Reeperbahn: Power Act vs. Market Power

This year’s Reeperbahn Festival, which took place in Hamburg Sept. 20-23 with a showcase festival and industry conference, offered a lot of insights into the German live entertainment market. Two panels stood out.

Reeperbahn Festival Conference
– Reeperbahn Festival Conference

The first one was dubbed “Power Act vs. Market Power.” Host Gideon Gottfried (Pollstar) welcomed German promoters Philipp Jacob-Pahl (Promoter/Agent,

The other session took place the following day. André Lieberberg, president and managing director of

“Niches don’t have to be small”

The independent promoters agreed that they had to find their niche in the current market climate, which was characterized by aggressive competition around tours.

“This does not mean that the niches have to be small,” said Pahl, who pointed out that the battle with corporations predominantly took place on the international stage, when buying international acts to tour them in Germany.

Wizard Promotions belongs to Deutsche Entertainment AG since 2013. Hoppe explained that his company was in many ways even more affected by the ongoing internationalization, commercialization and Live Nation’s market entry than many independents. After all, DEAG was competing for the same large-scale artists.

Global deals offered to artists by the corporations pose the biggest problem. These deals bind artists to a certain promoter in every territory around the world.

“It’s not a fair competition anymore. It was once about making the most attractive offer with the best perks. Or about who had the best strategy. Today, as an independent, you sometimes don’t even have the opportunity to even make an offer,” Mitha explained.

What is more is that many artist managers are working for Live Nation. Company policy automatically places their artists under Live Nation auspices. And these managers aren’t sitting on their hands, but actively sign new acts, Mitha said.

In Pahl’s experience, the personal relationship with the artist still trumps the checkbook in many instances, albeit mostly when it comes to working with domestic acts. Which is why those acts are a priority for both Landstreicher Booking as well as Jahnke.

Radius clauses: “Bullshit”

Wedemeyer, being a local promoter, is particularly suffering under the big players’ aggressive market behavior. 

“We have a relatively small market in North Germany. You can feel the big corporations pressing into our market, suddenly promoting shows in Kiel or Flensburg. And we’re also affected by radius clauses,” Wedemeyer said. 

Panelists: Katrin Wedemeyer, Philipp Jacob-Pahl, Ben Mitha and OIiver Hoppe.

Festival promoters will present acts with these clauses to prevent them from playing shows in the proximity and around the time of the festival. The aim is to keep the interest in the artist buzzing. While this way of thinking may make sense for the superstars, a radius clause for small bands was “bullshit,” according to Pahl.

Another method employed by the corporations is to offer acts a Festival show, but only if they also do the tour with said corporation.

“This is of course annoying, if you’ve built an act from the very start in a club in front of 150 people and are ready for the arena. But the arena show is done by Scorpio because they also do Hurricane Festival and many others,” Wedemeyer said.

“You either put your foot down or are left behind”

Local promoters still play an important role in Germany, even if they have to be more flexible and constantly find new business opportunities to survive. In the current climate, however, this is also true for the bigger independents such as Jahnke or Landstreicher, and even DEAG.

There’s reason to remain hopeful: while the big players know how to do stadium shows, they have shortcomings when it comes to the 500-capacity spaces, according to Pahl.

Mitha said: “It is what it is. You either want to continue to play along, stay hungry and find new ways, or you become part of a corporation yourself someday to avoid being pushed out the market entirely. You either put your foot down or are left behind!”

Andre Lieberberg: “We were aggressive before”

Andre Lieberberg
– Andre Lieberberg
Live Nation Germany

André Lieberberg started out in the music department of his father’s company, the Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur, some 15 years ago. His main task was finding new talent. Matt Schwarz joined a little bit later, and both men took care of all of MLK’s bookings except the headliners.

He remained at MLK for 13 years before leaving for Live Nation in 2015 together with his father and Schwarz. Ever since meeting with Live Nation boss Michael Rapino 15 years ago, his company has been the only one that Lieberberg ever spoke to.

He describes MLK’s mode of operation as “always complacent, happy and content with what we do. Our only festival acquisition was SonneMondSterne. Marek’s philosophy always was to only do own events.”

His new employer’s mode of operation can be described as an “aggressive approach when pitching for a tour, but not planning to change the musical landscape in Germany.”

“Life on the Deathstar,” as Masson joked, was, according to Lieberberg, “different in many respects [but] the way we deal with our clients hasn’t changed.”

Live Nation placed a lot more focus on content creation, brand partnerships for artists. And there was strong focus on hiring earlier. Whereas previously, “everyone had to go through a 60-minute with Marek before even being considered.”

“Being able to grow and having someone in the back that can take the risk financially obviously opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” said Lieberberg, especially since the music business was a cyclic business.

He estimated Live Nation’s market share in Germany at 30 percent in rock and pop, much lower in other genres. “Unless we hired another 500 people we couldn’t become market leader across all categories.”

There was certainly no ambition to buy every festival out there. “It’s about key partnerships. We certainly are interested in continuing more partnerships with festivals in the next five years. It needs to fit on a human level. We want to partner, not take over.”

“OpenAir Frauenfeld was a fantastic example of that. There will be more.”

“We were aggressive before, acting like a family business. Not so much now,” said Lieberberg. But he does not think he’s entering into competition with the independents. Not many of them operated on the same level as Live Nation.

“Yes there’s a AEG-LN-battle for worldwide tours, but not so much with Indies.”