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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Luger expands into Norway
Swedish concert promoter and festival organiser Luger is expanding into Norway, opening an office in Oslo to strengthen its presence in the Scandinavian market.
Luger now operates in three Scandinavian markets, adding to its Swedish headquarters and its Danish office, which opened in Copenhagen in 2018, led by Sarah Sølvsteen.
The expansion into Norway follows the bolstering of a fellow European promoter’s presence in the country last month, with FKP Scorpio’s acquisition of a majority stake in booking agency Nordic Live.
Luger’s new Norwegian office will be headed up by Torgeir Gullaksen, a veteran promoter with over 20 years’ experience putting on shows and events in the country. Gullaksen joined Gunnar Eide Concerts (now Live Nation Norway) in the late 90s, founding his own promotions company, Goldstar (now FKP Scorpio Norway), in 2005.
The Luger Norway head has worked with acts including Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age, Radiohead, Rival Sons, Tame Impala, The Black Keys, Ben Howard, Arcade fire, Belle & Sebastian and Michael Kiwanuka.
“My aim is to firmly establish Luger as a strong brand in Norway”
“I’m delighted to be joining the Luger family and look forward to working close with Ola and the rest of the team,” comments Gullaksen. “Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Luger on both international and domestic acts and consider them the best in class in developing new talent over here.
“My aim is to firmly establish Luger as a strong brand in Norway and continue working with the acts I already have existing relations with, as well as become the natural promoter for emerging acts in Norway.”
Luger Sweden MD Ola Broquist adds that Gullaksen is “a great person, a great promoter and a music lover – the ultimate combination.”
Luger is one of the Nordic’s leading promoters, as well as acting as an agency and tour producer for Swedish artists. The company promotes over 300 a year, in addition to festivals including Way Out West, Åre Sessions and – together with C3 and Live Nation Sweden – Lollapalooza Stockholm.
Keychange 2.0 unveiled at Reeperbahn Festival
Artists Kate Nash and Peaches revealed details of the next phase of music industry gender parity project Keychange at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg today (19 September).
A presentation, hosted by Kate Nash and Peaches alongside Pitchfork editor Puja Patel, laid out the foundations for the next four-year stage of the project. A new management structure, headed up by lead partner Reeperbahn Festival, was also announced.
The news follows the recent announcement that the gender balance initiative received €1.4 million in funding from the European Commission.
Keychange 2.0 will support 216 music creators and industry professionals – 74 each year – from countries including Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The participants will take part in a talent development programme of showcases, panels, workshops, training sessions, networking events and creative labs at 13 festivals across Europe and Canada, including two full network meetups in February and September.
A global database will list all participants and the more than 250 signatories to Keychange’s 50/50 gender-balanced line-up pledge, as well as a mentoring scheme, Keychange conference, online resources, ambassadors and an expanded management team.
“Its encouraging to see all these organisations involved with Keychange because it means that things can finally start to change,” says Nash. “Music is about feeling part of a community and feeling included – it’s about being seen and heard.”
“Its encouraging to see all these organisations involved with Keychange because it means that things can finally start to change”
An open call for Keychange 2.0 participants will launch in October 2019 through the initiative’s website. “Innovative and boundary-pushing” applicants from all partner countries are encouraged to apply. Six participants will be selected per country – three artists and three industry professionals.
Reeperbahn Festival, alongside other leading festival partners from each country – Iceland Airwaves (Iceland), BIME (Spain), Oslo World (Norway), Tallinn Music Week (Estonia), Ireland Music Week (Ireland), Way Out West (Sweden), Linecheck (Italy), Liverpool Sound City (UK), Spring Break (Poland) Mutek (Canada), BreakOut West (Canada) and MAMA (France) – will each host six to twelve international Keychange participants.
“With Keychange 1.0, we have been addressing the necessity of gender equality in the music business since 2017,” comments Reeperbahn chief executive Alex Schulz.
“Phase 2.0 not only extends Pledge 2022 for balanced line-ups in festivals to other organisations and music sub-markets, but also expands our mentoring programmes and workshops as well as the European database, so that our innovators and artists can implement the transformative power of Keychange in the best possible way and carry it out into the world.”
Reeperbahn will work closely with Keychange founder PRS Founder and Sweden’s Musikcentrum Öst to lead Keychange 2.0.
3 years of gender-balanced line-ups for Way Out West
Sweden’s Way Out West festival, promoted by Live Nation-owned Luger, has announced Solange as the final headliner for its 2019 edition, completing a 50/50 gender split line-up for the third year running.
The singer joins previously announced headliners Cardi B, the Cure and Stormzy. Other acts to play at the Gothenburg-based festival include James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt, Zara Larsson and Christine and the Queens.
First obtaining gender-balanced programming in 2016, Way Out West signed up to the Keychange pledge in 2018 with over 150 other festivals, which commits participating festivals to achieve a gender-balanced line-up by 2020.
The Swedish live music scene came under fire in 2017 after almost 2,000 female agents, managers, promoters, production managers and artists signed an open letter detailing experiences of sexual harassment or assault within the music industry.
Talking to IQ for the Sweden market report, Luger co-founder Ola Broquist stated that the music industry in the country was working to resolve its issues. Broquist referenced “gender equality progression in festival line-ups” as an important part of this improvement process.
“Way Out West is one of a small number of festivals to present a line-up in which female artists are not outnumbered by their male counterparts”
Way Out West is one of a small number of festivals to present a line-up in which female artists are not outnumbered by their male counterparts.
This year, Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival will feature its first-ever 50/50 line-up, with artists including Miley Cyrus, Carly Rae Jepsen, Janelle Monáe and Robyn. Way Out West headliner Cardi B cancelled her performance at Primavera Sound in April, due to promotional commitments.
In 2018, Sena Live’s Iceland Airwaves became the first major festival to have more women than men on the bill.
However, festivals participating in IQ‘s European festival preview stated that more needed to be done to encourage young, emerging female artists, as organisers struggled to find sufficient numbers of top-level female performers.
In addition to its efforts to promote gender equality, Way Out West is also committed to improving sustainability. The festival has been meat- and largely dairy-free since 2012. Last year, organisers invested in extra emission-reducing measures, in a bid to become climate neutral.
Way Out West takes place from 8 – 10 August 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Three-day passes start from £140. More information can be found here.
‘A lot of good things are happening’: Sweden market report
Politically idealistic, economically sturdy, and with a knack for a bittersweet pop song, Sweden is the kind of country other European nations might easily envy. Who wouldn’t want to futuristically lead the world in cashless payments, or be the planet’s biggest exporter of pop music per head? But to imagine Sweden doesn’t have everyday problems of its own is to succumb to an unrealistic stereotype.
Last year, for example, Sweden became the first country to lose a music festival – its biggest, no less – to a rape scandal, after reports of four rapes and 23 sexual assaults at Bråvalla’s 2017 event forced organiser FKP Scorpio to shelve it for 2018, and then scrap the tainted brand entirely.
Meanwhile, in November 2017, performers including Zara Larsson, Robyn, First Aid Kit and Icona Pop were among almost 2,000 women in the Swedish music business who put their names to a petition decrying the sexual harassment they point out is endemic in the industry.
But what perhaps still marks Sweden out is its reaction to such issues. Numerous major festivals worldwide have unwittingly played host to sexual assaults, but only in Sweden – where the problem was undeniably extreme – has the event in question fallen on its own sword. And in another pointed response, Gothenburg this summer saw the launch of The Statement, the world’s first large-scale festival exclusively for women, transgender and non-binary people.
In answer to the petition, not only have the local and regional bosses of Sony, Universal and Warner lent their support and pledged to act, but trade association Musiksverige announced that the quest for a more inclusive industry – “free from antagonistic behaviour, sexual harassment and abuse” – would henceforth take precedence over all its other activities.
All right, Sweden has its failings, but no one can accuse it of refusing to address them.
“I think a lot of good things are happening – the whole #MeToo movement, gender equality progression in festival line-ups – all of that I think is great,” says Ola Broquist, co- founder of booking agency and Way Out West promoter Luger.
All right, Sweden has its failings, but no one can accuse it of refusing to address them
He suggests that, in airing its dirty laundry, Sweden is ahead of many countries who would prefer to bury their own. “In Sweden, we are starting to look at the solutions. I think if you don’t address these things, then you definitely have a problem.”
Setting these things to one side, if it’s possible entirely to do so, live music fares very well in Sweden. Domestic and international revenue from the Swedish music industry amounted to SEK10 billion (£852 million) in 2016, of which concert revenue accounted for 55% (SEK5.5bn or £466m). Between 2009 and 2016, Swedish music industry revenue, domestic and international, increased by just over 50%.
Individual festivals may rise and fall, but overall audiences remain strong and incoming tours are generally guaranteed to stop in Stockholm. There are practical concerns: the krona is toiling at its lowest levels against the euro since the financial crisis of 2009; the club scene in Stockholm is under a familiar kind of threat from high rents and typical city pressures; the touring market often verges on saturation; and there has been a rash – not music-related but still dramatic – of hand grenade attacks in Swedish cities. But by and large, Sweden is bearing up.
“I think generally we have a pretty healthy business up here,” says Live Nation Sweden’s joint managing director Anna Sjölund. “We have a steady flow of acts that want to play here and people who want to go to shows. From time to time, we have acts who say they don’t want to come up here and they finish in Germany, but most of them, we do get.”
There’s no disputing that Live Nation is by far the strongest promoter in Sweden. In fact, given its full concert schedule and the imminent arrival of a Swedish Lollapalooza due to take place in central Stockholm next June – to add to Way Out West, Summerburst, Sweden Rock and other festivals in its stable – some argue that Live Nation is more dominant in Sweden than in any other nation in the world.
In many ways, it earned its dominance fair and square, building its modern business on the foundations laid down by EMA Telstar, which was bought up in 1999, and whose founder Thomas Johansson remains Live Nation’s Stockholm- based chairman of international music.
“Live Nation has, and always has had, a firm grip on the Swedish market”
Live Nation Sweden added Luger to the fold in 2008, and has more recently bought majority shares in Summerburst and Sweden Rock festivals, as well as shaping up to bring in Lollapalooza in 2019.
“Live Nation has, and always has had, a firm grip on the Swedish market,” says Tobbe Lorentz, United Talent Agency’s Malmö-based senior vice president. “With this expansion, Live Nation controls most aspects of the festival circuit in Sweden.”
Since November 2017, Live Nation Sweden has been under Sjölund and Therése Liljedahl, with a staff of about 115, and business is predictably good.
“We have had a very good year, lots of great shows,” says Sjölund. “We had the fantastic stadium shows with Guns N’ Roses, Jay-Z & Beyoncé, Foo Fighters, and Eminem through Luger. For once, the Swedish summer didn’t get rained away – it’s been really hot, really nice. Really healthy arena business, too. And we are catching our breath now and putting things in place for next year.”
Luger operates as a distinct company within Live Nation, while sharing expertise on certain projects, says Broquist. Lollapalooza is one such joint venture, and Luger is also upping its game in big shows, with Eminem, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons among those it has lately promoted on the biggest stages.
“We will never stop doing the smaller ones – that’s the backbone of the whole thing for us – finding new acts and growing with them,” Broquist adds. “But it is interesting to step up and do some bigger shows as well.”
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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.