‘Less Will Be More When Designing A Future’: The German Way Back

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Rise Against at Hurricane Festival 2022. The fans and artists are ready for the grand comeback. (Photo by Frank Embacher)

Germany has a special place in Europe, at least from a touring perspective. Its location amidst Belgium, France and Spain in the West, Switzerland and Austria in the South, the vast Eastern territories, and the Nordics, make it a strategic hub. Some of the world’s biggest promoters hail from here, including CTS Eventim and DEAG, as do many well-respected independent companies, such as Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion,
which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The international live biz has been looking towards Germany to gage when it would be possible to tour mainland Europe again, and many were taken aback by the country’s slow reopening. Germany is traditionally generous with spending its high taxes on social safety nets and rescue packages, which benefitted the sector throughout the pandemic.

Finding A Way Back To Normalcy: Germany’s Slow Road To Recovery

But bailing out the German live biz, which was worth $6 billion in 2019, cannot be the solution forever. To continue creating amazing live experiences in an inflationary economy, the sector needs to be able to operate freely. This summer has been testament to that.

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Rock am Ring festival returned with a sold-out crowd of 90,000 for the first time in three years. (Picture by: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Most festivals returned for the first time in three years. Live Nation celebrated a successful premiere of Download Germany, headlined by Metallica, eventimpresents/DreamHaus promoted the comeback of Rock am Ring/Rock im Park, FKP Scorpio brought back Hurricane/Southside, and, together with DreamHaus, successfully premiered Tempelhof Sounds in Berlin in June. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

FKP Scorpio, which is part of Eventim Live’s promoter network, also promoted The Rolling Stones and Ed Sheeran’s German dates, amongst others in Europe, and ranks third on Pollstar’s German promoter chart with 1,118,265 tickets sold, grossing $97,757,334 (reporting period 8/1/21 to 7/31/22).

FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans says, “We are relieved and more than satisfied with our restart, the success of which we owe mainly to our hard-working teams in Germany
and Europe. Of course, this inspires us, despite all the current challenges to which the entire industry still has to find answers.”

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02 July 2022, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: Chris Martin, vocals, piano, rhythm guitar, is on stage. The rock group Coldplay gives a concert in the “Deutsche Bank Park”. It is the first concert in Germany of the “Music Of The Spheres World Tour”. Photo: Andreas Arnold/dpa (Photo by Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Coming in second is another CTS Eventim company, Semmel Concerts, with just north of two million tickets sold, grossing $120,632,904. A large portion of those sales were generated through Roland Kaiser, whose “Alles oder Dich” tour at the end of 2021, and summer open airs in 2022, racked up 317,768 tickets ($17,951,285 gross), placing the
German Schlager legend on the second spot behind Coldplay (354,817 tickets, $34,135,718 grossed), promoted by Live Nation, which leads the promoter chart (1,549,386 tickets, $121,053,324 gross).

Coldplay’s Greener Pastures: With ‘Music Of The Spheres,’ One Of The Most Successful Touring Bands Ever Kicks Off A New Era Of Sustainable Touring

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Semmel Concerts founder and CEO Dieter Semmelmann (left) and his star artist Roland Kaiser. (Picture by Frank Embacher)

Kaiser amassed a cult-like following in Germany over the decades, and Semmel Concerts
CEO Dieter Semmelmann thinks there are several reasons for this. “Roland Kaiser is a human being with empathy, intelligence and foresight. He is genuine and his fans feel that too. His concerts and songs take you into a different world every time and thus set a musical monument to romance. At the concerts, everyone meets with love and respect. He does not have to lecture anyone to convince everyone. He is simply him – in front of, behind and on stage. Moreover, he has the gift of inspiring whole generations. Roland Kaiser is for me not only a great artist, but after all the years that connect us, also – and this is what pleases me most – has become a friend.”

Andreas Gabalier displayed the fireworks at his Aug. 6 show in Munich. (Picture by Daniel Scharinger)

Right around press time, a series of mega-concerts took place at Messe Riem, Munich’s premier exhibition space. Andreas Gabalier inaugurated what local press called “Germany’s biggest stage,” on Aug. 6, in front of 90,000 fans. Helene Fischer reportedly sold 130,000 tickets for her Aug. 20 performance, and Robbie Williams had sold north of 90,000 for his Aug. 27 performance, as of press time.

The concerts were promoted by Leutgeb Entertainment Group and the massive stage was provided by Stageco. With a performance surface that’s 150 meters wide and 30 meters
high, 1,000 tons of stage material, a gigantic video wall making up the entire rear surface, the stage serves as a reminder of the time, work, and money that goes into blockbuster live events. To continue offering these kinds of experiences, the sector needs to be able to operate freely.

The pandemic has cost this business professionals on all fronts, and diminished supply chains. At the same time, more events are competing for ticket buyers than ever before, a backlog from 2020 is competing with everything that went on sale this year. It’s tough to keep up.

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The stage built for three mega concerts in Munich. Stageco Germany CEO Dirk Lauenstein told Pollstar, why pulling events of this size off resembles a Herculean task in the current economy. (Picture by Stageco Deutschland/Mike Auerbach)

Stageco Germany CEO Dirk Lauenstein tells Pollstar, “On the one hand, it’s a very good feeling to be back doing what we do best, building stages. We missed that for a long time. On the other hand, unfortunately, we, all employees and service providers, are in an extreme situation, the effort required and workload on all involved is enormous.”

Lauenstein confirmed a lack of personnel, not just in Germany but all of Europe, and he expects that the current difficult working conditions will lead to a further migration of personnel to other industries after the open-air season.

“It was indeed a special challenge to get going again, no ‘soft start’ after this two-year forced break. The demanding technical requirements combined with sometimes extremely short planning periods, scarcity of resources, makes us go to the limit of feasibility,” he says.

Florian Zoll of Taubertal Festival, which sold a majority stake to BMG’s live arm last year, says, “We had about a third fewer people to set up. Material was also not as readily available as in the past. Everything worked out, but the conditions were more difficult than usual. Just one example: the program booklet arrived at the last minute. Paper shortage at the supplier.” Still, Zoll emphasizes, “it was a super festival. Sure, not quite easy in its implementation, but all in all really nice. To experience the joy of meeting, to have the audience there again…. that was really good.”

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Panoramic shot of the greenfield at Taubertal Festival, which returned to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for the first time in three years. “Everything worked out, but the conditions were more difficult than usual,” the festival’s media spokesman Florian Zoll said. (Picture by Sebastian Goeß).

The promoter giants are, of course, better equipped to deal with the staff shortages. Koopmans says, “We were able to take countermeasures, because we are well connected and in dialog with our partner companies early on. Nevertheless, it was a challenge –
but we fortunately mastered it.”

But whether you’re big or small, you’re now facing the challenge of unheard-of price hikes that need to be offset in some way. Events planned in 2019 cannot be realized at the costs assumed at the time. “Prices have really skyrocketed, and we will have to work hard in the future to make our guests feel as little of this as possible,” Koopmans says.

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Folkert Koopmans and Ed Sheeran on their way to the stage in Hanover during Sheeran’s record-setting Divide tour in 2019.

He’s optimistic about the touring business, thanks to the crowd pullers on FKP’s roster. It’s those artists, who aren’t yet household names, that aren’t selling as well as in a normal year.

Ben Mitha, managing director of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, confirms this. “The blue-chip artists are doing well, everything else is struggling. Even well-known artists who would have filled arenas for decades are struggling,” he says.

See: CTS Eventim Exceeds 2019 In Q2 Earnings

There are multiple reasons for this: “some cannot afford tickets in light of the current costs of living. Others are still sitting on tickets for postponed shows and don’t have the time to go to even more concerts. Finally, everybody’s trying to make good for two years of lost opportunities, not just businesses, but private individuals as well, which, again, limits their time to go to concerts,” Mitha explains.

He says the most important factor to enable a proper recovery of the live sector was a socio-political one, with the audience realizing that COVID was here to stay, and finding ways to live with it. Politicans also need to cease branding live events as more dangerous than a visit to the supermarket or the commute to and from work in a packed subway.

Germany’s promoters association recently voiced its concern over the latest draft of the infection protection act, which was missing “clear and binding criteria” for “the
implementation of infection control measures.” The forum uniting the country’s important live events association under one roof (Forum Veranstaltungswirtschaft) fears the draft could lead to considerable uncertainty in all sectors of the economy – a situation they’ve been enduring for over two years straight – once again resulting in event cancellations in the cultural and b2b event sectors.

See: ‘Maximum Uncertainty’ In Light Of Germany’s COVID Policy

While the wording of the draft may be vague, Koopmans doesn’t think it indicates “that
major restrictions are likely, and in the current situation politicians have no reason at all to return to the great caution of recent years. We are working in various committees and formats to ensure that the special needs of the event industry and the
associated value chain are heard. Politicians have now understood that culture is indispensable and an economic factor that should not be underestimated.”

Live Nation GSA CEO Marek Lieberberg recently told public broadcaster WDR that, “the fact is that the live industry has returned with vehemence, an unprecedented succession of concerts have taken place to fantastic response.” He also says one must learn to live with COVID “instead of taking refuge in obsolete bans.” The interest and demand from the fans were still there.

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Fans at a sold out Wacken Open Air 2022. Next year’s edition sold out in five hours. Interest and demand from fans is still there.

This is confirmed by many more events that sold out over the summer, including Next Event’s Parookaville (75,000 capacity) or Wacken Open Air (80,000 capacity), both of which have received investment from Superstruct Entertainment in recent years.

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While the mega events are doing great, there’s evidence that the small ones aren’t. One long-standing independent concert promoter wishing to remain anonymous tells Pollstar, “When Rapino and Lieberberg say that the concert business is back stronger than ever, I do not see too much truth in it. It will be a hard autumn and winter in Germany.”

It’s no wonder Koopmans expects further consolidation once the fall prognosis for the political response to COVID is in. And, touching on the war in Ukraine, the veteran
promoter adds, “the pandemic and its effects, exacerbated by the unstable global security situation, is an unprecedented break for the economy. Against this background, we are particularly grateful that our new start has nevertheless been successful and that we have been able to celebrate many successes. We hope that the world and, of course, the live music industry will soon regain the stability they deserve after this long and hardship-filled period.”

One way of reducing costs, and addressing staff and supply chain shortages, is to reduce production. Several promoters, not just in Germany, have suggested that artists and their teams may need to scale down in order to make sure margins are still workable for all involved. Stageco’s Lauenstein confirmed this, saying, “The pandemic, the industry shutdown, the exodus of personnel, the scarcity of resources, none of this matters in many people’s minds, who think things are just going to continue as we left off in 2019. Higher, faster, further.

“We can’t turn back the overloaded reboot we had this summer. We are grateful for each
and every employee in our offices, warehouses and on the production lines whose work helped us fulfil all the orders. Nevertheless, the industry needs to start understanding that less will be more when it comes to designing a future.”

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