Pollstar’s Year in Live: Europe 2017

AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File

In this Friday, Jan. 1, 2016 file photo, fireworks explode over the River Thames and the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, as the New Year’s Day celebrations begin in London.

As part of our live music business year-end wrap up, Pollstar looks back at the European market in 2017 through the lenses of security, festivals, venues, licensing, ticketing and technology.


It can be disturbing to realize that, waking up each morning, one almost expects yet another report of a terrorist attack. The UK alone was hit by four major ones in 2017: Westminster Bridge in the heart of London on May 22, London Bridge on June 3, Finsbury Park, London, on June 19 all involved vehicles used by the perpetrators to run into crowds.

The most devastating one for the live industry, however, took place on May 22, when Salman Abedi blew himself up in the foyer of Manchester Arena, just when guests were leaving that night’s Ariana Grande concert. He killed 23, including himself, and reportedly injured more than 500.

The incident sparked heartfelt reactions from the worldwide music industry, including a personal statement penned by Live Nation Spain’s Pino Sagliocco.

It wasn’t just the Manchester Attack, but the many attacks in previous years, such as the one on the Bataclan in Paris in 2015, that led the industry to tackle the issue of terrorism and security at every major music conference. The team behind one of those conferences, ILMC, even launched the first Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) in October in London.

The conference made it clear that the international live industry needs to start sharing best practices more. No matter how hard it competes in other fields, when it comes to the safety of audience, artists and crew, there is no time for self-centeredness.

“If we worked together as one, solutions would be quicker, more effective, more efficient. And it would show the terrorists that we’re not a load of desperate, un-unified areas, but we’re actually working as a business to stop them trying to destabilize us as a series of nation bound together by a common purpose,” Chris Kemp of Yourope’s Event and Safety Group told Pollstar.

Walking through major UK cities these days, and noticing the massive barriers to prevent vehicles from passing through pedestrian areas is an eerie sight, and the recent statements of leading politicians did not help ease the situation.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron told French radio in April, after the Champs Élysées shooting: “This threat, this imponderable problem, is part of our daily lives for the years to come.”

After an explosion in New York in September 2016 left 29 people injured, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you have got to be prepared for these things.”

‘One Love Manchester’
Dave Hogan via AP
– ‘One Love Manchester’
Ariana Grande, centre in white, performs at the One Love Manchester tribute concert in Manchester, north western England.

And while the music industry demonstrated great resilience by staging the One Love Manchester benefit concert with a star studded lineup less than two weeks after the May 22 attack on Manchester Arena (thanks in large measure to Grande’s manager Scooter Braun) many festivalgoers seem to be afraid – at least judging from the accounts of many promoters, who claim they have been receiving emails and other feedback from customers complaining about not having been searched thoroughly enough at the entrance.

Guy Dunstan, general manager of both Arena Birmingham and Genting Arena, confirmed this somewhat tragic development in a recent Pollstar video interview: “We get so many emails now, thanking us for the level of checks, the level of security when they’re coming into the venue.”

Pollstar spoke to a couple of security experts and venue operators in the wake of the Manchester Attack, including Peter Luukko, a co-chairman of Arena Alliance and an advisory board member of Prevent Advisors, both Oak View Group companies (Pollstar’s parent company), AEG’s Lee Zeidman and WME’s head of music Marc Geiger.

A report released in December revealed, that the Manchester Attack might have been prevented, had authorities appreciated the available intelligence. That same report said UK authorities had thwarted 20 terrorist plots over the past four years.

Sometimes, threats turn out to be false. Rock am Ring festival in Germany for example had to be temporarily suspended on the night of June 2, but recommenced the next day after police had searched the site.

As health and safety expert Kemp always points out, the importance placed on the prevention on terrorism should not take the focus off health and safety related issues. Weather in particular has been a major impairment to many festivals, not just in Europe.


In Germany alone, Chiemsee Summer, Highfield and Echelon festivals had to be interrupted following severe weather conditions Aug. 18.

Chiemsee and Highfield are both promoted by FKP Scorpio, which had to suspend its flagship events Hurricane and Southside only a year earlier because of tempests. Hurricane was threatened in 2017 as well.

Chiemsee Summer
– Chiemsee Summer

The damage done at Chiemsee in combination with the financial burden of ticket refunds was so severe, that the event won’t take place in 2018.

In the UK this year, Global’s Y Not and Truck festivals received bad feedback from partner companies and festivalgoers after miserable weather conditions dampened both events.

While the weather for those events was bad, organizers seemed to have been ill-prepared. A lack of organization also seemed to have been the cause for eight-hour queues in front of the gates of England’s Boomtown Fair on opening day, Aug. 10.

Speaking of lackluster organization: the BBC recently reported that Festival Republic hadn’t put up the money to pay for police on site at the South England edition of V Festival 2017, which went down Aug. 19-20 at Hylands Park in Essex.

In Germany, the promoter of Second Horizon Festival lacked a “multitude of required permits,” according to a local court.

Fearing that the halfhearted approach to organizing events could harm the entire industry, Lee Denny, the founder of LeeFest offered free tickets to disappointed Y Not and Truck festivalgoers. LeeFest will be known as Neverworld from 2018. Another name change is in store for V Festival 2018, which lost its main sponsor Virgin in October.

2017 also saw the founding of several new festivals. In the UK, TRNSMT debuted successfully on Glasgow Green in Scotland, July 7-9. Beyond The Tracks launched in Birmingham, Sept. 15-17. In France, Electroland premiered on July 8 in the heart of Disneyland Paris.

A couple of new boutique festivals launched as well. The list includes Farrago Festival in Germany, Awake Festival in Romania, and Uva Festival in Spain.

A few new events have already been announced for next year too. Festival Republic, for instance, has applied for a public entertainment license for a yet unnamed event with a capacity of up to 20,000 with Perth and Kinross council, which looks after the Scottish county of Perthshire, where T In The Park used to take place, until being forced to take a break in 2017.

SJM Concerts is launching a two-day outdoor festival in England’s northwest, called Neighbourhood Weekender. The first edition takes place in Warrington’s Victoria Park, May 26-27.  

FKP Scorpio is launching a new event in Germany’s most famous theme park, the Europa Park in Rust. It is called Rolling Stone Park and will take place Nov. 16-17.

AEG Presents will promote a new festival called All Points East in London’s Victoria Park, May 25-27, followed by a headline-show weekend, June 1-3. The announcement came after AEG secured the rights to promote events in Victoria Park for the next five years, which means competing events will need to find a new location. 

So far, Brockwell Park in South London has been announced to take in Global’s Field Day as well as Live Nation’s Citadel and Lovebox festivals.

And since Glastonbury is taking a year off in 2018, its organizers have come up with a new event dubbed Variety Bazaar, which is supposed to take place whenever the iconic festival is taking a break.

A couple of events had been announced for 2017 but scrapped, either due to slow ticket sales, as in the case of Karsten Jahnke’s Riviera Pop or concerns regarding visitors’ safety, as in the case of Sweden’s Into The Factory.

One iconic UK event celebrated its last edition July 20-23 in Abbots Ripton, England, after 15 years. Its founder, Freddie Fellowes received the Outstanding Contribution award at the 2017 UK Festival Awards, Nov. 30.


Another huge topic in Europe in 2017 was the fight against the commercial reselling of tickets with huge markups. The year started with a conference in Milan, Italy, aptly titled No Secondary Ticketing.

Italy was a good choice, because just a couple of months prior, Live Nation Italy managing director Roberto de Luca had gone on the record admitting that he sometimes sold inventory directly to secondary sites not owned by LN/Ticketmaster before they went on sale.

The revelations led to Milan’s state prosecution accusing the country’s biggest ticketing operators, including Live Nation and Vivo Concerti, of fraud.

In the UK, parliamentary hearings on secondary ticketing were held in March. Viagogo notably didn’t bother showing up.

The government still pledged to make secondary ticketing a priority, a plea that fizzled out when prime minister Theresa May called for snap election in April.

This didn’t stop the UK industry from actively fighting the secondary market, led primarily by the FanFair Alliance, which was founded in summer 2016.

In several studies, the alliance highlighted the negative economic impact of industrial ticket touting and provided tips for consumers on how to avoid buying fraudulent tickets. In September, some 200 fans were turned away from a Foo Fighters concert at London’s O2.

– FanFair

The FanFair Alliance also highlighted the tactics of secondary ticketing websites to top Google searches, which is the primary reason mainstream customers end up buying tickets on them.

Many of the UK’s live entertainment professionals hailed the alliance’s efforts in Pollstar’s collection of year-end statements.

The rise of secondary ticketing led to primary companies and secondary sites that only sell tickets at face value picking up pace. Twickets, for example, recently opened a U.S. office.

In November it was reported that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority had raided the offices of StubHub and Viagogo earlier in 2017, as part of an investigation launched in 2016.

A couple of days later, Google set requirements for ticket resellers that want to advertise through Google AdWords. Among other things, ticket resellers must disclose on their respective websites that they are indeed a secondary marketplace and not the primary point of sale. “This disclosure should be easily visible and clearly explained in the top 20 percent of the reseller’s website, including the home page and any landing pages,” Google demands.

In December, StubHub’s UK country manager Wayne Grierson gave a rare interview to the BBC. He claimed tickets are sold with a markup on secondary sites chiefly because of “a supply and demand issue,” suggesting that there weren’t enough tickets available in the first place.

Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan, which was used on more than 60 tours in the U.S., and not without controversy, wasn’t used nearly as much in the UK. Notable exceptions: Paolo Nutini’s intimate show at Paisley Abbey in Scotland, Oct. 20, and George Ezra’s charity show at London’s Union Chapel, Dec. 8.

Pollstar also looked closely at new ticketing technologies. Apart from what Blockchain could potentially enable (more below), there is Fair Ticket Solutions, a Canadian company, which took the airline industry as an example and introduced mandatory check-in for ticketing. Pollstar spoke with founder and CEO Alan Gelfand.

Speaking of airline industry: Ryanair introduced its own ticket shop in November. Pollstar spoke to the company’s director of ancillary, Greg O’Gorman, about the business, and dynamic pricing in particular.

Grassroots Music Venues

In all the talk about companies organizing events, it is easy to forget the protagonists without whom no music festival would work: the artists. Most of the acts that headline today’s biggest events started out in local pubs and grassroots music venues.

To protect those venues, and secure future talent for the music industry, the UK’s Music Venue Trust has been campaigning very hard in 2017, which includes a Pollstar video interview with the trust’s founder and CEO Mark Davyd.

Noise complaints, licensing issues, new developments as well as business and PRS rates make life hard for operators of such grassroots music venues. London has lost some 185 music venues in the past decade. It can be therefore seen as a success that London’s mayor Sadiq Khan acknowledged the importance of such venues for the quality of cultural life of any city.

For more on this particular matter, head to Pollstar’s five takeaways from Venues Day 2017.

Direct Licensing

One issue that has caused less ripples than expected in 2017 is direct licensing, albeit some promoters were forced to deal with it. Direct Licensing is the practice of artists who also write their own songs licensing their material directly to concert and festival promoters, thereby sidestepping a performing rights organization that would usually take care of it.

The reason many songwriter-artists decided to do so was the revelation that some authors collecting societies (PROs) granted large promoters a rebate on the songwriter fee they pay. Those discounts, however, were not taken from the PRO’s overhead but rather the songwriter’s share. Artists were receiving as little as half of what they had originally paid in songwriter fees back from their own collecting societies.

Pace Rights Management
– Pace Rights Management

Pollstar took a good look at the matter in an interview with Adam Elfin, one of the founders of PACE Rights Management, a company that takes care of the necessary paperwork on behalf of rightsholders.


Blockchain is one of the most intriguing technologies around, and conversations around it are picking up pace.

A Blockchain is a decentralized database best known for hosting the Bitcoin network. But apart from processing micro payments in near real-time, a Blockchain can also store information, host applications and facilitate all sorts of transactions in a safe, encrypted, manner.

This has a couple of undeniable benefits to the way ticketing works, and Pollstar explored some of those in conversation with Blockchain experts.

Pollstar also spoke to Adam Goodyer, CEO of LiveStyled, a company that developed a technology, which could help venues understand their customers better.

Another interesting piece of technology is called Welcome, an app that helps people with disabilities to communicate with a point of contact at venues of all kinds and receive a bespoke service when arriving onsite. Pollstar interviewed the app’s inventor Gavin Neate.

Throughout 2017, Pollstar visited venues and events all across Europe – to interview the professionals working in this biz and record video footage in order to give viewers an idea of what this vast, amazing and colorful continent has to offer in terms of live entertainment.

As Herman Schueremans, CEO of Live Nation Belgium, said in a Pollstar video interview this year: “Look Americans, leave your fantastic country and visit some festivals in Europe. See what’s happening and how it’s done here. Come and see the original European heritage festivals.”