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Cancelled Swiss fest ‘unable to provide refunds’

Organisers of Switzerland’s Vibiscum Festival say they are currently “unable to provide refunds” to ticket holders after the event was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Vibiscum’s third edition was set for 30 May to 2 June in the town of Vevey, with days dedicated to hip-hop, rock and electronic music, plus a closing afternoon classical music programme. Acts booked included Hardwell, Lost Frequencies, Hamza, Shaka Ponk, Zola and Crawlers.

Launched in 2022, Vibiscum is sponsored by food and drink conglomerate Nestlé, which is headquartered in Vevey, and grew quickly, attracting 6,000 people over two days in its first year and 32,000 across three days last year, when it was headlined by Orelsan and DJ Snake.

But festival director William von Stockalper opted to pull the plug on the 2024 event after it reached “only half” of his 18,000 ticket sales target two weeks before it was scheduled to start.

“To be frank, we had been thinking about it for a week but we were still hoping for a significant jump in sales,” Von Stockalper tells Blue News. “For a festival like ours, the current trend is to sell at the last minute, but given the sales, it would have been too risky to bet everything on that. It was a terrible choice, the most difficult decision of my professional career.”

“We are working on solutions, we will do everything to offer compensation”

Moreover, a statement from the festival says that refunds are not currently being offered to ticket holders.

“Due to the financial difficulties we are facing, we regret to inform you that we are unable to provide ticket refunds at this time,” it notes. “We understand that this may be frustrating and we sincerely apologise for this situation. However, we would like to assure you that we are fully committed to finding a fair solution for all affected festivalgoers. To this end, we are actively exploring all available options to compensate ticket holders.”

Von Stockalper, who is president of Vevey-Sports football club, reiterates there will be no refunds “immediately”, but speaks of reimbursement “in one form or another”. “We are working on solutions, we will do everything to offer compensation,” he insists.

Nevertheless, the situation has raised the ire of rival promoters such as Michael Drieberg, boss of Live Music Production and Sion Under the Stars, who lambasts it as “indecent” and “crazy”.

“We can’t just say to ourselves that it’s ruined, that we’re not paying anyone and go back to taking care of our football club. It’s too simple,” he tells Blick.

“It has become increasingly difficult to find well-known artists at affordable prices”

Elaborating on the reasons for Vibiscum’s cancellation, a statement on the festival’s website reads: “The lack of ticket sales has made it impossible for us to cover the costs of artists and other vendors essential to making the festival happen. Despite all our efforts to promote the event, we have not achieved the objectives necessary to ensure its financial viability.”

Day tickets for this year began at CHF95, up from CHF67.20 in 2023.

“After the first two editions, we had to increase ticket prices to cover the increasing costs of organising the festival,” continues the statement. “We are aware that this increase may have dissuaded some people from participating in this adventure, and we are deeply sorry for this.

“We also understand that this year’s programming may not have generated as much excitement as we hoped. It has become increasingly difficult to find well-known artists at affordable prices, especially those who have not recently performed in the area.

“We are deeply disappointed and saddened not to be able to realise our dream of offering the inhabitants of Vevey the festival they deserve and remain, despite everything, proud of the first two editions.”

However, Dreiberg argues the market was already oversaturated and brands Vibiscum’s cancellation “the chronicle of a predicted shipwreck”.

“A new major festival in the region, with a budget of five to 20 million francs… is no longer possible today,” he says. “There is no more room.”

 


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Jung at Heart: Switzerland market report

While the Swiss live music business has always been robust, the recent period of intense consolidation, company mergers, and corporate acquisitions is undoubtedly changing the landscape, with promoters claiming the market is oversaturated and a fierce battle for headline acts. IQ reports.

In a live industry always hungry for wealthy, eager consumers, markets like Switzerland, while small, are to be cherished. In this famously neutral Alpine corner of west-central Europe, there is a billionaire for every 80,000 people – behind only Luxembourg and Hong Kong – as well as one of the lower levels of income inequality among wealthy western nations.

Covid, of course, brought with it grim times that took a while to dispel, but those are emphatically in the rear-view mirror now, having given way to a booming 2023 and a quieter but still prosperous 2024.

“The average ticket prices in Switzerland are significantly higher than in most European countries, while overall expenditure remains relatively consistent,” says Philipp Musshafen, CEO of Zurich’s Hallenstadion, which hosted approximately 100 events in 2023 and welcomed around 800,000 visitors.

“The rebound from the pandemic in the realm of public events has largely dissipated, and subsequent events have taken place. It’s safe to say that a certain level of normality has returned both in the lead-up and planning of events.”

Like everywhere else, production is still a challenge. The mid-market is a hard sell, and no one is quite as certain as they once were of what works. Meanwhile, festivals are losing out to arenas and stadiums for headliners, and maybe a new venue or two would be nice. But all the same, Switzerland remains an extremely good prospect for a show or two.

“I have to say, if I compare to our German colleagues, the market is very small, but it works very well”

The country is small – 8.7m people in all – but urban centres such as Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, globalised and highly cosmopolitan, keep it punching above its weight. Promoters have historically focused on their own parts of the country – either the German-speaking cities, such as Zurich, Bern, Basel, and St. Gallen, or the French-speaking, notably Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux – though corporate-backed promoters are less likely to recognise such distinctions. Many shows are co-promoted, and very few promoters operate in isolation.

“I have to say, if I compare to our German colleagues, the market is very small, but it works very well,” says Stefan Matthey, co-managing director of DEAG’s newly reconfigured rock specialist Good News Productions. “We talk to each other, sometimes we co-promote. It’s not a war situation like in Germany.”

No surprise that Switzerland tends to be peaceful, possibly helped by the fact that there is plenty to go round. PwC/Omdia’s Switzerland Entertainment & Media Outlook 2023-2027 report puts this year’s projected Swiss live music revenues of CHF430m (from ticket sales and sponsorship) back near their 2019 pre-Covid peak of CHF437m and on a slow climb towards CHF441m by 2027.

“The feeling in the market remains positive globally, although it varies depending on the sector,” says Julien Rouyer, CEO of Lausanne-based Soldout Productions. “Ticketing is doing great, for instance, while production is struggling with cost increases and staff shortages. The key is to find a balanced scale to maintain a positive trend and stay profitable.”

And, of course, a further imperative is to tend to the health of all parts of the market – the smaller shows and towns, as well as the big shows in the big cities.

“The market is generally heathy – especially in the main cities like Zurich, Bern, Geneva, and Lausanne where concert attendance remains strong,” says Mainland Music managing director Derrick Thomson. “Ticket purchases are generally occurring closer to show dates, reflecting shifting consumer behaviour post-pandemic. While this trend may cause initial apprehension among promoters and artists, sales typically ramp up as events approach. However, we’ve observed challenges in smaller markets, particularly for grassroots clubs facing slowed demand.”

“We are at the very beginning of a totally new adventure”

Promoters
Once a stronghold of independents, Switzerland, like so many other markets, bears the heavy stamp of the leading corporate groups these days, with CTS Eventim, DEAG, and Live Nation all strong.

And in a time of adjustment across the promoting sector, some longstanding players are targeting fresh growth, prominent among them long-serving indie TAKK, which last July climbed aboard the CTS Eventim train, before re-launching in its new TAKK ab Entertainment guise earlier this year under three generations of promoters: Swiss industry forefather André Béchir, TAKK founder Sebastien Vuignier, and comparative youngster Théo Quiblier, promoter of Caroline Polachek, the National, and Wet Leg, among others.

“We are at the very beginning of a totally new adventure,” says Vuignier. “Thanks to the advisor agreement with André Béchir, who is a proper legend in Switzerland – the pioneer, with 50 years’ experience – we have access to inestimable knowledge and very strong content. It allows us to have an amazing first year of activity with Taylor Swift, AC/DC, and Pink shows, just to name a few.

“But we haven’t forgotten the DNA of what the old TAKK was – breaking new acts, doing 300-500-cap shows. The Last Dinner Party is the highlight of the start of this year. And we can’t wait to have Idles, Beth Gibbons, Khruangbin, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and others.”

Vuignier characterises the new company not as a buy-out but as a new venture in its own right – and one that has been a surprisingly long time coming.

“CTS Eventim didn’t buy TAKK Productions, but both companies joined forces to create a new one,” he says. “I first met [CTS Eventim CEO] Klaus-Peter Schulenberg back in 2010, just one year after founding TAKK Productions. I [was] impressed by his personality and what he [had] built up. But I think it was too early for me to join at that time.

“Fast-forward, when we got in touch again in January 2023 and the idea of teaming up with André Béchir came up, it was obvious. A few months later, the company was on its feet. We are now a team of 12, with offices in Zurich and in the French part of Switzerland, and with hundreds of shows lined up.”

“We still have this wonderful service where we take our artists from baby bands to stadiums if we can”

Also in transition has been Good News, which has rebuilt its team from the top down this year with the addition of Christian Gremelmayr and Santosh Aerthott, former joint managing directors of Live Nation’s Mainland Music, as well as marketing specialist Patrizia Demont and artist booker Steven Mandel.

“The company is growing, and we have positioned ourselves as the leading rock promoter in Switzerland,” says Matthey. “We still have this wonderful service where we take our artists from baby bands to stadiums if we can.”

Shows at the Hallenstadion for larger acts including Slash and Five Finger Death Punch, meanwhile, round out the upper end of Good News’s range.

The departure of Gremelmayr and Aerthott, along with fellow co-founder Marc Lambelet, represented an end-of-an-era moment for Mainland earlier this year. Founded in 2012 by a group of independent operators including Gremelmayr, Aerthott, Lambelet and Thomson, Mainland was acquired by Live Nation GSA in 2019 and these days organises more than 650 shows annually from Zurich and Lausanne, with Thomson at the wheel.

“We’ve embraced these changes as opportunities,” says Thomson, who notes that 2023 was Mainland’s most successful year to date. “Talented promoters and staff have stepped into elevated roles, contributing to our success. Our strategy remains focused on expanding our presence across the Swiss market, promoting a diverse range of shows, and further developing our artist roster. Additionally, we’re committed to incorporate more non-music events, including comedy and family shows.”

Forthcoming tours include Olivia Rodrigo, the Jonas Brothers, Troye Sivan, Rod Stewart, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Nickelback, and Karol G – to add to booking responsibilities for Openair Frauenfeld, Gurtenfestival, Openair Gampel, Lakelive Festival, Open Air Lumnezia, Open Air Gränichen, and Big Air Chur.

“”The pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviours, disrupted supply chains and altered business models, making it harder to predict what will succeed in this new landscape”

Another leading Swiss promoter is Gadget abc Entertainment Group, a one-time indie, now one more Eventim-backed big-hitter. “We had a really good 2023 and a very busy summer, with stadium shows of Bruce Springsteen, Rammstein, and Muse,” says Stefan Wyss, director, concerts and touring. “The festivals were very strong in 2023, and overall, the concert and touring business was solid.

“We expect 2024 to be a little less busy – the schedule for the touring segment is a bit less intense this year. A lot of domestic and German artists are taking a break after intense touring in 2022 and 2023, and the focus is more on international artists, which means more competition. The demand is still here, but we feel that it’s getting more difficult to sell out shows with regular touring artists in the middle segment.”

Nonetheless, this isn’t a quiet year for Gadget abc by any standard definition, with two sold-out Taylor Swift shows at Zurich’s Letzigrund Stadium – co-promoted with AEG Presents and TAKK – among the bigger shows. Meanwhile, an ever-expanding festival portfolio now includes Schaffhausen’s Stars in Town festival, in which Gadget abc took a majority stake in March, to add to OpenAir St.Gallen, Summerdays, Radar, Seaside, and Unique Moments.

Sister company act entertainment, meanwhile, runs a widely diversified entertainment business, with big concerts and major festivals alongside exhibitions, motorcycle extravaganzas, circuses, and comedians in various languages.
Promoter and artist booking agency Soldout Productions remains independent 18 years since it launched, and in addition to forthcoming shows including PLK, Freeze Corleone, and Gazo at Arena Genève, it recently acquired its first outdoor festival: the long-established Caribana in Crans, on the shore of Lake Geneva. The promoter’s ranks were also recently bolstered by the arrival of Mainland’s Lambelet.

The market outlook remains a slightly mixed one, according to Rouyer. “It does feel different compared to the pre-pandemic period, with a mix of cautious optimism and lingering uncertainty,” he says. “While there’s been some return of
certainty, predicting market trends remains challenging. The pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviours, disrupted supply chains and altered business models, making it harder to predict what will succeed in this new landscape.

“Other challenges facing promoters include evolving regulations and compliance standards; managing cybersecurity risks in an increasingly digital environment; and addressing sustainability concerns as environmental awareness grows. Additionally, talent acquisition and retention, especially in a highly competitive market, can pose significant challenges for promoters striving to build long-term relationships and maintain effective teams.”

“You can’t start the same way I did 30 years ago. I would even argue that with the density and the speed of the business, it’s no longer possible to start from scratch”

Another stalwart independent, Winterthur’s Sheeran-promoting AllBlues Konzert, marks 30 years in 2024, on the back of a strong year with shows by José González, Brad Mehldau, Joe Satriani, Diana Krall, Ana Moura, Ludovico Einaudi, and others, including the farewell concerts of John McLaughlin, Gilberto Gil, and the Manhattan Transfer.

“Oh yes, 30 years with around 3,000 self-promoted concerts is a long time,” says founder Johannes Vogel. “But it was great, and we are grateful for the privilege of rolling out the concert carpet to such wonderful musicians and artists. And above all, to be economically very successful in our niche, with jazz, world, funk, soul, blues, singer-songwriters – and Ed Sheeran!”

Vogel remains an outspoken indie with strong views on the market as a whole, and he makes no bones about how the market has changed in three decades. “You can’t start the same way I did 30 years ago,” he says. “I would even argue that with the density and the speed of the business, it’s no longer possible to start from scratch. The big ones are getting bigger and bigger, but that’s also the chance for the small ones in the niche like us.”

And while Vogel agrees that the market is strong, he also believes it is over-saturated.

“We have too many shows,” he says. “This may be due to the fact that the majority of the bigger Swiss annual promoters are no longer independent and belong to one of the event giants. Everyone is fighting for every show. Whether it’s working well or not is not that important, as long as you have the show. No wonder, because who benefits from this overplay? The event giants with their ticket companies or vice versa, starting from ticket one.”

Festivals
While Switzerland may be prosperous and packed with festivals, from Paléo and OpenAir St.Gallen to Openair Gampel, Openair Frauenfeld, Greenfield, and Rock the Ring on downwards, it isn’t immune to the currents of the global business.

“Fewer domestic and German artists are touring in 2024. The competition for international headliners was very intense”

“It was a difficult year to book the festivals,” says Christof Huber, director festivals & events at Gadget abc. “Fewer domestic and German artists are touring in 2024. The competition for international headliners was very intense. We were able to get very solid lineups for our festivals, and they are selling well. However, if I look at the European festival lineups, 2024 isn’t as strong as in previous years.”

Nonetheless, Huber professes satisfaction at a job well done in a challenging environment.

“We have finalised the billings for all of our festivals and sales are very good for all of them,” he says. “We are very happy that the beautiful Stars in Town festival is now part of Gadget. That underlines our strong festival stream, with quality brands such as OpenAir St.Gallen, Summerdays, Seaside, Unique Moments, and Radar.

“The rising costs for artists and infrastructure remain the biggest challenge for festivals,” he adds. “We were able to book good lineups with a lot of young domestic and international artists, which attract the young audiences. Besides this, we constantly work on our festival brands with experiences, look and feel, and new attractions. We are less dependent on our billing than some of our competitors.”

Paléo programmer Dany Hassenstein echoes the point. “It’s been a tough year, but we are very happy with the outcome: Burna Boy, Sam Smith, Nile Rodgers, Royal Blood, Patti Smith, Mika, Major Lazer, Sean Paul, Khruangbin, the Blaze, Aurora, and Paul Kalkbrenner are the top international names. And we have major French acts such as Booba, Gazo & Tiakola, and PLK completing the bill. We are in particular very proud of a great second tier of the bill, with most of the hot up-and-coming French acts such as Zaho de Sagazan, Sofiane Pamart, Worakls, just to name a few.”

Hassenstein expects the current trend to be a finite one but nonetheless welcomes the invitation to innovate.

“There’s currently an important lack of available headline acts for festivals and that drives fees to a new max for those available”

“2024 was tough, and 2025 will be, too, but I believe it goes in cycles,” he says. “Ticket sales for headline shows seem to be back to an all-time high, and like everybody else, we can observe all major acts aiming for these tickets and not the festival money. But this can turn around again in a few years. So yes, there’s currently an important lack of available headline acts for festivals and that drives fees to a new max for those available. It’s a bidding situation we are not fully ready to work with. It is pushing us to look out for or create new content. At Paléo, we are doing so in 2024 by opening our stages to new types of performance, humour, crossover opera, and even classical music.”

Montreux was recently added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network in the music category, and the town’s world-famous jazz festival is reinventing itself in the heart of the town for this year’s edition. A stage will be built on the lake, below the Place du Marché, while the festival will also make a return to its old home at the Casino, once the site of the 1971 fire memorialised in Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. A large number of free stages complete the new layout for this 58th edition, which will accommodate its usual capacity of 250,000 attendees.

In a similarly refined vein, Baloise Session in Basel, with its small-scale, supper-club feel, plots a course through rock, jazz, and world music every October and November. Last year, Norah Jones, Ellie Goulding, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and the opening night of Dave Stewart’s Eurythmics Songbook tour, featuring Joss Stone, were among the more mainstream highlights.

“Last year was extraordinary,” says CEO Beatrice Stirnimann. “We sold our tickets very fast; we had a great lineup,” she adds, though she notes that reinvention is not on the agenda for 2024.

“The design of our event is not going to change, because it is already very special. We have 1,500 seats, with the club tables and the candlelight. People never get bored of that. We just want to bring new artists. We sometimes bring artists back, but there’s so many artists out there, and we just want the brightest variety possible.”

In the past two years, the city of Basel itself has become more directly involved in supporting the festival, which was launched in 1985. “The city is into it – they are our hosting partner. Baloise is an international festival, artists come from everywhere, and they see how it goes out to the world. Maybe it’s a little bit like what happens in Montreux.”

“We aim to preserve the popular and festive spirit of the festival that has made it so beloved while also seeking opportunities for improvement in hospitality”

In February, Soldout Productions announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Caribana Productions, owner of the Caribana Festival brand, taking the promoter into business with festival founder Tony Lerch and artistic director Samuel Galley. The 32nd edition of the 32,000-cap festival will take place in June, with Tom Odell, Birdy, Ofenbach, Bad Omens, Martin Solveig, and Sam Ryder on an eclectic bill, having showcased Lou Reed, Patti Smith, ZZ Top, Katy Perry, and Maroon 5 over the years.

“We’re thrilled about the Caribana acquisition,” says Rouyer. “We aim to preserve the popular and festive spirit of the festival that has made it so beloved while also seeking opportunities for improvement in hospitality, including a new VIP offer and developing measures related to sustainability and environmental responsibility. We’re also looking into enhancing infrastructure, logistics, and overall visitor experience to make Caribana even more enjoyable and accessible for attendees.”

Also on Soldout’s slate in January was a sold-out edition of the Beat Festival at the 9,000-cap Geneva Arena, including French rap superstar Booba among a strong hip-hop lineup.

“We have launched a new edition of the festival that will happen in Lausanne, at the [10,000-cap] Vaudoise Aréna in December,” says Rouyer. “The Beat remains our flagship indoor event in wintertime, while Caribana – our first open-air festival – opens up a whole range of new opportunities during the summer.” Elsewhere, Good News recently entered into a collaboration with rock/metal festival Rock The Lakes – “Switzerland’s most beautiful metal festival” – which takes place at Lake Neuchatel in August.

Meanwhile, CTS Eventim-backed act entertainment launches a new boutique music festival in Zurich this summer. Waterfront Festival will debut at the Kongresshaus Zurich in July, when performers will include Stephan Eicher, Katie Melua, the BossHoss, and the Gipsy Kings.

Other events organised by act include Interlaken’s the Greenfield Festival, which will be headlined by Green Day, Bring Me the Horizon, and the Prodigy between 13 and 15 June.

“Even though there are many cultural offerings in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It seems that people are happy with our programme”

Venues
Between the Hallenstadion, X-TRA, and Komplex 457 in Zurich, the 9,500-cap Geneva Arena and Lausanne’s Les Docks, Switzerland has plenty of well-known venues. It also added a number of new ones in the years before the pandemic, including the Hall (5,000-capacity) and 3,500-cap Halle 622, both in Zurich.

Lausanne’s Vaudoise Aréna opened in September 2019 – a 12,000-cap arena for ice hockey and concerts managed by ASM Global – and this year, among much sport, it will see André Rieu, Patrick Bruel, and Ana Moura, Soraia Ramos & Pedro Abrunhosa.

Geneva’s biggest concert venue, the Geneva Arena, brings big-name gigs and large-scale entertainment and sporting events, with J Balvin, Patrick Bruel, and Mika all booked in this year among a host of tribute and family entertainment shows. Located next to Geneva International Airport, it draws audiences from both France and Switzerland.

In Lausanne, Les Docks attracts medium to large travelling names to its 1,000-cap hall. This summer’s shows including The Pretenders, Garbage, Fontaines D.C. and Sleater-Kinney.

“This new year is off to a great start, with many sold-out shows – even though there are many cultural offerings in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It seems that people are happy with our programme,” says director and programmer Laurence Vinclair, who strikes a note of caution about diminishing bar takings but is otherwise optimistic.

“And the coming months are shaping up well, too,” she adds. “June is an incredible month, like it was in the years before the pandemic, partly because we benefit from festival tours. I don’t have any secret, except the fact that our venue is well-renowned in the music business for its high-quality welcome – good food, good PA. Also, I’ve good relations with booking agents from 17 years working here. They trust us.”

In Basel, the St. Jakobshalle arena, refurbished just a few years ago, features 11 halls, including one that accommodates 12,400.

“In 2023, we experienced a very strong second half of the year,” says CEO Thomas Kastl. “Due to our multifunctionality, we were able to accommodate numerous requests. We hosted large-scale events, such as concerts and sports gatherings with thousands of attendees, as well as smaller sports and business functions. “Looking ahead to 2024, our calendar is brimming with exciting events. We anticipate hosting the EHF Euro 2024 Women’s Handball and the European Fencing Championship. Additionally, our lineup includes concerts featuring renowned artists such as Bryan Adams, Laura Pausini, Avenged Sevenfold, Judas Priest, and Hans Zimmer.”

 


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Euro festival bosses preview ‘challenging’ 2024 season

European festival bosses have reflected on mixed fortunes for the 2024 festival season.

While some events have reported bumper sales and speedy sellouts, others have been forced to take a break or call it quits altogether.

Regardless of boom or bust, the challenges of staging a festival in the current climate are being felt across the board.

In 2024, organisers are grappling with a laundry list of problems, from extreme weather to spiralling costs and a lack of headliners to unpredictable ticket sales.

“Sales are okay but not outstanding compared to 2022 or 2023,” says Christof Huber, director of festivals at Gadget in Switzerland and chair of European festival association Yourope.

“There are a little less stadium shows compared to 2023 which helps”

“There are a little less stadium shows compared to 2023 which helps, but it’s also needed for this festival season.”

Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, adds “The overall conditions of the festival market remain very challenging. Frankly, it has become very challenging to promote festivals in a way that keeps pushing things forward and is economically viable.”

Skyrocketing costs have been a primary concern for festival organisers and, according to Thanscheidt, that’s not set to change.

“Tight margins are by far our biggest challenge,” he tells IQ. “The costs in virtually every area of festival production have risen considerably since the pandemic with no signs of slacking off.

“Exploding costs in all areas paired with cautious purchasing behaviour are keeping all promoters on their toes. Of course, we do not want to simply pass these costs on to our guests. Music and culture must stay as affordable as possible, and I consider it our duty to find ways to mitigate this troubling development, both by cross-financing as well as using synergies across our group.”

“People rewarded our booking efforts with a high demand”

Whilst acknowledging spiralling costs, Jim King, CEO of European Festivals for AEG Presents, urged festival organisers to “concentrate more on value than they do on cost”.

“The first natural reaction when costs go up is to have fewer stages and smaller production,” he told delegates during February’s ILMC 36.

“But if you reduce the value, you reduce the experience and then you’re on a downward spiral. If you look at the most successful festivals, they’re actually adding more value to the ticket. We worry too much about ticket price and not enough about the value of the ticket.”

Indeed, festivals that have adopted the “go big or go home” attitude with booking lineups and enhancing experiences have prospered in the challenging climate.

“It’s great to see that strong festival brands like Paléo Festival Nyon or Lowlands, which have created great lineups and also are famous for their unique experiences, have sold out right after going on sale,” says Huber.

“The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue”

FKP Scorpio’s Southside and Hurricane festivals are also set to sell out, thanks to blockbuster lineups led by Ed Sheeran, K.I.Z, Bring Me The Horizon, Avril Lavigne and Deichkind.

“People rewarded our booking efforts with a high demand,” he says. “Especially in these challenging times, I’m very grateful for the continued trust of our festivalgoers. We consider ourselves very lucky that our festival brands continue to be successful.”

Other festivals that have been rewarded for first-class lineups include Reading & Leeds, which has reported a sell-out Saturday headlined by Lana Del Rey and Fred Again.., as well as the 20th anniversary of Tomorrowland Belgium, the return of Germany’s Wacken Open Air, the Netherlands’ Down The Rabbit Hole and (of course) the UK’s Glastonbury Festival.

While these major festivals have delivered impressive lineups against all odds, securing headliners has been no mean feat.

“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent,” King said at ILMC. “When they’re prepared to confirm, how we can get that show announced and then the sales window that we’re dealing with. The shows we’re putting up are selling very strongly. The demand is there, it’s supply that’s an issue.”

“The challenge across all my UK business has been the availability of headline talent”

Download Festival boss Andy Copping has echoed those challenges, telling Planet Rock that the 2024 edition was the “hardest year” to secure a line-up, having approached 21 bands to find headliners.

Huber says the drought of headliners could be a symptom of increased domestic touring during the pandemic. “A lot of domestic artists took breaks after touring intensively after Corona,” he explains. “Therefore, the competition for international artists was quite intense.”

Another challenge that has become more prominent in recent years is the impact of extreme weather on festivals, which in turn has driven up insurance premiums.

In the last 12 months, a raft of major events have been hindered due to extreme weather including Primavera Sound Madrid, Awakenings in the Netherlands, Bluedot in the UK, Slovenia’s MetalDays, the UK’s Kaleidoscope, shows by Louis Tomlinson show and Ed Sheeran in the US, Burning Man, Taylor Swift in Brazil, Elton John in New Zealand, Wacken Open Air in Germany, Sol Blume in the US.

In the US, adverse weather coverage has “increased significantly” in the last five years, according to Jeff Torda from Higginbotham. Backing this point, a recent Billboard article claimed premiums in North America had tripled in recent years.

“There will be more shows that fail because the barrier to entry, financially, is so high and the risk point is so high”

While in the UK market, Martin Goebells at Miller Insurance says, “Today additional premiums for adverse weather are 50% higher than eight years ago.”

Another major source of cancellations has been the challenging economic climate, in the UK and Australia in particular.

In the UK, PennFest, 110 Above Festival, NASS Festival and Barn On The Farm have been called off due to financial challenges, while Connect Music Festival, Leopollooza, Long Division and Splendour were called off for varying reasons. A further 100 festivals are at permanent risk without action, according to trade body the Association of Independent Festivals.

Meanwhile, Australia’s festival sector is “in crisis” after cancellations from Splendour in the Grass, Groovin The Moo, Coastal Jam, Summerground, Vintage Vibes, Tent Pole: A Musical Jamboree and ValleyWays. A first-of-its-kind report found that only half of the country’s festivals are profitable.

King says that unfortunately festivals failing is part and parcel of the business: “The attrition rate is always going to be high. There will be more shows that fail because the barrier to entry, financially, is so high and the risk point is so high. I think it’s devastating. But that’s the direction of travel. I think it’s very difficult to change.”

The coming months may prove challenging for some but with the consistently high demand for live music experiences, many festivals are looking forward to their biggest and best editions yet.

 


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Swiss promoter hails Eras Tour’s ‘economic factor’

Swiss live music pioneer André Béchir has praised the economic impact of Taylor Swift’s forthcoming Zurich concerts, revealing that thousands of fans are travelling from outside Switzerland to attend the shows.

Swift will perform at the city’s Letzigrund Stadium on 9-10 July, promoted by AEG Presents, TAKK, Gadget abc Entertainment Group and Taylor Swift Touring, as part of the European leg of The Eras Tour.

“With an entourage of around 200 people, Taylor Swift is on the road with the largest tour group in the world,” Béchir tells Blick. “Around 100,000 fans will come to her two concerts. Well over 10,000 are traveling from abroad, as we can see from the ticket sales.”

Béchir leads CTS Eventim-backed TAKK ab Entertainment AG, which was established last year, alongside TAKK Productions founder Sebastien Vuignier and IQ New Bosses alumnus Théo Quiblier. Béchir’s abc Production was amalgamated with Gadget and Wepromote by CTS shortly before the pandemic hit.

“Taylor Swift’s importance for Zurich is totally underestimated,” adds Béchir. “After we announced it, hotel room prices were on average a hundred francs more expensive the next day.

“We are assuming that the fans will arrive early, which will be an unprecedented challenge for traffic and the corresponding security measures. The authorities involved and the stadium have been informed accordingly. It still doesn’t seem to be clear in the minds of those responsible here that Taylor Swift is not just a concert, but an economic factor.”

“Concerts of this magnitude are of great importance for local businesses and suppliers, the hotel industry and the catering industry”

“Concerts of this magnitude are of great importance for local businesses and suppliers, the hotel industry and the catering industry,” says the City of Zurich’s communications department. “Since the ‘Swifties’ are considered particularly committed, just a single photo of the superstar from Switzerland on social media can have a huge advertising effect.”

Swift’s 17-19 May concerts at Sweden’s Friends Arena (cap. 50,000) are also expected to be a “real hit” for Stockholm’s economy. According to calculations by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) and Friends Arena, Swifties attending the concerts are expected to spend half a billion kroner (€43.6m).

According to the SCC, almost half of the 150,000 fans attending Swift’s Stockholm concerts will come from abroad, with people from 132 countries, including USA, Finland and Australia, set to flock to the shows in the Swedish capital.

Meanwhile, the opening leg of The Eras Tour, which ran to 50+ dates from March to August 2023, reputedly contributed $5.7 billion to the US economy. The Washington Post reported that her SoFi Stadium residency in Inglewood, California, brought an estimated $320 million alone to the Los Angeles economy.

Swift and other A-list stars have also been credited with helping to rejuvenate tourism in Singapore after the country secured a much-debated exclusivity deal with the star.

 


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Paléo organisers warn of increase in ticket scams

Organisers of Switzerland’s Paléo have warned of a “strong increase” in ticket scams for this year’s festival.

All 200,000 passes for the 2024 event, which takes place in Nyon from 23-28 July, sold out in just 21 minutes last month, and fans are being urged to only buy resale tickets through the festival’s official ticket exchange.

Paléo Festival is a partner of Swiss consumer protection watchdog FRC (Romande Consumer Rights Federation), which works against ticket touting.

“We are currently observing a strong increase in the number of scams involving online ticket purchases on secondary markets,” says a message to posted to fans online. “We recommend that you only buy your tickets on the official platforms. The festival is currently sold out. The only official resale platform is the ticket market.”

“Any purchase made outside these outlets is not considered authorised and secure, and the festival will unfortunately not be able to intervene in the event of a problem”

In addition to the Paléo ticket exchange, 1,500 daily tickets will be made available from 9am on each day of this year’s festival.

“Any purchase made outside these outlets is not considered authorised and secure, and the festival will unfortunately not be able to intervene in the event of a problem,” adds the post.

Launched in 1976, the event accommodates more than 35,000 fans daily. Artists at Paléo’s 2024 edition will include Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

“We knew from our December pre-sale that demand was very strong,” booker Dany Hassenstein told IQ earlier this year. “All our digital data were showing this same evolution too. I really believe that, together with the very rich lineup, it is our standards and values that makes this success. We have this tremendous level of confidence and loyalty from our guests, and we are doing everything to never put that trust at risk.”

 


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Montreux Jazz Festival unveils 2024 lineup

Switzerland’s legendary Montreux Jazz Festival has announced a typically eclectic lineup for its 58th edition.

Running from 5-20 July, artists will include Raye, Sting, Massive Attack, Kraftwerk, Janelle Monáe, PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins, Jungle, Duran Duran, Rag’n’Bone Man, Yussef Dayes, André 3000, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple.

The 2024 event will see a number of temporary changes due to construction work on the Montreux Music and Convention Centre Congress Centre (2m2c), which usually hosts the festival’s major shows.

With work scheduled to continue until 2025, this year’s festival will feature a new layout with a new 5,000-cap main stage erected on top of Lake Geneva, and a return to the historic Casino, which will have a capacity of 1,300 and a half-seated, half-standing configuration.

The Casino burnt down in the 70s and inspired Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. Deep Purple will return to perform on the lake on 8 July for their 10th performance at Montreux.

“We have to find a new and brilliant ID for ’24 and ’25, so that’s going to be a major challenge”

“It was very clear when we came back in ’22 that we were going to bring in a lot of changes to transform the festival and take it into the future,” Montreux Jazz Festival chief Mathieu Jaton told IQ last year. “We have to find a new and brilliant ID for ’24 and ’25, so that’s going to be a major challenge. And then June ’26 is the 60th anniversary, so we have some nice years in front of us.”

Other performers will include Michael Kiwanuka, Jessie Ware, Laufey, Lenny Kravitz, Tyla, The National, Diana Krall, Mahalia, Jamie Cullum, Soft Cell, Dionne Warwick, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets and Air.

There will also be 11 free stages, while the Lake House returns with its the Memphis jazz club and its jam sessions, the cinema screening room and the Bibliotheque, which brings together collections of vinyl and books, with talks presented each day by a guest. The free programme will be announced in full on 5 June.

US spin-off Montreux Jazz Festival Miami debuted last month at 1,500-cap waterfront venue The Hangar. Event co-owner and ambassador Jon Batiste headlined the first two days of the 1-3 March event, which also featured the likes of Daryl Hall, The Wailers, Cimafunk, Emily Estefan, Cory Henry, Mathis Picard, Daniela Mercury and Adrian Cota & The Winston House Band, along with a surprise appearance by Will Smith.

 


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IQ 126 out now: The 1975, Country, Mid-level touring

IQ 126, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The April/May edition goes behind the scenes of The 1975’s Still… At Their Very Best tour, examines the rapid rise of country music around the world, and explores the difficulties facing the mid-tier of the live music touring business.

Elsewhere, the issue marks Mercury Wheels co-founder Barnaby Harrod’s 25 years as a promoter, dives into Switzerland’s thriving industry, and reports on the 36th edition of ILMC.

For this edition’s comments and columns, Pembe Tokluhan shares the inspiration behind launching a company that strives to increase representation of women, trans, and non-binary people working behind the scenes of live events.

In addition, creative comms guru Ella McWilliam (Full Fat) monitors the rapidly changing media landscape and provides tips on how festivals can entice Gen Z to become ticket-buying customers.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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Paléo Festival booker toasts 21-minute sellout

Paléo booker Dany Hassenstein has hailed the Swiss festival’s longstanding bond with its audience after all 200,000 tickets for the 2024 event sold out in just 21 minutes.

The festival will run in Nyon from 23-28 July, featuring acts such as Sam Smith, Burna Boy, Booba, Mika, Sean Paul, Major Lazer Soundsystem, Gazo & Tiakola, PLK, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Patti Smith, The Blaze, Paul Kalkbrenner, Aurora and Royal Blood.

Launched in 1976, the event accommodates more than 35,000 fans daily. Tickets for the Sunday finale, which started at CHF80 (€82), sold out in a record seven minutes.

“We knew from our December pre-sale that demand was very strong,” Hassenstein tells IQ. “All our digital data were showing this same evolution too. I really believe that, together with the very rich lineup, it is our standards and values that makes this success. We have this tremendous level of confidence and loyalty from our guests, and we are doing everything to never put that trust at risk.”

Last year’s event took almost double the time – 41 minutes – to sell out for a bill starring the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Martin Garrix and Placebo.

For 2024, Paléo is expanding its musical horizons with a mix of pop, rock, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats, reggae, electro, opera and funk, welcoming 130 artists in all, as the countdown begins to its landmark 50th festival in three years’ time.

“We have several new features on track, mainly guest comfort improvements but we will also open our stages to other type of performances, such as humour with an in-house show, a performance by French troupe Murmuration and even opera, hosting tenor singer Roberto Alagna,” says Hassenstein.

“It is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals”

Organisers introduced of a raft of well-received changes two years ago, including new stages, blockchain ticketing and a cashless payment system, in what was billed as the festival’s biggest makeover in more than 30 years.

“We had huge changes of the general festival set up in 2022 and we will prepare the next big step for our 50th edition in 2027,” notes Hassenstein.

The festival’s traditional ticket exchange, which is designed to combat the black market, will go live on 27 March, while 1,500 daily tickets will be made available from 9am on each morning of this year’s event.

While the debate continues to rage about the availability (or lack thereof) of headliners across the sector, Hassenstein considers the names of those at the top of the bill to still be “undeniably very important”.

“It’s the essence of a music festival,” he says. “Our challenge was mainly our dates being outside of most of the international touring periods. But it is a fact that hard tickets are on the rise and acts are focusing on headline tours, not festivals.”

Looking to the future, Hassenstein indicates that Paléo will always prioritise quality over potential capacity increases.

“Growth in quality will always be our goal, with sustainability and social awareness being part of this growth,” he concludes. “Growth in capacity is not necessarily a healthy ambition and not really a target for us.”

 


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ACT Entertainment to launch new Swiss festival

Swiss promoter Act Entertainment is launching a new boutique music festival in Zurich this summer.

The Waterfront Festival will debut at the Kongresshaus Zurich from 11-20 July, when performers will include Stephan Eicher, Katie Melua. The Boss Hoss and the Gipsy Kings.

“The city of Zurich in summer, with its unrivalled ambience and international flair, is predestined for a great music festival. And I can’t think of a better place for it than the Kongresshaus with the lake literally on its doorstep,” says Act Entertainment CEO Thomas Dürr. “At the Kongresshaus, we have exactly the right platform for a boutique festival, which is becoming increasingly popular with music lovers.”

The event became a reality after Dürr approached new Kongresshaus CEO Michel Loris-Melikoff with his idea of a festival on the Lake Zurich waterfront, after which it is named.

“We have all the prerequisites for a cool festival with 1,500 visitors”

“When Thomas Dürr came to me and said he wanted to organise a new festival in July, preferably at our venue, I didn’t have to think twice,” says Loris-Melikoff. “Music is close to my heart anyway, and in the Kongresshaus we have all the prerequisites for a cool festival with 1,500 visitors.”

Day tickets start at CHF67.20 (€69.80), with further acts to be announced in the coming weeks.

Other events organised in Switzerland by CTS Eventim-backed ACT include Interlaken’s the Greenfield Festival, which will be headlined by Green Day, Bring Me the Horizon and The Prodigy between 13-15 June. Artists such as Sum 41, Machine Head, Babymetal, Dropkick Murphys, Kraftklub and The Interrupters will also feature on the bill.

 


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Gadget abc swoops for Swiss festival

Switzerland’s Gadget abc Entertainment Group has secured a majority stake in the Stars in Town festival.

The Swiss festival attracts around 60,000 visitors a year over two weekends to Schaffhausen’s Old Town. It will now become part of Gadget’s extensive festival portfolio, which also includes OpenAir St.Gallen, SummerDays Festival Arbon, Seaside Festival, Unique Moments at the National Museum Zurich and Radar Festival.

The companies have partnered for many years, with all contact partners, as well as management and company headquarters, set to remain unchanged in the wake of the deal.

Festival director and board member Adrian Brugger remains a shareholder of Stars in Town with a minority stake and will continue in his role.

“With the integration of Stars in Town, one of the highest-quality festivals in Switzerland, into the Gadget Group, the story that began together a long time ago will gain a new chapter,” says Christof Huber, director festivals & events at Gadget.

“We are very much looking forward to working even more closely with Christof Huber and the entire Gadget team”

Huber has been jointly responsible for booking Stars in Town for a decade and has been a board member since 2015.

“I warmly welcome Adi Brugger and his team to the Gadget family,” he adds. “Over the past few years, they have established Stars in Town as one of the most important festivals in Switzerland. I look forward to developing the festival together with them and to offering all Schaffhausen residents and guests even more exciting artists and an even more intense musical experience.”

Stars in Town will gain direct access to the Gadget network and benefit from expanded opportunities in booking, ticketing, marketing and sponsorship, among other areas.

“We are very much looking forward to working even more closely with Christof Huber and the entire Gadget team,” adds Brugger. “Thanks to this strong support, we will not only lead the festival into a successful future but also further strengthen Schaffhausen as a regional centre for culture and entertainment.”

The festival’s next edition will take place in Schaffhausen from 2-10 August, featuring acts such as Placebo, Passenger, Tom Odell, Status Quo and Editors.

 


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