German Promoters Association: ‘Still Quite A Few Obstacles To Overcome’

BDKV president and CEO Prof. Jens Michow
Klaus Westermann
– BDKV president and CEO Prof. Jens Michow

Germany is an important node for any international tour coming through Europe thanks to its central location in the heart of the continent. It’s also the country that has faced some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the world, which has placed the live entertainment business in a precarious position.

Germany’s ministry for culture and media today announced a new €105 million ($117 million) funding round specifically for live music events and nationwide festivals. From Feb. 7, promoters can apply for up to €800,000 in 15 different categories, which are determined by the size and type of event.
As some European markets, including the UK, Denmark and Finland, have lifted or announced to lift most restrictions on social gatherings, all eyes are set on Germany. Pollstar reached out to Prof. Jens Michow, president of promoters association BDKV, who summed up the status quo in the country.
Pollstar: What is the state of mind of Germany’s promoters at the beginning of 2022?
Prof. Jens Michow: Up until two weeks ago, my answer would have been, that this business has been lacking any future perspective since nearly two years, and that there was no end in sight.
However, we now seem to be approaching the end of the tunnel, it looks like things might become better in March. This definitely does not mean that the industry will return to what it was anytime soon. Many promoters are shifting tours and concerts that were originally planned for 2019 for the fifth time to later this year. 
And there is another problem: The many canceled concerts of the past two years destroyed the confidence of clients. The belief that people would be  hungry for live entertainment, that all concerts would be jam-packed once the crisis is coming to an end, didn’t become reality.
Although most people seem confident that even Germany could open back up and  return to normality [in the coming weeks], we observe that the attitude of ticket-buyers tells a different story. It’s quite far from what we have become used leading up to 2019. The audience seems to be very pessimistic when it comes to relying on announced dates, and many people are refusing to meet with others inside a concert hall in order to avoid infections. Anyhow, the writing is on the wall that things will get better. 

Empty chairs during a benefit concert marathon at Hamburg's Barclays Arena in December.
Jonas Walzberg via Getty Images
– Empty chairs during a benefit concert marathon at Hamburg’s Barclays Arena in December.
Generally speaking, events don’t sell out as easily and quickly as they did pre-coronavirus.

Is it possible to plan anything on the live side of things at the moment? 

Trust is returning, but another problem is that due to the many backup dates most of the venues are fully booked. Promoters are focusing on 2022 and 2023. It would be extremely advantageous, if the concerts and festivals announced for summer and the second half of the year can take place. It will also be essential that there are no capacity reductions and expensive hygienic restrictions in place. And, of course, we have to hope that all artists from the various countries will be allowed to enter Germany. 
As you’ll realize, there are still quite a few obstacles to overcome – but we are quite positive about it.
A main precondition for any concert and tour planning during a pandemic is, of course, some [government-guaranteed] security in case events are forced to cancel at the last minute. Therefore, the €2,5 billion state fund for cultural events was essential for the industry. Unfortunately, there are some big questions and – although I don’t like to use the word again – problems with the application for the funds. No promoter can risk the sometimes enormous financial risks without this kind of safety net.