuck this shit, we’ll go out on tour. If there’s a stage and a roof, we’ll play there.’ And we played places in Sweden I had never even been to.”
Maybe we’re not on the brink of a world in which every band has to rip up small Swedish towns like Mölnlycke, Ålmhult, or Ronneby to make a living, but Maloney still believes there is a lesson here.
“In one sense, that’s the way it has to be in future,” he says. “If you want to play for an audience maybe you have to change your whole way of thinking. Especially for local bands. There’s a limited amount of big stages, a limited amount of festivals, a limited number of people.”
With its sturdy and experienced promoters, its plentiful festivals, and its smallish population, it is true that Sweden is not an easy place in which to innovate, and it is hard to find pockets of demand that aren’t being catered for by someone.
“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market,” says FKP Scorpio partner and promoter Niklas Lundell. “If you want to develop a new concept and you think you are going to be on your own,” he notes wryly, “maybe Scandinavia is not your priority market if you know what I mean.”
“We are quite a mature and well-developed and well-exploited market”
With the exception of some small clubs in Stockholm where rents have rendered the grassroots business model inadequate, Sweden has more or less everything it needs. World-class venues? Check. Well-heeled audiences? Definitely.
A spot on every serious European touring schedule. No problem. Big, loud festivals and cool boutique ones? No need to ask twice.
Sweden is a model of a compact, modern market, with three very viable touring cities in Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg. And at the mass-market end of the scale, at least, the post-pandemic boom has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience.
“It’s doing very well,” says Thomas Johansson, father of the Swedish live business and Live Nation’s chairman of international music and Nordics.
“We have just finished a bunch of outdoor shows: Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga all sold out stadiums. Then, we had a lot of other shows that have done very well all over Scandinavia, so I would say the business is good.”
As with any prosperous market, Sweden in the first year after the pandemic gives every appearance of being in the form of its life, but as always, the glory of the packed-out arenas and stadiums does not necessarily reflect right across the business.
“The shows that are suffering most from poor ticket sales in the post-Covid period are the ones that would usually sell 700-2,000 tickets,” says Edward Janson of increasingly diversified rock and metal specialist TADC, formerly Triffid And Danger Concerts.
“The big shows are doing well but it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days”
“The smaller club shows are doing okay, and the big shows are doing well. But it’s rather difficult in the middle segment these days,” he adds, noting that ticket sales are currently around 25 to 30% down.
Johansson notes a similar trend when it comes to artists a little further down the scale. “Generally, the big artists are doing very well, whether they are local or international,” he says. “The mid-range artists are a little softer, the smaller club acts, too. Basically, it’s because there are so many tickets on sale. A lot of people were sitting with tickets for 2020, and then all of a sudden they were sitting with tickets for 2021, and when 2022 came around they already had five or six tickets booked.”
Certainly, there are challenges, even for an affluent market like Sweden. “There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time,” says Janson. “And inflation is rising, and the Swedish krona is getting weaker compared to the dollar and the euro. With that said, during the upcoming winter, I’m sure that it will stabilise and that ticket sales will go back to where they were before the pandemic.”
Svensk Live, the local live music body that gathers together clubs, festivals, promoters, and agents, recently launched its Life is Live campaign with performing arts group Svensk Scenkonst, aimed at encouraging fans to return to live events at all levels. Operations manager Joppe Pihlgren says there is a strong sense of industry cohesion around such initiatives.
“We have 270 members in Svensk Live,” he says. “We have the big companies, but they also understand that if you don’t have the grassroots then ultimately everything else suffers. We had that kind of [indie vs corporate] struggle a little bit more in the past, but we have got all these people very much together now.
“We have a youth organisation where [Live Nation] bring in volunteers to work for Lollapalooza. And we have a climate project as part of Way Out West – though we also do things with FKP Scorpio.”
“There is huge competition now, since almost all artists are touring at the same time”
And while Sweden may be a highly mature market, with plenty of corporate interest, it is also a major global pop and rock producer with plenty of self-esteem, and one in which local identity remains strong. Pihlgren, himself a home-grown rock star as the frontman of veteran Swedish band Docenterna, is heartened by the rise of local acts to arena and even stadium level.
“Before, it was just Springsteen and the big international artists who could fill up a stadium, but now you have [Gothenburg-born star] Håkan Hellström selling out [four nights in August at Gothenburg’s] Ullevi stadium. Laleh also sold it out in the summer, and we have a lot of smaller acts coming through.”
Historically one of Live Nation’s safest markets, Sweden hasn’t got a great deal more perilous for the business’s biggest player lately. As well as taking the lion’s share of the stadium and arena touring business, the corporate owns leading indie and Way Out West founder Luger and holds majority shares in the Summerburst and Sweden Rock festivals, as well as being the local custodian of Lollapalooza since 2019.
As thrill-starved punters all rush to the biggest concerts they can find, the current conditions were made for Live Nation. “This year has been a fantastic vintage,” says Johansson. “And 2023 is shaping up to be yet again an enormous year. We put Bruce Springsteen on sale a month ago – two Copenhagens, two Oslos, and three Gothenburgs – and we sold 400,000 tickets in a day.”
FKP, very much the challenger to Live Nation in the Nordic markets and elsewhere, helped to spearhead the increasingly ubiquitous tendency among Nordic promoters to operate across the region and has had a full set of Scandinavian offices for around five years.
“We are super, super close,” says Lundell. “It has been good to unite our forces and see what we can do jointly, and whoever is best placed to take a lead can basically do it for all four territories.”
“For your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late”
Among its Swedish exploits this year are ten Ullevi stadiums for Ed Sheeran and three for Rammstein; one and four, respectively, for Swedish stars Laleh and Håkan Hellström; shows for Gorillaz; and a new festival, the Rosendal Garden Party, and an older one, Where’s The Music in Norrköping.
“I think there is definitely potential to develop [in the Nordics], but it is also one market, or several markets, that have been dominated by one player,” says Lundell. “So it is about just slowly growing and showing that there’s an alternative and that we can do a good job with both big and small shows and be creative and fast. Showing that there is not a monopoly situation here, that there’s other promoters to speak to.”
The Waterland-backed All Things Live was born in 2018 as a pan-Scandinavian operator built from Denmark’s ICO; Norway’s Friction and Atomic Soul; and Sweden’s Blixten & Co and Maloney Concerts, and had scarcely formed when Covid struck.
“It was an exciting time because we actually had a chance to work together as a group,” says Maloney. “And then it was a bit of an odd feeling, that we were ready to go and then nothing. But now it’s all great.”
Coming out of the pandemic, all promoters have had to learn the new language of the market, including highly unpredictable, occasionally heart-stopping sales patterns.
“I have to say that the big shows we are doing, at least, have sold really, really well – although for your own health it’s hard, because ticket sales have picked up really late,” says Maloney. “We did one show with Green Day in June [at Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena], and in the last two weeks sales just exploded. We came to the level we wanted to be, but a month before the show we were thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ It’s a new chapter, you don’t have anything to go on.”
As the Sabaton example shows, Maloney remains passionate about the idea of creative thinking be- tween promoters and artists. “The thing that we want to remain is independent,” says Maloney.
“This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel”
“We want to have artists come first, and that is our whole point. On some occasions, we will make a deal for all four Nordic countries. Sometimes we just do it in Norway or Sweden or Finland or Denmark. But we want to have the flexibility to work with the artist rather than telling them, ‘This is what we need to do, or nothing.’”
TADC, meanwhile, has diversified while maintaining its roots in rock and metal. Upcoming shows include Manowar, Helloween, Uriah Heep, and WASP, but this year it has sold 10,000 tickets for 50 Cent and also staged Simply Red, Don McLean, and The Beach Boys.
“When TADC started in 2015, our focus was mainly on rock and metal,” says Janson. “Still the majority of our shows are within rock and metal, but we have broadened our focus a lot. During 2023 we will do even more shows in other types of music.”
TADC expanded into Norway and Denmark in 2021 and maintains offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Copenhagen. “Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are definitely still different markets with different cultures, but we’re in a good position when we can make offers for all three countries,” says Janson.
Everyone knows just how much pain festivals, in particular, suffered in 2020 and 2021, as their annual glorious moment was, in most cases, snuffed out not just once but twice. So 2022 has been a major relief for Sweden’s big names, including 30-year-old rock and metal festival Sweden Rock, which returned in June to Norje in southern Sweden for the first time since 2019, with Volbeat, In Flames, and Guns N’ Roses at the top of the bill.
“It was great to be back. Even better than I hoped,” says man-ageing director Jon Bergsjö. “Our visitors, artists, and staff were very positive and enjoyed the festival.” One silver lining of the three-year lay-off was the time to plan, says Bergsjö, with particular emphasis on experience – waiting times, F&B choice, clean toilets – and sustainability.
“We make changes every year to become more sustainable,” he says. “This year, we had time to try new products such as climate-friendly fuel, and we got a lot further in getting all our food stands to make better choices about cutlery, plates, and other single-use products. We even started serving the draft beer and drinks in specialised paper cups.”
“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before”
Luger’s Way Out West was the first Swedish festival to shout about sustainability, and it is now meat-free, milk-free, and climate-trans- parent. It returned in August with Robyn, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Burna Boy, and First Aid Kit.
Elsewhere, in no order of size, Swedish collective Ladieslovehiphop (LLHH) partnered with Live Nation Sweden and Luger on the 2022 Ladieslovehiphop Festival. The boutique festival, which debuted at Trädgården in Stockholm in 2019, returned on 19-20 August at Fållan & Slakthusområdet in Stockholm with an eclectic female-led line-up starring Stefflon Don, Ayra Starr, Ivorian Doll, Baby Tate, Shaybo, and Dreya Mac.
Of the other Live Nation-related festivals, the two-day electronic Summerburst Festival returned to Ullevi in Gothenburg in June, and Lollapalooza Stockholm – the first Lolla in the Nordics – finally got its second edition in July by the water in Gärdet, with Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Pearl Jam, Lorde, and Post Malone on board.
The big event of the year for All Things Live in Sweden is the acquisition of Malmö’s Big Slap Festival. Founded in 2013, the previously one-day event was one of Sweden’s largest electronic dance music festivals, with a daily capacity of around 15,000 attendees. This year, All Things Live bumped Big Slap up to two days, relocated it from Tallriken park to Nyhamnen on the city’s waterfront, got Justin Bieber on board and was vindicated in doing so.
“We ended up selling 50,000 tickets in a market like Malmö that has never had this kind of event before. People talk about Malmö being Sweden’s Miami, and we could see that at Big Slap.”
TADC has two festivals in Gefle Metal Festival and Atlas Rock, both in Gävle on Sweden’s Baltic Sea coast. “Gefle Metal Festival has grown into an event that fans of extreme metal see as an event that you need to go to,” says Janson. “This is the place where you meet all the other fans of the music and see the bands that don’t play at any of the other festivals.
“This year, we also did the first edition of our new festival Atlas Rock, with acts like Scorpions, Alice Cooper, and Black Label Society. We believe that this also will be an established festival very soon with an audience that keeps returning.”
“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic”
The promoter is also exploring ways of keeping its flagship Gefle Fest active year-round, with a smaller indoor edition in the winter and a Gefle Metal Cruise in the spring. FKP Scorpio’s four-day Rosendal Garden Party launched this year as part of a trio of new festivals also including Loaded in Norway and Syd for Solen in Denmark. It took place on the Djurgården island in central Stockholm, with headliners The Strokes, Florence + The Machine, The National, and Tyler, The Creator, and drew 10-15,000 a day.
“It was a really good first year, and the experience was fantastic,” says Lundell, who also senses a return to old ways of independent creative thinking in the festival market. “Ten to 15 years ago, all the festivals went from being run by a bunch of patient souls out in the nowhere lands to becoming part of a bigger strategy and a new framework,” he says.
“That is maybe going back on itself a little bit. I think people will move away from concentrating on the urban markets, and I think a lot of fantastic new ones will be popping up around the country.”
ASM Global’s Stockholm Live has the capital’s venue market pretty well cornered. Since 2008, the company (as AEG Facilities) has operated the 6,000-14,500-capacity Avicii Arena (formerly the Ericsson Globe), the 8,100-cap Hovet, and the 3,400-cap Annexet. In 2013, it added the new Tele2 Arena in south Stockholm, with configurations for between 18,000 and 37,000, and in 2017 took over the 30,000-57,000-cap Friends Arena in Solna in Stockholm County, north of the city centre.
Last year, ASM Global signed a long-term lease to manage the Södra Teatern, a theatre venue with a capacity of up to 600, and Mosebacketerrassen, a rooftop terrace that can accommodate around 2,000 people.
“The market in Sweden has recovered great from the closedown during the pandemic, and after being up and running for a couple of months, we do see an increasing demand for live acts again,” Stockholm Live event sales director Jenny Blomqvist told IQ’s Global Arenas Guide.
“The challenge for the industry in Sweden is to get back to its previous strength again, focusing on all the staff rehires we need, at the same time as educating and developing our organisation for the coming months of events – all this while delivering the acts in our arenas today.”
“Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months”
And as for everyone, the future is suddenly harder to read, in all kinds of ways. “Today we face a completely new challenge in trying to foresee even the next six months, as the market is not acting as it did before the pandemic,” says Blomqvist. “International shows are released with shorter sales periods than previously – two to five months – so whereas in previous years we would have known by now how the summer of 2023 would be, today we are still releasing shows for 2022. So we have to be even more flexible in our calendars and have tighter deadlines in all we do.”
The change to the name of the venue known as The Globe, or Globen in Swedish, came as a tribute to local DJ and producer Avicii. The iconic building is now also a hub for initiatives focused on young people’s mental health, in cooperation with sponsors [home improvement store] Bauhaus and [insurance company] Trygg-Hansa.
Also new, in a very different vein, is the introduction of AXS’s new AXS Mobile ID ticket across the Stockholm Live venues. The ticket is non-transferable, except through AXS, and is intended as an antidote to the illicit secondary market.
“What we see with Rammstein, Ed Sheeran, and these other big artists is they want personalised tickets; they don’t want their tickets to end up on the secondary market at ten times the price, and this is a way to guarantee that,” says Jay Sietsema, AXS general manager, Sweden.
Other key venues in Sweden include the Malmö Arena, which has a capacity of 13,000 for sports (predominantly ice hockey) and 15,500 for concerts, and, of course, the Ullevi Stadium. The stadium’s all-time crowd remains the 70,144 pulled by local boy Håkan Hellström on 5 June 2016 – beating the old record of 70,091 set the previous night, and comfortably exceeding the 69,349 that came through the turnstiles two days later.
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Sweden rules out major festivals this summer
The Swedish government’s new roadmap has hammered the final nail in the coffin of the country’s 2021 festival summer by ruling out major events until at least September.
The three-stage plan seals the fate of Swedish festivals – most of which have already pulled the plug.
Way Out West (12–14 August) is the latest major Swedish festival to be called off and follows high-profile cancellations from Sweden Rock (9–12 June), Lollapalooza Stockholm (2–5 July) and Statement Festival (3–4 September).
Regional events including Urkult, Bingsjöstämman, Storsjöyran, Dance Band Week in Malung, Gefle Metal, Putte in the Park (Karlstad and Luleå), Kiruna Festival and Uppsala Reggae previously called time on 2021 editions.
The roadmap, proposed by the Swedish Public Health Agency and commissioned by the government, suggests that from 1 June (stage three) outdoor events can take place with 500 seated and socially distanced attendees or with 100 standing.
Sweden Rock, Lollapalooza Stockholm, Way Out West and Statement Festival have been called off
Indoor events can take place with either 50 seated and socially distanced attendees or just eight standing.
Dates for the next two levels have not yet been given but the Public Health Agency believes that stage two will come into effect later in June or July, which is when outdoor events can take place with 3,000 seated and socially distanced attendees.
The majority of capacity limits will likely be scrapped in early September, which will mark stage one of the roadmap.
The Swedish government has been notably strict with restrictions for live music. In November, it imposed one of the lowest capacity limits in Europe, permitting just eight people indoors – a limit that, according to the roadmap, may not be lifted until July.
Sweden is the latest European market to pull the plug on the 2021 festival season due to uncertainty about the 2021 festival season, following widespread cancellations in Norway, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Denmark and France.
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Sweden rules vouchers are not valid form of compensation
Sweden’s National Board for Consumer Disputes (Allmänna reklamationsnämnden, ARN) has declared that ticketholders are entitled to a cash refund for any events cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19.
The government agency has declared that organisers that have been forced to cancel or move events due to coronavirus-related restrictions cannot “avoid having to repay [the] money” unless a contractual condition states otherwise.
The principle of force majeure, says the ARN, does not exempt companies from the obligation to repay the cost of the service that has not been delivered, but rather applies to limiting liability.
“Anyone who does not get the agreed output, e.g. the opportunity to participate in an activity or to go to a concert, is therefore basically not obligated to pay for it,” comments ARN chairman and CEO Marcus Isgren.
In many countries in Europe, including Germany, Portugal and Italy, concert organisers are being allowed to offer ticket vouchers (ie credit) in lieu of cash refunds for cancelled events, as promoters warn that mass refunds may well lead to bankruptcies.
“Anyone who does not get the agreed output is therefore not obligated to pay for it”
However, ARN states that offering customers a voucher to attend the same event on a different date is not a valid form of reimbursement, as the chosen date “is usually crucial” to the consumer’s decision to buy the ticket.
“It is therefore not possible for the organiser to compel [the consumer] without their consent to accept that the tickets will be valid for a corresponding event another day,” says Isgren.
Despite ARN’s announcement, Joppe Pihlgren, head of Swedish live music association Svensk Live, says many fans “want to support concerts and organisers” and would rather wait until they can attend the event, than get their money back.
“As an industry we need the information on how and when we can restart,” Pihlgren tells Swedish publication Västerbottens-Kuriren. “I understand it is difficult, bu we need to know so we can plan ahead. This is essential for our operations.”
Unlike the vast majority of European countries, Sweden has kept some of its economy, such as restaurants, bars and shops, open throughout the coronavirus crisis. The government has placed a capacity limit of 50 on live events, leading to the cancellation of Way Out West, Lollapalooza Stockholm and Sweden Rock.
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Live Nation Sweden appoints new joint MDs
Live Nation Sweden has announced the promotion of its head promoter, Anna Sjölund, and director of marketing and Nordic partnerships, Therése Liljedahl, as joint managing directors.
Both Sjölund and Liljedahl, who commence their new positions immediately, will retain elements of their previous roles: Sjölund remains head promoter, overseeing Live Nation Sweden’s agency, touring and festivals, while Liljedahl will retain responsibility for commercial partnerships in the Nordics while also managing Live Nation Sweden’s marketing, partnership, finance, administration and HR functions.
John Reid, president of concerts for Live Nation Europe, says: “The combined and complementary skill set that Anna and Therése will bring to their roles as managing directors is unparallelled. Together they will continue to grow the business that Thomas [Johansson] and Carl [Pernow] have built and take Live Nation Sweden into the future.”
Carl Pernow, now Live Nation’s president of Nordics, adds: “I am pleased to hand over the leadership of Live Nation Sweden to two exemplary leaders within their respective areas. I look forward to further developing the Nordic business with Anna, Therése and our Nordic colleagues.”
“I am pleased to hand over leadership to two exemplary leaders within their respective areas”
The appointments follow a bumper 2017 for LN Sweden, with concert successes including Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Metallica, Depeche Mode and the Rolling Stones. The Stockholm-based company also owns and operates festivals Summerburst, Way Out West (through subsidiary Luger) and Sweden Rock, which it bought last November.
Sjölund comments: “I have spent the majority of my career at Live Nation and had the opportunity to grow together with the business. I am excited to be able to continue my journey in this new role and look forward to what is ahead.”
“I’m honoured to have been given this opportunity,” adds Liljedahl. “I look forward to taking the next step at Live Nation Sweden together with Anna and my fantastic colleagues.”
16 in 2016: The year in review
With 2016 drawing to a close, in many aspects, it’s been a banner year for the live music business. So in case you miss our regular Index email updates, or recently emerged from a time capsule, here’s 16 key 2016 takeaways (in no particular order) from the year that nearly was…
1. Seconds out, round…?
As IQ wrote last week in our investigation into take-up of dynamic ticket pricing, “if 2016 will be remembered in the live music business for any one thing, it will be as the 12 months in which the pitchforks well and truly came out against secondary ticketing”.
While the UK, as it often tends to, hogged the lion’s share of the headlines, the backlash against what the FanFair Alliance calls “industrial-scale” ticket touting was a truly global phenomenon, with American congressmen, Belgian ministers and promoters in Switzerland, Japan and, most successfully, Italy also all getting in on the action.
Look for continued action in this area in 2017 as the boundaries between primary and secondary continue to blur, calls for greater transparency continue, and more income is driven back to the industry, out of the hands of those who contribute nothing to it.
2. The Ticketing Gold Rush
One of the key topics tackled in this year’s International Ticketing Yearbook was the increasing appetite for ticketing by the world’s biggest online players. After Alibaba Group, the $14bn Chinese ecommerce giant, launched event ticketing operation Tao Piao Piao in May, Amazon caught the industry’s attention with several hires in the UK for the new Amazon Tickets, the start of a bid to become “Earth’s most customer-centric ticketing company”.
“From an artist or sports franchise point of view, any channel that will allow [major ecommerce companies] direct access to the end consumer is powerful and attractive,”
Slightly closer to home, Spotify unveiled a tie-up with Ticketmaster in November, Songkick is settled into its dual role as concert recommendation and ticketing app and Apple Music is dabbling the live space on the current Drake tour. Initial hiccups in some areas aside, 2016 could well be remembered as the moment the ticket started to go where the fans are.
“From an artist or sports franchise point of view, any channel that will allow [major ecommerce companies] direct access to the end consumer is powerful and attractive,” comments ticketing consultant Tim Chambers.
3. Live domi-Nation
The world’s leading live entertainment group showed no signs of bringing its ten-year buying spree to an end in 2016, making no less than eight major acquisitions.
Bonnaroo/AC Entertainment, French promoter Nous Productions, Greek ticketing company TicketHour, Australia’s Secret Sounds (Splendour in the Grass/Falls Festival), Canadian festival promoter Union Events, Sweden Rock festival, Big Concerts in South Africa and YouTube multi-channel network InDMusic were amongst those becoming part of the Live Nation family this year, to the tune of more than US$113 million.
“As we look forward, we see tremendous opportunities to continue global consolidation of our concerts and ticketing businesses, with further growth in advertising and ticketing from the concerts flywheel,” said CEO Michael Rapino in a Q3 statement.
4. Splendid isolation?
On 23 June, in the first major political upset of the year (bet you can’t guess no.2!), the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), ending more than 40 years of political and economic union with continental Europe.
Thanks to a two-year exit process – which won’t even begin until next March – we’re still no closer to discovering the effect Brexit has on the international live music industry, although a common sentiment in the UK has been to stress the importance of prioritising the creative industries in any future divorce settlement.
“There is a very real risk that skills shortages in the UK will be made worse – at least in the short to medium term”
Industry body Creative Industries Federation called last month for the UK to retain freedom of movement with the rest of bloc – something especially important for touring artists and crew, many of whom have spoken of their opposition to the return of border visas. “There is a very real risk that skills shortages in the UK will be made worse – at least in the short to medium term – by any restriction on freedom of movement that comes with tightening immigration laws and the UK leaving the European Union,” said the federation.
5. Pollsters Trumped
Despite a majority of analysts predicting a victory for Hillary Clinton in last month’s US presidential election, it was not to be: the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, was victorious in 30 of 50 states, and will be inaugurated as president in January.
Like Brexit, the implications for the touring business of a Trump presidency are still unclear, but Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges seemed to sum up the mood in the Americas when he told IQ the day after the elections: “The show must go on”.
6. Good times
While Q4 and end of year figures are yet to be published, there are few who’d believe that 2016 was a slow year for live music. Billboard puts the value of the US live music business at a staggering $25billion in 2016, with performance show averages up 25% worldwide (43% in the US) and average per-show attendance up 30% globally (29% in the US).
“The top two global tours grossed more than a half-billion dollars in what has been a great year for the concert business.”
Pollstar, which traditionally offers a more accurate barometer of US market health, has yet to reveal annual numbers, but reports: “the top two global tours [Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé] grossed more than a half-billion dollars in what has been a great year for the concert business.” Pollstar’s Q3 results pegged the top 100 tours up a more modest 3% year-on-year on combined grosses, with average tickets up 7.6%.
7. Rebates under debate
In terms of page views, IQ’s biggest story of 2016 was the revelation that an increasing number of artists are choosing to bypass their local PROs (for example, PRS) in favour of collecting performance royalties directly.
Direct licensing, as it’s known, presents a headache for festival promoters – the vast majority of which have one-stop, blanket licences – with many facing the prospect of paying multiple licensees: the PRO (performance rights organisation) and the artist directly.
Adam Elfin, who runs direct-licensing agency PACE Rights Management, said leaving promoters out of pocket “is not something we want or that should happen”, but added that it’s “beneficial that we’re having this conversation now, because if they weren’t aware of this [direct licensing] and they proceeded with their deals for next year with local PROs, the impact will be massively different.”
No PRO has yet declared they are willing to offer promoters a discount on fees if they have acts directly licensing bands on their line-up, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that might be a possibility for 2017.
8. Beyond music: eSports/YouTube
More than ever before, 2016 saw a raft of new content being introduced to venues, with the likes of eSports events and YouTube stars regularly selling out shows.
The scale of the eSports business was highlighted in October when Reed Midem, the organiser of the Midem music industry conference, announced plans for a similar event for the eSports market, on the back of new data revealing that global revenues in the sector for 2016 are estimated at US$493 million. That news came on the back of the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest eSports promoter, agreeing a strategic partnership with AEG, giving it access to 120 AEG-operated venues for qualifying events, tournaments and world championships.
“2016 saw a raft of new content being introduced to venues, with the likes of eSports events and YouTube stars regularly selling out shows.”
Meanwhile, the power of social media continued to grow, posing opportunities for enterprising promoters to take YouTube stars on tour with agencies including WME, CAA and UTA making a big play for online talent. This rapidly growing sector is engaging young fans the world over – underlined by events like Summer in the City, in London’s ExCel centre, where more than 10,000 people bought tickets to meet their favourite YouTubers, watch them live, and listen to panel discussions.
The threat of terrorist acts around the world did not diminish during 2016, forcing promoters and venues to increase the amount of investment they are spending to guard their premises, artists, crews and fans from those intent to inflict death and injury.
Atrocities at the likes of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as well as attacks on festival sites and, of course the mass murder at Le Bataclan in Paris in late 2015, have brought about stricter security measures, with clubs throughout France now using airport style checks for patrons.
As a so-called soft target, concerts and festivals have found themselves under the microscope, especially in certain countries where terrorist cells are known to operate. At the IFF in September, Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans stated his belief that “We’re more safe now” thanks to some of the efforts that he and fellow promoters around the world have implemented.
Elsewhere, Live Aid promoter Harvey Goldsmith lent his support to a new anti-terror training course, but such measures haven’t appeased everyone, with British peer, Baroness Henig, making moves to force staff at UK music venues to undergo such intensive training.
10. Social media integration
Having a Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat account for your event or venue is hardly rocket science these days, but the past 12 months have seen a number of deals forged to better exploit the audience who uses these and other social media platforms.
In April, Ticketmaster and Eventbrite both agreed deals to sell tickets through Facebook, while later in the year, Live Nation tied up with with Snapchat, initially to create ‘Live Stories’ at V Festival, Way Out West, Creamfields and Reading and Leeds, before taking it to the next level by using links for adverts on Snapchat to sell tickets to their shows.
The past 12 months have seen a number of deals forged to better exploit the audience who uses these and other social media platforms.
Not to be outdone, AEG entered into a multi-year agreement with Snapchat to promote its festivals via the video-sharing app.
Hinting at more deals to come, a survey by Nielsen found that Instagram is used by more US concertgoers than any of its rivals, with an astonishing 83% of those active on social media at shows making use of the photo-sharing app.
11. The SFX/LiveStyle saga
The year ended on a brighter note for those working for beleaguered dance music conglomerate SFX – although a number of creditors might take issue with that statement.
In November, Former Global Group and AEG Live chief, Randy Phillips, was appointed as the company’s new CEO and then, just days later, the SFX reorganisation plan was finally given a green light, following nine months of official administration, but at a cost of nearly US$400million of debt being written off.
The company managed to exit its bankruptcy situation earlier than planned and, moving swiftly to distance the group from its former self, Randy Phillips rebranded the entity as LiveStyle.
Quite whether the saga is truly at an end remains to be seen, with at least one shareholder still asking the courts to look at an alleged undervaluation of the company that accelerated its emergence from debt.
12. Goggle Boxes
The influence of new technology on the live experience continued to break new ground in 2016, with Virtual Reality (VR) a popular talking point. In May, music streaming service Rhapsody launched the Rhapsody VR app which promises, “free, immersive 360-degree videos of great artists from the best seat in the house”. May also saw Live Nation announce a partnership with NextVR to film and stream concerts in the format.
Festival including Wacken Open Air in Germany have begun filming their events for VR headsets, and other players in the space include Warner Music (partnered with MelodyVR and Digital Domain) and Universal Music and iHeartMedia, both recording concerts in VR.
The influence of new technology on the live experience continued to break new ground in 2016, with Virtual Reality a popular talking point.
But is it a genuine source of new revenue streams or a short term fad? Time will tell, but research company Nielsen found that early VR adopters are outspending the average American by 2:1 on live events.
13. Weathering the storm
In Europe, the 2016 festival season was one of the most turbulent in living memory, with FKP Scorpio’s Hurricane and Southside, Marek Lieberberg/CTS Eventim’s Rock am Ring, Ultra Europe, Live Nation’s Rock Werchter and Broadwick Live’s Festival №6 all badly affected by severe weather.
Responses ranged from a government-backed €500k bad-weather fund in the Netherlands to FOLD Festival cheekily giving away tickets to Glastonbury-goers who couldn’t face the mud, while panellists at Reeperbahn Festival’s Epic Production session called for collaboration between festivals and a unified code of conduct for dealing with inclement weather.
Wacken Open Air – which avoided the worst of 2016 – has, meanwhile, embarked on a major overhaul of its festival site for 2017, with a new drainage system and gravel-based ground covering.
14. Bot-tomming Out
The controversial use of bots to harvest primary tickets during an onsale saw inbound legislation in 2016, both in the US and UK. The state of New York made using ticket-buying software on offence in June, while plans for a new anti-both bill were introduced in Ontario, Canada, in October.
By November, the UK’s digital minister, Matt Hancock, had launched his Computer Misuse Act, but the strongest move yet came last week when outbound US President Barrack Obama signed the Better Online Ticket Sales (Bots) Act, which proscribes their use.
15. Desert Trip
Hailed as one of the greatest rock events of all time, Desert Trip, didn’t just smash records – it took dynamite to the entire jukebox.
The concept of putting together three headline acts across three days might not have been rocket science, but when the dream ticket was the Stones, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, the complexities kicked in. But promoters Goldenvoice pulled off the improbable, lining up the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Roger Waters across successive nights and adding in support acts Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who for good measure, while using the site of California’s uber cool festival, Coachella, to stage the show – and lending to its popular nickname, Oldchella.
Hailed as one of the greatest rock events of all time, Desert Trip, didn’t just smash records – it took dynamite to the entire jukebox.
Not so fortunate were some of the ticket touts who gambled on scooping up as many of the weekend and day passes as they could get their hands on. Despite issuing a ‘sold out’ notice, Desert Trip organisers held back a number of tickets, which were released a month before the shows, prompting a collapse in the value of the secondary market to the extent that, in the days running up to the concerts, many tickets were listed at lower than original face value.
16. In Memoriam
Already considered an annus horribilis due to the number of fallen musical heroes (with Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen among them), the business lost more than its fair share of heroes in 2016. Dan Panaitescu, head of international booking at Sziget festival was killed in a car crash in July, the same month that veteran concert promoter James Nederlander passed at the age of 94.
July also claimed the life of Baloise Session founder Matthias Müller, when the longtime Swiss festival promoter lost his battle with cancer. Meanwhile, other tragic losses to the business included Brazilian promoter and youth project champion Bianca Freitas, who died in October after contracting the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Trying to squeeze 12 months of news, views and innovation into this short feature is always going to be tricky, so what did we miss? Please feel free to comment below. We may even publish the best bits…
Live Nation acquires Sweden Rock stake
Live Nation has acquired a majority stake in one of Sweden’s most successful music festivals, Sweden Rock.
The deal, announced today, sees the group’s local subsidiary, Live Nation Sweden, acquire a majority of Sweden Rock’s shares, although both parties insist there will be no changes to the running of the festival or its programming.
Head promoter Martin Forssman comments: “The live entertainment industry is moving more and more towards a few large companies booking artists for shows in many countries and during long periods of time. In that environment, a cooperation with Live Nation is the ultimate way forward for us.”
Live Nation Sweden also runs Way Out West and, through its majority stake in SPG Live – acquired last March – the Summerburst and Lights Festivals, as well as promoting more than 2,000 concerts a year.
Thomas Johansson, Live Nation’s chairman of international music, tells IQ the acquisition of Sweden Rock is part of a concerted effort by Live Nation Sweden to broaden its festival portfolio to include three distinct genres and geographical areas.
“The live entertainment industry is moving towards a few large companies booking artists for shows in many countries and during long periods of time. … A cooperation with Live Nation is the ultimate way forward for us”
“We already had [indie/electronic festival] Way Out West,” he explains, “then we acquired Summerburst, which is an EDM event, and now a rock festival.” He also points out that Live Nation now has festivals across the breadth of Sweden: Way Out West in Gothenburg, on the west coast; Summerburst in capital Stockholm, in the south-east; and Sweden Rock in Sölvesborg, in the far south.
In a statement, the festival, which has been held since 1992, says the “change in ownership will not affect the way the festival is being operated. The company and the festival will be run by the same staff and management, and in the same manner.”
“Both the festival and its headquarters will remain in Sölvesborg,” it continues. “The musical orientation will stay the same, and the current promoter team will continue booking the artists, now with assistance from the team at Live Nation.”
Johansson – who recently spoke exclusively to IQTV about his career so far – confirms that “absolutely everyone” currently involved with the festival will stay on. “They have done a wonderful job,” he says. “They’re absolutely amazing people.”
Aerosmith is the first act announced for Sweden Rock 2017, which will take place in Norje, near Sölvesborg, from 7 to 10 June.