How Marek Lieberberg Is Fighting For The Business He Loves – And Helped Build (European Live Savers Issue)

Marek Lieberberg
– Marek Lieberberg
Speaking at a rally of the event industry in Frankfurt/Main, June 22.

The large players in the industry have largely remained silent during this crisis. The strategy of Live Nation, AEG and CTS Eventim, for the most part, seems to be to wait it out. Sure, they’ve been putting on shows and concerts, but they are far and few between and usually take place under circumstances that make them economically unviable. 

They have a lot at stake, which is why the big names in the business have been reluctant to make a move that could potentially be interpreted as a failure. Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation GSA, is a notable exception.
He’s been working hard on getting arena-level shows back at full-capacity. The founder of Germany’s most famous festival, Rock am Ring, has been vocal about the unviability of distanced shows right from the beginning, when politicians were still clueless about the economics of live events.
Lieberberg is a big part of the reason they aren’t that clueless anymore. Back in August, he had meticulously developed a conclusive hygiene and protection concept for a concert with 12,000 people at the 66,500-capacity Merkur-Spiel Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany. It was scheduled for Sept. 4, and featured Bryan Adams, Sarah Connor, Rea Garvey, The Bosshoss, and more on the bill. Lieberberg told Pollstar at the time that the concert was meant to be a beacon of hope and dubbed it “Give Live A Chance!” 
The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), and the City of Düsseldorf released a statement saying they had “agreed on a joint procedure” with Live Nation, but reserved the right to make a final decision by Aug. 31, at which point they wanted to take a look at the number of people testing positive for COVID. 
Marek Lieberberg
Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images
– Marek Lieberberg
CEO of Live Nation GSA

The due date approached, the numbers increased, the authorities forced Lieberberg to first postpone “Give Live A Chance!” to late autumn, and, eventually, scrap it entirely.

Despite Live Nation’s scientifically approved hygiene concept, and the goodwill of all partners involved, including arena operators D.Live and the Mayor of Düsseldorf, the state government got cold feet in the end. Lieberberg commented, “The health and safety of our fans, artists and employees is our top priority. Whilst we understand that the situation is constantly evolving, we are still of the opinion that our catalog of measures offers comprehensive protection.”
He expressed his conviction that live music events would take place at full capacity in the not-too-distant future, “because it is not possible to suppress the desire of fans and artists in the long run.” He added, “The Düsseldorf model is and remains the right concept for a gradual return to normality. This is what the 150,000 suspended employees of this highly diverse and vital industry in Germany, tens of thousands of artists and millions of music lovers, are waiting for.”
Lieberberg promoted his last concert of 2020 on March 10, at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. Before that, he was responsible for the Cirque du Soleil show Totem on Munich’s Theresienwiese 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.
In October, Lieberberg told German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, that this “game of cat-and-mouse has continued until today, in variations but with the same results,” and pointed toward the professionals working in this business, who are coming up with safe and sound event concepts that receive the blessing of virologists and health experts but are almost always thwarted by the political decision makers in the end. 
He 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. The fact that trains and airplanes were still operating at capacity showed the absurdity and ambivalence of the restrictions. 
Lieberberg also counseled two politicians of Germany’s green party Bu¨ndnis 90/Die Gru¨nen on a 10-point plan for salvaging the country’s events sector. It addresses most of the criticisms live professionals and industry associations have been raising over the past months, such as the lack of planning security, insufficient rescue funds and adjustments to the funding programs to better address the needs of this highly individualized business run by mostly self-employed pros.