Wacken Open Air 2021 sells out
The 2021 edition of German metal festival Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) has sold out, with over 90% of 2020 ticketholders retaining their festival passes for next year.
Wacken, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019, was due to take place this coming weekend (30 July–1 August), with a line-up of acts including Judas Priest, Amon Amarth and Mercyful Fate.
However, the festival was called off, as is the story for the majority of events this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A virtual edition of the event, Wacken World Wide, is taking place from 29 July to 1 August instead, with exclusive live performances from Blind Guardian, Heaven Shall Burn, In Extremo, Kreator and Beyond the Black.
Fans can buy souvenir tickets and festival ribbons to support the event and artists involved, as well as a range of new Wacken World Wide merchandise.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the incredible support you are showing us in these tough times,” reads a post from the Wacken team, announcing the 2021 sell-out.
“We are humbled that over 90% of you have decided to exchange your W:O:A 2020 tickets for W:O:A 2021 with the remaining ones being sold this quickly”
“Said gratitude is deepened since we know that many of you have to deal with your own hardships such as dismissals, short-time work and scarce job opportunities.
“We are humbled by the fact that over 90% of you have decided to exchange your W:O:A 2020 tickets for W:O:A 2021 with the remaining ones being sold this quickly. You can be sure that we will give our very best to turn W:O:A 2021 into an unforgettable experience.”
The Wacken team also say they are “blown away” by the number of fans choosing to donate their tickets for others to use, instead of exchanging them or asking for a refund. These so-called Solidarity Tickets will be given out in the coming weeks.
The first bands for Wacken 2021 will be announced this Saturday, as per tradition.
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‘As disappointed as our guests’: Germany cans summer fests
Germany, Europe’s largest live music market, has become the latest European nation to outlaw all large-scale live events until 31 August, forcing the mass cancellation of some of Europe’s best-loved music festivals.
“Since major events play an important role in spreading infection, they remain prohibited until at least 31 August 2020,” reads a news release from the German federal government, which had yesterday (15 April) given the go-ahead for shops and schools to reopen.
Among the affected events are nearly all of Germany’s summer festival fixtures, including MLK’s Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, FKP Scorpio’s Hurricane and Southside, Goodlive’s Melt and Splash! Festivals and Superstruct’s Wacken Open Air and Parookaville – with the likes of Goodlive’s Lollapalooza Berlin and new festival Superbloom (both 5–6 September) spared from the ban by a matter of days.
For FKP Scorpio – which, in addition to its flagship twin open-airs, is also calling off Highfield, Deichbrand, Elbjazz, Limestone and Mera Luna – the decision, although “a clear and important safety measure”, is a source of sadness for the entire company, says founder-CEO Folkert Koopmans.
“All of us are bitterly disappointed”
“It goes without saying that these cancellations, like the entire unprecedented [Covid-19] situation, make us very sad, even if we fully support the political decision to protect the population,” comments Koopmans. “Our whole team has been working with countless partners for a long time in preparation for the summer festival season, and is as disappointed as our guests.”
Thomas Jensen, co-founder of metal festival Wacken Open Air, which sold out its 2020 edition under a day, echoes: “Our whole team has been working intensively on the festival these last months, and all of us are bitterly disappointed that we are not allowed to celebrate a Wacken Open Air together with our visitors and the bands this year.”
Similarly sold out were Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, promoted by CTS Eventim’s Marek Lieberberg Konzeragentur, which would have celebrated 35 and 25 years in 2020, respectively.
“For the organisers, the artists and the 175,000 fans who wanted to celebrate 35 years of Rock am Ring and 25 years of Rock im Park in the first weekend in June, this decision is of course disappointing,” reads a statement from organisers.
“Nevertheless, the producers unreservedly support these inevitable measures in the interests of the safety and health of everyone involved, however sad we are over the cancellation of the festivals.”
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Black Gold: How metal became a cultural phenomenon
Last year, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson was bestowed with two very unique honours.
In April, he was made an honorary citizen of Sarajevo in recognition of a concert his solo band Skunkworks played there in 1994, during a prolonged siege of the Bosnian capital. Presenting the award, mayor Abdulah Skaka said: “The arrival of Mr Dickinson in Sarajevo, in 1994, was one of those moments that made us realise that we will survive.”
The other accolade was bestowed upon Dickinson by Dr Cristina Rheims, a Brazilian biologist and metal fan who gave a newly discovered species of spider the name Extraordinarius brucedickonsoni.
If these honours anecdotally demonstrate metal’s soft power, its global reach and the deep devotion of its fans, then the fact that Amon Amarth, a melodic death metal band whose principal lyrical inspiration is Viking folklore, will shake the fields of Wacken Open Air festival with 75,000 roaring fans this summer should be considered testament to metal’s undaunted commercial clout.
“It feels like there’s a cultural movement happening where, if you’re in the metal game and you’re good at what you do, you have a specific brand and you put on a great live show, things are moving,” enthuses Justin Arcangel, president of 5B Artist Management and Touring, who represent Amon Amarth, Babymetal, Slipknot and more.
“All our data – streaming numbers, ticket numbers, merch sales, whatever – are all bigger in 2020 than in 2019. The funny thing is when you speak to some people that don’t work in this genre, they have no idea. Metal is, to this day, outsider music, but let me tell you, it’s a major cultural thing, especially in Europe.”
“What we’ve witnessed across our events is metal is really a community – this outlaw feeling that unites us”
“Some of our hardcore audience think maybe metal is too mainstream now, because in Germany there’s a lot in the charts,” chuckles Thomas Jensen, CEO of International Concert Services and Wacken co-founder, pondering the sea change since he first staged the festival in the German village’s gravel pit in 1990.
Now in its third decade, with all 75,000 tickets for 2020’s edition snapped up in an astonishing 21 hours, Wacken is a major force, with good company in France’s Hellfest (55,000-capacity), Belgium’s Graspop (50,000-cap.), plus the UK’s Bloodstock Open Air (20,000-cap.) and Download, which attracts 110,000 fans over the weekend – a “heavy music summer,” as Jensen calls it. Which is not even to dig into the boom in boutique festivals offering bespoke experiences, such as Italy’s Rock the Castle or the Netherlands’ Roadburn, whose reputation as a tastemaker event means 75% of its 4,000 attendees travel from abroad.
“What we’ve witnessed across Wacken events is that metal is really a community, this outlaw feeling that unites us,” says Jensen. “Our music is a live experience and the whole festival circuit allows bands to survive. For international acts, it’s easier to put a festival run together than it was in the 90s, and you see bands working their way up the bill each year.”
“I’ve only ever seen the metal market over the years grow,” agrees Vicky Hungerford, co-director at Bloodstock, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with headline spots from Polish black metallers Behemoth and the UK’s Judas Priest. As well as fostering new talent with their popular Metal to the Masses series of regional shows, where unsigned bands compete to play the festival, Bloodstock strongly believes in paving the way for tomorrow’s monsters of rock.
W:O:A founders to receive EFA lifetime achievement gong
Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen, co-founders of German metal festival Wacken Open Air, will receive the lifetime achievement award at the 11th European Festival Awards (EFAs) on 15 January 2020.
The other nominees for the awards, which take place during Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen, Netherlands, were revealed last week, with over 350,000 votes cast across the 14 other categories.
Jensen, the bassist in a band called Skyline, and Hübner, who was working as a DJ, co-founded Wacken Open Air in 1990.
Nearly 30 years on, the festival is arguably the world’s most important metal/hard rock event – Wacken 2020 sold all 75,000 tickets in the space of a few hours – and their company, ICS, also includes a roster of other hard rock festivals, a touring division, a booking agency (Seaside Touring), ticketing platform Metaltix and the Wacken Foundation, a nonprofit which provides tour support and other assistance to young bands.
Last year’s EFA lifetime achievement award was collected by Eurosonic founder Peter Smidt, with Wacken picking up best major festival and Roskilde Festival being awarded line-up of the year.
Superstruct buys into Wacken promoter ICS
Superstruct Entertainment has invested in Germany’s International Concert Service (ICS), adding leading metal event Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) to its stable of European festivals.
The Superstruct-ICS deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is structured as an “investment and partnership agreement”, in which each company invests in the other, according to Superstruct. The company has similar arrangements with Norway’s Øya Festival, acquired last August, and, more recently, Next Events, the company behind German hip-hop festival Parookaville.
In addition to W:O:A, its flagship festival, ICS produces and promotes ancillary events including Hamburg Metal Dayz, Wacken Winter Nights and motorsports and music festival Werner Race.
ICS founders Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen, and the current leadership team, will remain in place after the transaction (the terms of which were not disclosed) closes.
In a joint statement, the pair say: “Joining the Superstruct network is terrific news for our team and our fans. We will continue providing world-class experiences through our portfolio of live events, and now we are able to additionally benefit from a partner with a global network and experience. This will help us grow further and make what we do even better.
“We are very excited to join forces with ICS, the global leaders in metal”
“We very much look forward to working with the Superstruct team to continue pushing the envelope. Our goal is always to inspire and enthuse heavy metal fans around the world and to make people happy with our live activities.”
All 75,000 tickets for Wacken Open Air 2020 sold out in just 21 hours, following a successful 30th-anniversary event with Slayer, Sabaton and Prophets of Rage this summer.
James Barton, CEO of Superstruct, says: “We are very excited to join forces with ICS, the global leaders in metal. Led by Holger and Thomas, and supported by an experienced team overseeing a portfolio of quality events, we are confident that together we can continue to expand ICS and take the company and its events to the next level.”
Superstruct Entertainment, backed by private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners, additionally owns and operates Sziget (Hungary), Flow Festival (Finland), Sónar (Spain) and Spanish party promoter Elrow. In addition to next events, its most recent acquisitions are Down the Drain (Northside, Tinderbox) in Denmark and several UK events formerly owned by Global.
Wacken 2020 sells out in 21 hours
The 30th edition of Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) closed on Saturday 3 August, with “all expectations fulfilled” and tickets for next year’s festival already cleared out.
Wacken 2019 took place from 1 to 3 August. Acts playing across the three-day festival included Slayer, Parkway Drive, Prophets of Rage and Sabaton.
“This year’s Wacken really was fantastic,” W:O:A co-founder Thomas Jensen tells IQ. ”I couldn’t have asked for any more music-wise, performances all round were of a great quality.”
Jensen admits that customers got “a bit damp”, but says the festival team “can’t complain”. Part of the festival site was closed off on Friday, in anticipation of a possible lightning storm, but opened again shortly after.
“We were lucky with the weather in the end,” says the Wacken co-founder, adding that “the crew did a tremendous job, as always.”
Tickets for next year’s festival went on sale on Sunday at 11 p.m., with all 75,000 tickets selling out in just 21 hours.
The speed of ticket sales for the 2020 event surpasses that of last year. Wacken shifted tickets for its anniversary event in just over one week.
“This year’s Wacken really was fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for any more music-wise”
“We […] are honestly overwhelmed by what just happened,” reads a statement by festival organisers, thanking fans for their “incredible loyalty”.
The statement reveals next year’s international focus will be on South- and Central America, “for a metal journey into the realms of the Mayans and Aztecs.”
Last year, Wacken joined forces with Electronic Sports League (ESL) to introduce its very own 1,800 square-metre esports arena, allowing festivalgoers to compete in amateur tournaments, set to the soundtrack of heavy metal.
Other features of the festival include concerts in Wacken’s “metal church”, a 1,300 square-metre onsite supermarket, a cinema area dedicated to films about the world of metal and the Middle Ages-themed Wackinger Village.
Wacken 2020 will take place from 30 July to 1 August. Already announced acts include Judas Priest, Amon Amarth, Mercyful Fate and At the Gates.
Jensen explained the simple ethos behind Wacken in a recent IQ article: “We weren’t thinking: what is the best music to put onstage at Wacken? The question was: how do we get enough people to Wacken for this metal show?”
Read the rest of IQ‘s Wacken anniversary feature here.