The Current Reality For Greek Promoters

The currently oversaturated Greek concert market is “madness,” says Giannis Paltoglou, owner of Detox Events and Ejekt Festival, the largest summer festival in Athens. 
owner of Detox Events and Ejekt Festival

He is referring to the beginning of the summer season with “many club shows on the islands” coming up. Appearances can be deceiving. Greece is only starting to recover. Its live entertainment scene faced the “toughest year ever” in 2015, which is when the European financial crisis hit the country hardest.

Paltoglou remembers how he and his team barely saved Ejekt, and indeed all of Detox, in the nick of time, moving the event indoors again for the first time since 2010, when the crisis broke out. Austerity measures that were subsequently imposed on Greece by the Troika – Europe’s body of financial experts or hangmen, depending on which side of the income gap you find yourself – caused the country’s banks to shut down for days on end. So even if people wanted to buy tickets, they couldn’t (currently Greek citizens can withdraw euro 420 per week from local ATMs).

The tight capital controls made it impossible to do business.

“Almost 70 percent of all the big concerts were canceled or postponed or moved,” Paltoglou recalls. “The referendum was especially weird,” he says, referring to July 5, 2015, the day the Greek population voted overwhelmingly against additional austerity measures, only to be presented with even harsher ones. In addition, a tax increase stifled the ability to invest even more.

VAT was raised from 13 to 23 percent in 2015, and it will go up to 24 percent from July 1. The announcement was only made in late April, so Paltoglou, whose “major concerts and festivals are taking place in July …calculated everything on the basis of 23 percent.”

It’s not at all as bad as it was in 2015, there’s even a sense of recovery. According to Paltoglou, if you have a good lineup and announce an event early to give people the opportunity to save for tickets, they will buy them, even if they cost up to euro 50.

There may be “plenty of events this summer, but they’re not selling very well. It’s probably too much,” he said, supposing that promoters were simply “too optimistic.”

It’s less of a problem for an established event like Ejekt, which is headlined by the Scorpions and Muse this year. And if the Scorpions don’t sell out all of the 24,000 day tickets, Muse most likely will, “if we don’t face any issues with the bank,” Paltoglou says with a chuckle.

While capital controls aren’t as bad as before, the situation regarding money transfers into foreign countries is especially unsatisfying.

“We can only send euro 20,000 per week, except for priority things like medicine or clothes. So if I want to pay my acts I can only send them euro 20,000 per week,” he said. There are talks to increase the amount to euro 50,000 per week, but it still means headliners will have to agree to weekly installments or a big chunk of cash upon arrival. Private individuals are affected as well.

“Last September we traveled to the International Festival Forum in London. Our bank only allowed for a balance of 50 euro per day. So we spent our days in the UK, taking out £40 each day from the cash machine.”

Restrictions are looser regarding transactions between two Greek companies, but Paltoglou works with many international partners like Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

Luckily artists “love to come to Greece. We have a good audience.” Plus, most artists and promoters understand and try to help, at least in the case of longstanding events like Ejekt.

“They know us,” Paltoglou said.