‘We Mustn’t Lose Focus’: Talking To The Pioneer Of The Drive-In Show (European Live Savers Issue)

Michael Brill,
– Michael Brill,
When the crisis hit, and events were only possible under very restrictive circumstances, one model established itself as a go-to solution for many promoters across the world: the drive-in theater concert. 
And while there’ve been many iterations of the format, including entire drive-in concert tours, one company took it to another level: D.LIVE, which operates five venues of various capacities in Düsseldorf, Germany, including the drive-in cinema presented by Gottfried Schultz.
Not only were CEO Michael Brill and his team one of the earliest adopters of the drive-in show, they also hosted every event imaginable on the premises: from weddings to operas to boxing matches to concerts to a giant World Club Dome EDM extravaganza. Church services and even a pole-vaulting competition were part of the program, as were film screenings in line with the venue’s original purpose. 
When the last event took place on July 19, the Local Hero Festival headlined by The Buggs, D.LIVE had realized 90 events with some 100,000 visitors.
D.LIVE’s drive-in concerts also brought Pollstar the first box office reports for live events since the industry got shut down in March. Of the 90 events that took place at the drive-in theater, more than 20 were concerts and shows. Performers included German artists Alligatoah, Sido, who played four shows in total, SSIO, Brings, Tim Bendzko, Max Giesinger, Nico Santos, Hämatom, Sondaschule, Schiller, Tom Beck and Pietro Lombardi. 
Lombardi grossed the most in one show, according to Pollstar’s box office, selling all of the available 1,050 tickets and generating $64,253. Alligatoah, who opened the series of concerts, April 23-24, sold out 1,000 tickets on both nights, grossing $86,500. Sido achieved the same feat, April 25-26, grossing $97,313. When the German rap star returned for two more shows, June 6-7, he didn’t achieve a sell-out, but still grossed $93,478.
These seem like small numbers for artists who are used to selling out arenas, however, they are huge under the current circumstances. Brill told Pollstar, “The immediate reaction of developing drive-in formats straight after lockdown was the right decision for us. The media presence revealed the emergency situation our trade is in, we were able to continue to provide an attractive cultural offering to our community, and we were able to continue to fully employ most of our team.”
BigCityBeats promoted its World Club Dome at the drive-in, June 6.
– BigCityBeats promoted its World Club Dome at the drive-in, June 6.

What moved Brill the most was the reaction of artists: “The possibility to perform gave them hope and confidence,” he said, adding, “If we didn’t do anything, if we didn’t search for alternatives, solutions or niches, it would only prove a certain slothfulness and weariness. Maybe the trade gave the impression even back in March that it could afford to stand idly by. It was our active attempts with concepts like the drive-in concerts or ‘Give Live A Chance’ that demonstrated the difficult situation our industry is in, and how little support we’re receiving.”

Brill said the awareness that this industry requires support has been constantly rising over the past weeks and months, amongst the public as well as amongst the politicians. “The current public discussion seems to have a positive effect on the aid programs. It’s becoming clear that there’s too much missing in our lives without music, art, culture and sports,” he said, adding that while the crisis was ongoing, his company’s strategy would remain the same as it has since entering into lockdown: “We only know the way forward, which means staying creative and doing everything conceivable in order to find ways of making events possible during this time.”
In September, the company realized 30-plus events with between 500 and 6,000 visitors at the ISS Dome, one of the in five venues operated by D.LIVE. The last one was a magic show by German magicians Ehrlich Brothers, who performed in front to 2,500 observing strict hygiene regulations in place on the night. It proved that arena-sized shows can be realized in a Covid compliant manner. 
“We cannot stop, we cannot sit tight, we can’t just drift and wait what happens. Out trade has always stood out due to its special passion, innovation and its ability to create moments of surprise,” said Brill, and continued, “We mustn’t lose the focus on our visitors, clients and guests. We see a danger in that Corona may affect the demand [for live experiences]. Let’s be there for our audience!”