There’s a trend emerging across Europe in which everything apart from blockbuster events is having a hard time selling tickets. There are multiple reasons for that, but an oversupply of events competing for a limited number of ticketbuyers seems to be the most prominent.
Shows and events that went on sale in 2022 are competing with a backlog of shows, events, and tours that have been postponed since 2019. The loyalty of fans, who have been holding on to tickets instead of demanding refunds, has been an important reason many events survived these past two years. But it also means fans now have limited time or purchasing power to go to new events on sale.
Purchasing power is also affected by worldwide inflation and many think twice on which to spend their hard-earned money. As Prof. Jens Michow, president of Germany’s promoters’ association BDKV, pointed out in a recent interview with local trade magazine Musikwoche, the first thing people save on are the leisure time activities. Michow says he’s “concerned that ticket sales for many events are extremely slow. Of course, events with international megastars still sell out. But for concerts and other events of smaller to medium size, sales often stall after half the number of tickets has been sold.”
Almost all the promoters Pollstar spoke with for this week’s Focus on Spain confirm that there is just too much on sale right now. “I noticed it within my own family,” says Chris Ortiz, president of Riff Producciones, “that whenever we try to do something on a weekend, there’s always something else going on. Everybody in the family always has a ticket to go to the football match, or to a show. There’s just a lot of things on sale. Every weekend in July, there’s a big show or major tour on. That wasn’t like that before.”
Ortiz wasn’t just referring to pre-pandemic times and the record year of 2019, “I’m talking four or five years ago,” he says, suggesting that the market congestion wasn’t solely because of the pandemic, but had been showing in the years prior already.
Rosa Lagarrigue, CEO of Spanish artist services company RLM, says, “Ticket sales are not yet picking back up, maybe because we are in a post-COVID transition, and, in our opinion, because of a live offer this year that is too large. What is more, the adult public may still be afraid to return to concerts.”
This chimes with another observation made by the promoters Pollstar has been speaking to, namely that the biggest sales drop could be seen amongst the older demographics, while the young ones were still quite happy to buy tickets.
Established blockbuster events selling like usual, while new events are having a tough time competing for buyers? Sounds exactly like what the promoters of the events at Festivalpark in Werchter, Belgium, have been experiencing. The long-standing main event Rock Werchter, June 30-July 3, boasting a stellar lineup as usual, sold out its 88,000 daily capacity in February. The well-established one-day events Werchter Boutique and TW Classic, taking place on the two weekends preceding the main event, respectively, had sold out or were close to selling out their 60,000 available tickets at press time.
However, the newly introduced Rock Werchter Encore, which was originally scheduled for July 26, the day after TW Classic, won’t take place after all. Instead, its lineup led by Florence + the Machine will merge with TW Classic; promoters will open up two more stages to host the extended bill.
A statement from the Werchter team summed up the current reality: “Everyone’s eagerness to experience festivals in all their glory again after two years of silence is great. Some challenges, however, have put a damper on the festivities. Consumer confidence is down, the live entertainment industry is struggling with staff shortages, and production costs are soaring. The extra day festival Rock Werchter Encore [was] doing well, 25,000 fans [were] expected. But, given the circumstances, changing course was the better option, so Rock Werchter Encore will merge with TW Classic.”
Supply is exceeding demand, at least in some genres and demographics, which is a new challenge after almost two years of no or at least heavily scaled-down events. It’s not everyone’s experience, though. Juli Guiu Marquina, chair of Spain’s Clipper’s Music Group, thinks fans’ willingness to return to shows remains unbridled. “I do not see differences between demographics in terms of willingness of getting back,” he says. For Marquina, it all comes down to an increasing number of promoters putting on an increasing amount of musical offers, which “is causing tensions in the different areas of supply: venues, infrastructure, suppliers, etc.”
“It’s like the perfect storm,” Ortiz says. “You have the volume that was already there, plus the volume, which should have gone up the second year [of the pandemic], and then you have new and established acts deciding to go on tour, taking advantage of the opportunity to sell shows and trying to get some of these fees that are being paid by festivals.”