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Fans can ‘pay with their blood’ for Wacken show

German heavy metal festival Wacken Open Air is offering a novel form of payment for its pre-festival showcase, encouraging fans to “pay with your blood”.

From next Monday (11 March), individuals who donate blood to Essen University Hospital will receive free admission to the festival’s warm-up show. The gig, set for one day after World Blood Donor Day, will take place at the Turock nightclub in Essen, Germany.

“The goal of the World Blood Donor Day campaign on June 14th is to fill the empty blood banks, recruit new donors and ultimately save lives,” organisers said in a press release.

‘Fill empty blood banks, recruit new donors, and ultimately save lives’

This preliminary gig will showcase three acts — Celeste, Downfall of Gaia and Friisk — in an evening ‘dedicated to the extreme varieties of metal’.

The four-day festival has encouraged blood donation for over a decade, offering a free t-shirt in exchange for six recorded donations on the official W:O:A blood donor passport.

The 33rd edition of the metal festival, set for 31 July through 4 August, will be led by Scorpions, Korn and Amon Amarth.

Additional performers include Blind Guardian, In Extremo and Axel Rudi Pell. This year’s instalment sold out in record time, with fans snagging all 85,000 tickets in four-and-a-half hours.

Fans looking to pay for the warm-up show the conventional way can find tickets at Eventim and Metaltix.


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Wacken rebounds to sell out 2024 in record time

Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) has rebounded from this year’s weather-related struggles to sell out next year’s festival in record time.

All 85,000 tickets were snapped up in just four-and-a-half hours yesterday evening, smashing the existing record of six hours set for 2023’s event.

Artists including Scorpions, Amon Amorth and In Extremo are already confirmed for W:O:A 2024, which will take place under the Witches & Warlocks banner from 31 July to 3 August.

The news provides a boost for organiser International Concert Service, which was forced to run last week’s festival at a significantly reduced capacity after the site was hit by rain and thunderstorms in the days leading up to it, leaving the camping areas “impassable”.

The 32nd edition of the German metal institution concluded over the weekend, having welcomed the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Dropkick Murphys, Wardruna, Beartooth, Ensiferum and Pentagram.

Revised numbers indicate that 61,000 people entered the site before no further admissions were allowed (initial police reports put the figure at around 50,000), meaning close to 25,000 legitimate ticket-holders were denied entry. Those fans were given first refusal to buy tickets for next year’s Wacken, priced €333.

“We are more than grateful and humbled for your trust,” says a message from promoters. “Especially after the difficult start of the festival this summer, where a part of our metal family couldn’t celebrate with us, we really appreciate that the community stands by us and sticks together. The fact that all 85,000 tickets are gone is simply amazing!”

Festival co-founder Thomas Jensen estimates the revenue shortfall caused by the capacity reduction to be in excess of €7 million

With tickets for 2023 costing €299, the Superstruct-backed festival’s co-founder Thomas Jensen estimates the revenue shortfall caused by the capacity reduction to be in excess of €7 million.

“It’s a third of our income: 23,500 x 299, and then you get pretty close somewhere,” Jensen tells Watson.

Weather conditions have continued to blight Europe’s festival season. The final day of Slovenia’s MetalDays was scrapped on Friday (4 August) due to torrential rain and flash flooding in the area, which prompted the authorities to issue a state of emergency. The death toll has since climbed to six, prompting prime minister Robert Golob to describe the situation as the country’s worst natural disaster since gaining independence three decades ago.

Elsewhere, Depeche Mode’s scheduled Live Nation Finland-promoted concert at Kaisaniemi Park in Helsinki tomorrow night (8 August) has been cancelled due to forecasted severe weather conditions.

“The health and safety of our fans, crew, and everyone working at the site are our number one priority, and we have been advised by Tukes (the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency) and the local fire department that it could be unsafe to proceed given the forecasted weather conditions,” says a representative for the band.

Other outdoor music events to be disrupted by adverse weather conditions this summer include Pitchfork (US), Bluedot (UK), Primavera (Spain), Dutch festivals Awakenings, Bospop and Wildeburg, Alexandra Palace’s Kaleidoscope Festival and Robbie Williams’ concert in Austria.


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Reeperbahn Festival gears up for 14th edition

European conference and showcase festival Reeperbahn kicks off on Wednesday (18 September), with more than 300 panels, networking events and showcases taking place over four days in Hamburg, Germany.

Sessions in the conference’s live strand include ‘30 Years of Wacken’, an interview between the metal festival’s founders Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen, moderated by IQ’s Jon Chapple and German journalist Birgit Reuther. The panel will celebrate the event’s 30th year and explore what the future holds for the popular metal gathering.

The festival season 2019 /2020 sees Stefan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), Roel Coppen (Friendly Fire) and James Wright (UTA) among those asking whether 2019’s slow festival season was a one-off, or the beginning of a worrying trend. And Live Nation GSA managing director and chief operating officer Matt Schwarz discusses the company’s goals in the region and worldwide, as well as the wider music ecosystem in a keynote interview led by ILMC MD Greg Parmley.

In more festival-related content, former MTV news editor Steve Blame will interview Woodstock festival co-creator Joel Rosenman about the event’s inception and legacy, with new documentary Creating Woodstock aired later in the day.

‘Agents Agenda: The New Food Chain’ will see Jake Leighton-Pope of 10 Thousand Steps Management, Paradigm Agency’s Lily Oram, Toutpartout managing director Steven Thomassen and more discuss the effect of external investment on the industry, in a panel moderated by IQ’s Gordon Masson.

The festival season 2019 /2020 will see panellists asking whether 2019’s slow festival season was a one-off, or the beginning of a worrying trend

A secondary ticketing panel, also led by Masson, will examine the EU’s new legislation against ticket bots, asking how to grant consumers greater protection.

Talk will also turn to Brexit as tax advisor Kevin Offer discusses the potential impact of post-Brexit taxation, permits and customs clearance on the European live music industry.

EU funding will be the topic of conversation in ‘Europe Calling’, a panel featuring Olaf Furniss of Wide Days and Exit Festival managing director Ivan Milivojev, among others.

Members of German promoters’ association BDKV will gather for the yearly Live Entertainment Summit to present their report on the situation of the national and international live entertainment market.

Other topics of conversation include festival sponsorship, music export, country music, food at live events, the Caucasus music market, electronic music and digital media.

Foals, the Subways, Alfie Templeman, Hatari, Inhaler, Sorcha Richardson, Sports Team and Squid are among acts playing at Reeperbahn 2019.

A full Reeperbahn conference programme can be viewed here, with remaining tickets for the event available here.


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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.

Read IQ’s special report on 30 years of Wacken Open Air here.


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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.

Wacken to the Jungle: How W:O:A became a world-leading metal brand

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Wacken to the Jungle: How W:O:A became a world-leading metal brand

The Wacken 2019 poster says everything you need to know.

The festival name at the top of the poster is far bigger than that of any band, and the iconic bull’s head beneath it bigger still, glowering over a design that looks somewhat like a gravestone. Anyone could tell this was a metal festival, and looking at the sheer number of names, they’d know it was one of the big ones.

And then the band logos, like an insanely ornate roll call of heaviness: Sabaton, Demons & Wizards, Slayer, Parkway Drive, Powerwolf, Body Count, Within Temptation, Prophets of Rage, Anthrax and more than 150 more, gradually getting smaller as your eye scans down until they’re barely legible, like some sort of heavy metal eye test.

On the eve of its 30th edition, which runs from 1–3 August, it’s hard to find anything but goodwill for Wacken, whose founders Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner have, over three decades, somehow created a global metal mecca in a small village in Schleswig-Holstein.

“Wacken is the originator and the ultimate festival for any metal act to headline or play at,” says X-ray Touring’s Adam Saunders. “They have the most dedicated and hardcore fans anywhere, and they’ve got mud. Fuck, have they got mud…”

Coda Agency’s Tom Taaffe agrees. “What Wacken have built is pretty special, and you’ll find it hard to see anything quite like it again,” he says. “You won’t find any hard rock or heavy metal artist who does not aspire to play that festival.”

Dominik Meyer at Cobra Agency calls Wacken “a special place for everyone who loves heavy metal music. If you want to understand what Wacken is all about, you need to go there. It is the biggest metal festival in Europe, but at the same time, it is so much more than that.”

“Wacken is the originator and the ultimate festival for any metal act to headline”

Hard core
Jensen himself combines a winning humility with an articulate analysis of his festival’s power. “For a dedicated group of people, Wacken is kind of their home,” he says at one point. “It’s not something we did on purpose but it’s the centre of the world for them.”

Clearly, Wacken is a one-off – a family gathering for up to 95,000 hard-rockers. Year after year, it lays on an extravagant banquet of metal, including side-by-side main stages and a legendary battle of the bands, lubricated by a mile-long beer pipeline from a local brewery. It is also supported by a village that mobilises obligingly around the festival, from front-garden snack shops to the Wacken fire brigade brass band playing rock classics for headbanging fans in the municipal pool.

“What we are doing, and the way we talk, sometimes might look to an outsider like Spinal Tap”

We’ve got fun and games
Wacken has a silly side, it’s true. “What we are doing, and the way we talk, sometimes might look to an outsider a little bit like Spinal Tap,” muses Jensen. But it also has something any festival would love to have: an entirely authentic brand that’s a magnet for fans who share a burning passion.

Jensen deflects much of the credit to his experienced team, to the bands and to the audience itself. “It has a life of its own,” he says. “Fans make friends with other fans, and they meet again at Wacken. There are stories we know nothing about.”

But there’s obviously something in Wacken’s approach that young festivals might do well to note. “We were trying to find an audience for our music,” says Jensen. “We weren’t thinking: what is the best music to put onstage at Wacken? That wasn’t the question. The question was: how do we get enough people to Wacken for this metal show?”

“If we didn’t do it ourselves, nobody was going to do it for us”

Appetite for distraction
It began with some bored, frustrated young rock fans in Germany’s northernmost state. “I was a regular north German metal fan,” says Jensen. “I was the bassist in a punk band that split up, because in the countryside, north of Hamburg, there were nearly no gigs. It was really teenage wasteland, I would say.”

Powered by what Jensen calls “our punk mentality: we know nothing, but let’s get started,” Jensen and friends began organising their own parties. “If we didn’t do it ourselves, nobody was going to do it for us,” says Jensen.

Jensen’s enthusiasm was more notable than his musical abilities. “I was the bass player, organising things. Some bass players are the musical leader of the group, like Steve Harris or Lemmy. That’s one kind of bass player. I was the other kind, who knows nothing.”

An early recruit to the embryonic Wacken cause was DJ Holger Hübner, a fan of Bruce Springsteen and U2 and a member of the Pogues fan club – a fact that accounts, according to Jensen, for a smattering of German bands playing Irish-influenced folk-punk on early bills. “They wouldn’t get away with it in Dublin, but in north Germany it worked.”


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 84, or subscribe to the magazine here

Wacken Open Air 2018 to feature esports arena

Wacken Open Air, the world’s largest gathering for heavy metal music, will this year welcome the addition of an esports arena to its sold-out event, making it the first ever music festival to do so. The festival has joined forces with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) to create the ESL Arena, which will open on 1 August.

The 1,800 square-metre esports village will invite festivalgoers to compete in the daily amateur tournaments of popular games including League of Legends and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Beyond amateurs, professional teams, bands and artists will also take part in exhibition matches, set to the soundtrack of heavy metal music.

The music industry is becoming increasingly involved in the world of gaming and esports. Just this week (16 July), Universal Music Canada announced its mutually beneficial deal with Luminosity Gaming, one of the world’s largest esports organisations. Similarly, 2017 saw Universal Music Group partner with the UK’s Insomnia Gaming Festival.

“Like many games, heavy metal creates fantasy worlds.”

ICS, the promoters behind Wacken Open Air, say this project is taking advantage of the world’s rising interest in gaming. Speaking to Pollstar, ICS CEO Holger Hübner, comments: “Like many games, heavy metal creates fantasy worlds.

“[We are] proud to be pioneering the world’s first esports theme experience at a music festival, so we are very glad to have ESL as a most capable partner that is setting the international standard in esports.”

Boasting relationships with the likes of French media conglomerate Vivendi and venue and promotions giant AEG, the ESL has slowly built up a host of high-profile partnerships in the music industry. On top of this, the organisation claims to have reached more than 400 million viewers in 2017 across its live events.


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Cobra Agency joins forces with ICS, 5B

Newly launched Austrian hard-rock agency Cobra has formed an alliance with US management company 5B and German promoter ICS Festival Service.

“We’re extremely thrilled to announce the partnerships with 5B Artist Management and ICS Festival Service,” says Guenther Beer, who established Cobra Agency in January with fellow former RTN agent Dominik Meyer. “Both of them are absolute leaders in their fields, with 5B managing Slipknot, Stone Sour, Amon Amarth, Megadeth, King Diamond, Behemoth, Kreator, Lamb of God and Trivium, and ICS Festival Service promoting the world’s largest and most famous heavy metal festival, Wacken Open Air, as well as Europe’s biggest metal cruise, Full Metal Cruise.”

While concrete details of the new partnership are still being finalised, Meyer says the joint venture is “going to offer extraordinary opportunities to our clients”.

Cobra’s full roster includes Amaranthe, Amon Amarth, Amorphis, Arch Enemy, Backyard Babies, Battle Beast, Behemoth, Beyond The Black, Blues Pills, Danzig, Eluveitie, Equilibrium, Kreator, Mantar, Me And That Man, Sepultura, Powerwolf, Sabaton, Tesseract, Testament and Watain, all of which it represents throughout Europe.

“We are very much alike: authentic, honest and loud”

“We have known these two successful Austrian guys for quite some time and are happy to be part of this enduring joint venture with our American colleagues,” says Holger Huebner, CEO of ICS Festival Service. “We are very much alike, as we are authentic, honest and loud.”

Justin Arcangel, director of management at 5B, adds: “5B Artist Management is thrilled to announce this new partnership. This alliance is a natural outgrowth of 5B’s core mission: to serve our client roster.

“The Cobra Agency is more than a booking agency. They provide myself and their clients with a wealth of insight with the greatest attention to detail and insight into the European market, and their advice goes into ancillary opportunities that go far beyond the conventional roles of a booking agent.”


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W:O:A transforms fest site after stormy summer

After a stormy German festival season which claimed the scalps of Rock am Ring, Hurricane and Southside, Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) has embarked on an ambitious overhaul of its festival site for 2017.

As can be seen in the video above (and continued in parts two and three), the ICS-promoted rock and metal festival, which has taken place in the village of Wacken, in Sleswick-Holstein in northern Germany, since 1990, has dug a new drainage system, planted hardier mustard and clover grass – “experience has shown us that normal grass can’t handle the burden of a festival day”, says W:O:A – and installed a dedicated beer pipeline to avoid the problem of heavy lorries driving onto the festival site.

Explaining the need for better drainage, the festival says: “Due to ongoing burdens in the last few years, the [festival site] was deformed in many places and there was no chance for long-lasting greensward. The water couldn’t run out, and we even had some small lakes after heavy rainfalls.”

“The site was deformed in many places and … the water couldn’t run out”

The new system has a series of “subsurface water caches that can take surface water from the whole area”, and, if the rain proves too much still, the water can be diverted to the Kiel canal on the Baltic sea.

In addition to the new grass, crushed stones have been placed in several foot traffic-heavy areas, with “more measures, big and small” promised before spring 2017.

Wacken managed to avoid the worst of 2016’s rain, although the previous summer saw widespread flooding after 25l/m² worth of rain (main picture).

W:O:A 2017 will take place from 3 to 5 August. Acts already confirmed include Napalm Death, Lacuna Coil, Kreator and Turnonegro.


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