‘We Will be Back’: Marek Lieberberg Talks Live In Germany

Promoter Marek Lieberberg pictured in the festival lounge of his open-air festival
Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images
– Promoter Marek Lieberberg pictured in the festival lounge of his open-air festival “Rock am Ring”.
The festival, which had to cancel its 35th anniversary this year, usually welcomes some 75 bands, who perform in front of more than 80,000 spectators.

Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation GSA, promoted his last concert of 2020 on March 10, at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. Back then, the German government wasn’t sure about the right type and extent of measures to implement in its fight against Covid. 

In an interview with German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Lieberberg explained how not much has changed, even seven months later. 
Live Nation promoted the Cirque du Soleil show Totem on Munich’s Theresienwiese back in February. The show was supposed to run through March 22, however, the government mandated that capacities be reduced from 2,400 to 1,000 from one day to the next. 
Most shows had been sold out, so Lieberberg and his team tried to defer ticket holders to later dates. Which is when politicians decided to reduce the allowed capacity to 500, which sealed the faith of the Cirque du Soleil production in Munich.
Lieberberg told Sueddeutsche, that this “game of cat-and-mouse has continued until today, in variations but with the same results.” He’s always maintained that the professionals working in this business are coming up with safe and sound event concepts that receive the blessing of scientists.
Lieberberg had placed great effort in promoting a series of concerts at Düsseldorf’s Merkur Spiel-Arena in summer. His event concept, dubbed “Give Live A Chance” fulfilled – and exceeded – the governmental Covid mandates. Virologists and hygienists agreed.
However, further capacity restrictions made the project unviable.
Lieberberg said, that while he understood the necessity of “reasonable preventative measures” in principle, he had trouble understanding why soccer stadiums were allowed to host people again soon after.
He emphasized that he wasn’t a so-called “Corona-denier”, a term that seems to have established itself as a slur against anyone questioning the extent and effectiveness of the government mandates.
The fact that trains and airplanes were still operating at capacity showed the absurdity and ambivalence of the restrictions, a point theatre veteran Andrew Lloyd Webber also brought up in a recent parliamentary hearing in the UK.
Scene from Rock am Ring 2019
Rock am Ring
– Scene from Rock am Ring 2019
Both Rock am Ring and is twin Rock im Park had already sold out, when the German government made their staging impossible.

When asked what kinds of help were needed now, Lieberberg said he sometimes felt like a lonely voice in the wilderness. The most important thing was concrete support for the countless thousands of professionals out of work since March, when the German government introduced restrictions over night that amounted to an employment ban.

“If we give up our constitutionally guaranteed rights in the name of public safety, the state is responsible for the consequences of its actions and needs to ensure compensation, in my view,” he said.
He explained why German live professionals were struggling to receive financial help from their government.
One of the reasons was the nature of credit applications, which requires applicants to prove they can pay them back. This is usually done by projecting future income, which is currently impossible for the events sector for obvious reasons.
On other words: The reason live pros, most of whom operated profitably in the months and years prior to lockdown, even require money, namely the observance of the employment ban, is the very reason they cannot access it.
Lieberberg described this type of bureaucracy as grotesque, but said that the responsible ministers for economic affairs in Germany were beginning to understand the issues of the live trade.
He praised the 10-point plan for salvaging the country’s live sector put forward by German party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, part of the non-governing opposition in the country’s parliament.
The promoters of thousands of events that have already been postponed to 2021 and 2022 needed certainty that they would indeed be able to go through with them. Seeing that large parts of the industry’s supply chain were currently in the process of being eroded, events would require ample planning time.
Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation GSA, speaks at a rally of the event industry in Frankfurt/Main, June 22.
Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images
– Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation GSA, speaks at a rally of the event industry in Frankfurt/Main, June 22.
With actions like these, supported by artists, cultural workers, theaters, agencies and their subcontractors, event organizers want to draw attention to the economic disaster caused by government restrictions in reaction to Covid-19.

Lieberberg said the entire trade has been demonstrating its sense of responsibility over these past months, while fans have show a great amount of tolerance. This trade, after all, has been used to fulfilling even the most squeamish restriction for decades, he said.

He was sure that promoters were able to realize concerts at various capacities while adhering to the health and safety restrictions in place and approved by the scientists. And while festivals required further discourse amongst promoters, there were already conclusive concepts for concerts, Lieberberg explained. He said that, for festivals in particular, the availability of a vaccine will be a game-changer.
He concluded with a heartfelt plea:
“The fabric of society, what it amounts to at its core, her inspiration and imagination, is currently being undermined [which comes with] heavy collateral damage also for democracy.
“The historical and societal, the social and cultural impulses originating from folk, soul and rock music shouldn’t require further explanation. At the end of the 1960s, music carried the feeling of freedom, the sexual revolution, environmental awareness into this square republic.
“Young people raised their voices, on and off stage! I still believe in the boundless power of this music, and I regard concerts as a vital component of any open, passionately democratic society.
“We will we back, I’m sure. The question is, what and who will fall by the wayside. As I said, it could be too late for thousands of people already.”