Live Nation GSA’s Andre Lieberberg: ‘Urban Music Developed Into The Most Dominant Genre of Our Times’

Open-Air Frauenfeld
Mallaun Photography
– Open-Air Frauenfeld

Last year in June, Live Nation acquired one of Europe’s biggest urban music festivals, Switzerland’s Open-Air Frauenfeld (OAF). The 2018 edition will be headlined by Eminem, J. Cole and Wiz Khalifa, July 5-7, and expects some 50,000 visitors per day.

It marks a return to familiar grounds for Eminem, who also headlined in 2010, alongside Jay-Z. That year was “one of the key moments,” that established the OAF as a European staple, according to the festival’s producer, René Götz of First Event AG. He said German rap “was always one of the booking emphases of the festival.” In 2018, 17 out of 51 acts will rap or sing in German.

Pollstar also reached out to Andre Lieberberg, president of Live Nation Germany, Austria and Switzerland to ask questions about the acquisition of OAF, the business of touring German rap artists and more.

Is it fair to say you killed two birds with one stone: firmly establish Live Nation in Switzerland and get involved in the hottest genre today?

Lieberberg: Urban music in all its varieties has developed into the most dominant musical genre of our times, making Open-Air Frauenfeld an extremely attractive event and brand to partner with. Although the main reason for us entering into a partnership with the festival was because of it’s flawless organization and the fact that it is run by absolute professionals, who we also connected with very well on a personal level. So our decision to acquire a majority of OAF was indeed motivated both by the fact that it makes us a more well rounded promoter in the Swiss market as well as by the impressive success both the festival as such and the genre it presents currently enjoy.

Andre Lieberberg, president and MD of Live Nation GSA
– Andre Lieberberg, president and MD of Live Nation GSA

How intensely is Live Nation eyeing the Deutsch-Rap genre? Do you see potential for more rap events in the Germa- speaking area, festivals as well as concerts? Or is the market saturated?

Lieberberg: Domestic rap and urban music is in our focus and we put an emphasis on working with more acts in the genre and also establishing new platforms for these artists. We don’t feel that there is a saturation already apparent, with new artists coming on to the scene almost daily. This trend won’t come to a standstill in the foreseeable future as far as we can judge.

Can you see Deutsch-Rap breaking international borders? In the YouTube era, language barriers don’t seem to be an obstacle, as Japanese rap is currently demonstrating. Could German rappers tour Europe outside of GSA and maybe even English speaking markets?

Lieberberg: Surely this is a possibility and domestic acts like Seeed already have established themselves internationally as well. Be that as it may, the language barrier and acceptance of German lyrics abroad makes it hard for domestic talent to substantially break in other territories. Nevertheless with the ever-increasing quality of their live performances and with the means of production being relatively easily accessible these days, there will surely be some domestic acts that will establish themselves outside the German-speaking markets.

Do you observe increasing concert activity led by German rappers in Switzerland?

Götz: Given the fact that for German urban acts the GSA market is largely their only valid touring territory, there have always been a high number of these artists touring Switzerland and Austria in addition to their home market. The level of business has increased, though, so more tickets than ever are being sold and venues played are oftentimes above the 2,000 capacity mark.

Has the genre’s rise led to faster ticket sales? Are you thinking about growing the event?

Götz: The fact that we have been selling stronger, and actually selling out earlier every year over the past three editions, certainly also has to do with the strength of the genre but also with the strong level of identification and fan satisfaction with the organization and experience we offer. Our goal though is not necessarily to grow bigger. We are happy with the current size of the event.

What made you sell to Live Nation? And is the festival going to change?

Götz: The answer is quite simple. We were looking for the strongest possible partner to ensure a bright future for the festival. Being part of the leading live entertainment company in the world offers exceptional possibilities and security for us. Synergies across the various fields of operation are already apparent without changing the way the festival is produced. It’s a true partnership where our expertise is valued and no changes are being implemented just for the sake of changing things.