ICS Festival GmbH – Fans at Wacken:
The world’s biggest metal gathering has partnered with an investor in 2019 to help it grow further.
While the hard numbers still attest to a very successful live entertainment business in most of Europe, signs of saturation can be felt in some markets. The business has also become somewhat volatile, with fewer crowd-pulling headline artists on the road, and more overnight successes going straight into arenas but often disappearing from the scene just as quickly. Big festival brands, formerly guaranteed sellouts, are competing for ticket buyers, who have never had more events to choose from.
The most recent findings of a survey conducted among members of European festival association Yourope made it clear that 2019 was a mostly good year for promoters. However, quite a few festivals, especially major ones, experienced lower ticket sales than in the previous year.
The immediate concern of promoters in 2019 is artist fees. The sheer number of events competing for a limited selection of big names leads to a high-pressure booking environment. “People are panicking, making big offers, which is increasing the fees that are paid for festival headliners,” says Dany Hassenstein, talent buyer at one of Europe’s longest-running festivals, Paléo Festival Nyon.
The pressure to get your lineup out before other events has also led to bookings being made earlier than ever. In Europe, ILMC in March used to be the key conference for the industry to gather and do business. In 2015, conference head Greg Parmley, alongside European business mastermind Ruud Berends, launched the International Festival Forum in November 2015 to accommodate a new booking reality for professionals.
2019 also saw private equity make major moves in the European festival market. Superstruct, the Providence Equity-backed company founded by former Live Nation exec James Barton, invested in German promoters Parookaville, promoter Next Event as well as ICS, promoter of the world’s most famous metal gathering, Wacken Open Air. Superstruct also invested in Denmark’s biggest independent concert and festival organizer Down The Drain Group, which produces some of the largest festivals in the country, including NorthSide and Tinderbox.
Every European professional Pollstar recently spoke with said the presence of investors partaking in the success of live is only going to increase. After all, putting on shows has never been more expensive, thanks to aforementioned artist fees but also production, security and staffing costs.
Another option remains: partnering with a multi-national like Live Nation or CTS Eventim. Both had a mega successful 2019. In Europe, Live Nation acquired Finnish booking agency and promoter Hög, Polish promoter Go Ahead, Danish booking agency and management Company PDH Music.
“We had another tremendous year in Europe,” Live Nation president Europe-Concerts John Reid told Pollstar in summing up the year. “Fans came out in their millions to our festivals and stadium events, and we continued to see strong growth in our arena and theatre business. The festival market continues to be robust and we were excited to launch another edition of Lollapalooza in Stockholm – now in seven countries globally, three of those in Europe – and Wireless in Frankfurt.” Reid added that 2020 would continue to see “more shows in more places, with better and better experiences for all.”
CTS Eventim has been reporting a new earnings record with every quarterly statement it put out in 2019. Over the course of the year, the company took a majority stake in Austrian promoter Barracuda Music, and a minority stake in the French market leader in ticketing, Fnac Darty. It also entered Russia by acquiring TCI.