Magna Charta 2022: A Tale Of Resilience
Fabian Sommer / picture alliance / Getty Images – Visitors at the concert
of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at Waldbühne Berlin brave the rain, Aug. 26, 2021. Spirits were high despite the weather, seeing that the Semmel Concerts-promoted event was one of the few opportunities to witness live music in Germany in 2021.
While Europe’s live business was largely under lockdown, promoters and venue operators had to make use of tiny windows of opportunity to put on shows whenever restrictions were temporarily relaxed, usually with capacity limits still in place. With that in mind, it is remarkable to receive cumulative box office reports of more than 2 million tickets sold from CTS Eventim, the leader on Pollstar’s 2022 Magna Charta Top 100 Promoters ranking, or more than
1.2 million tickets sold from runner-up SJM. It is true that the UK, where SJM is based, received its Freedom Day far earlier than any European territory and lifted most restrictions on social gatherings on July 19, 2021, but by that time more than half of the country’s festivals had already canceled a second year running.
Although some of the rankings suggest otherwise, promoters don’t just pull tours out of their hats.
No matter how you look at it, the fact that shows happened and audiences bought tickets during the most adverse of times is a testament to this industry’s resilience.
Simon Moran, managing director of SJM Concerts, told Pollstar, “We promoted 1,000-plus concerts in the autumn of 2021, with over 200 concerts already in 2022, so, yes we’re busy!”
Given the international travel situation, the majority of shows were with UK artists. This year, SJM will promote UK tour dates for Kings of Leon, Fleet Foxes, and The Australian Pink Floyd Show, among other international artists. Moran is “optimistic that all tours can happen as planned. We are having a few challenges with some international artists booked for the early part of the year, but we expect to see a return to normal by mid/late spring.”
Live Nation came in third, with reported ticket sales of 409,208 and a gross of $33,245,593. The company was instrumental in convincing government officials of the safety of large gatherings by promoting several pilot events in 2021. How much of that led to the UK reopening earlier than any other country in Europe remains speculative, but it meant that the team could promote a number of tours in the second half of 2021, including Yungblud and Scouting For Girls. Outside the UK, Live Nation’s operations in Europe did what everybody on this year’s Magna Charta did: take opportunities wherever they presented themselves. One example was Werchter Parklife in Belgium, organized by the team behind Rock Werchter led by Herman Schueremans.
The 28-concert series at the festival park attracted 63,000 people July 1-Aug. 1. The concerts turned a profit, “even a good profit,” according to Schueremans. Rock Werchter 2022 is already sold out. Festivals in general are selling well. Now, it’s just touring that needs to get off the ground and Live Nation president EMEA, John Reid, is confident that will happen, saying, “I can’t see a single European territory not opening at some point in March.”
Ranking fourth on the promoters’ chart is Semmel Concerts, which also operates the top venue on the Top Worldwide Amphitheatre chart: Berlin’s Waldbühne. Like in 2020, Semmel Concerts hosted the “Back To Live” concert series there, and despite the capacity restrictions still in place in 2021, the reported 49,462 tickets sold grossed almost $2.5 million. It was always clear to Semmel Concerts founder and CEO Dieter Semmelmann and his team that “it would not be possible to work profitably within the framework of the many applicable conditions. The ‘Back To Live’ concerts at Waldbühne never happened out of an economic motivation. They were only possible because of the great financial compromises of all involved, including the artists. We simply didn’t want to give up and instead set an example with these shows: a sign of life from the live music industry, a signal to the audience, a cry for help to politicians. With the concerts at Waldbühne, and the three major tours we did last year, we fought for the continued existence of an entire industry and hundreds of thousands of employees who are directly or indirectly dependent on it.”
The role venues of all sizes played during the crisis cannot be overstated.
“Despite the challenges and difficulties, most of us agreed to renegotiate conditions, dates, bookings, etc. to help promoters get out of the slump,” explained Manuel Saucedo, general manager of WiZink Center in Madrid, Spain, this year’s No. 1 on the Magna Charta Top Worldwide Arena chart. “We are very proud of it, because this alliance has been key to instill faith in everyone’s recovery.”
The building reported box office sales of 348,996 tickets and a gross of $18,608,275 during the reporting period, Feb. 1, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2022. “We’ve been living in an oasis in Madrid because the capacity limits have at times been less than in other cities, so, we have been able to recover faster. In fact, we’ve had 100% of our capacity back for a couple months, and the only limit remaining is restrictions on food and drinks on the main floor, where people are standing and must always wear face masks,” added Saucedo. He emphasized the importance of keeping fans in mind, adding,“ We must regain their trust by offering a reliable calendar.”
Beatriz de la Guardia of Madrid-based promoter Planet Events, this year’s number 34 on the Top Worldwide Promoters ranking (22,736 tickets sold, $1,087,350 grossed), agreed that the communication with fans was more important than ever. “We are in a good position because we have a lot going on in 2022, such as tours of international artists like Marc Anthony and Alejandro Fernández for which we expect to sell around 130,000 tickets in Spain. But we’re cautious at the same time. We have noticed since Christmas that tickets sales have been down by a bit, because there is a lot on offer from all the promoters in the market, not only tours that got postponed but new concerts and festivals as well. We are selling tickets and we are very happy with that, but we need to stay focused on our marketing strategies because the audience has so many options.”
Clipper’s Music Group is another leading independent music company in Spain. Founded in 1952 in Barcelona, the third-generation family business is chaired by Juli Guiu Marquina. The company’s live division placed Clipper’s on 17th position on the Top Promoters Chart (48,024 tickets sold, $3,658,783 grossed). Marquina told Pollstar, “We believe that little by little the music industry will start to recover because the public has shown a great desire to return to normality, to keep buying tickets, and to enjoy live music again through concerts and festivals.”
Close behind Clipper’s Live, ranked at No. 19, is A Entertainment, headquartered in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The company’s 23 box office reports amount to ticket sales of 86,800 and a $3,303,183 gross. CEO Andrei Alekseev is currently dealing with a situation he described as even worse than the pandemic: a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which “means that we can’t do international concerts in Belarus, Ukraine or Russia.” In light of a potential military escalation, all touring has been suspended.
A Entertainment also promotes Russian and Belarusian acts in the States, which seems highly unlikely to happen anytime soon given the current tensions. Securing visas is hard enough when the U.S. has no reasons to sanction Russia, Alekseev explained: “At this moment, we’re just waiting to see what happens in politics. We’re also working on completing some [local] shows that got postponed during the past two years.”
The good news is that demand from 2019 has remained so strong that A Entertainment was able to double the number of tickets it originally put on sale in some cases, said Alekseev, who is trying to maintain a realistic outlook on things.
“If you look at history, there have always been political crises, something or the other going wrong. It’s just that [our generation] hasn’t experienced anything like it up until now,” he said.
And what about Europe’s No. 1? CTS Eventim wasn’t idle in 2021, hiring professionals and acquiring businesses all over Europe, getting its Asian business off the ground, and expanding its U.S. presence, which began with a joint venture with Michael Cohl in 2020 and continued with the launch of the eventim.com ticketing platform in September last year.
Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg told Pollstar, “We are sticking to our December assessment that we are optimistic with regard to the staging of festivals and large open-air events for the period from the second quarter onwards. After the experiences of the past two pandemic years, it is true that predictions and expectations should be formulated with particular caution. But at least from today’s perspective, the overall development in connection with the omicron variant and the opening steps in numerous countries give justified cause for confidence in the direction of a re-start.”