‘Relieved And More Than Satisfied’: Q’s With FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans

Folkert Koopmans, CEO of FKP Scorpio. (Picture by Carsten Christians)

FKP Scorpio is looking back on a successful return of live in Germany. Twin festivals Hurricane and Southside went down June 17-19 with sold-out editions, welcoming 78,000, and 65,000 daily guests, respectively. Tempelhof Sounds, a joint production with DreamHaus, premiered in Berlin, June 10-12, turning over 43,000 tickets for its first edition.

Blockbuster tours by Ed Sheeran and The Rolling Stones brought in a healthy amount of business, after two pandemic-stricken years that interrupted the flow of live entertainment across Europe, and particularly in Germany. Upcoming highlights for FKP Scorpio include tours by Justin Bieber, Bring Me The Horizon, as well as new show formats like The Masked Singer.

Today, the company operates in many major European live markets, including the UK, surrounding its headquarters in Germany. Pollstar reached out to FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans to ask him about the state of play in the market where it all began in 1990.

International Festivals: 150,000 At Hurricane/Southside

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The Hives guitarist Nicholaus Arson reunited with fans at this year’s Hurricane Festival. (Picture by Frank Embacher)

Pollstar: What is the state of mind of a major concert promoter in Germany at the current time? How good does it feel to be organizing again, despite the existing challenges?
Folkert Koopmans: 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: In addition to a very successful festival summer with sold-out and new formats, we have broken records again with tours by The Rolling Stones or Ed Sheeran. Of course, this inspires us, despite all the current challenges to which the entire industry still has to find answers.

How satisfied are you with the return of Hurricane/Southside this year as well as the premiere of Tempelhof Sounds?
Hurricane and Southside could best be described as a euphoric and emotional reunion of fans and artists. The atmosphere at both events was something special, in our observation the guests absorbed the music, and everything that makes a festival special anyway, even more intensively. That both sold-out events were a success is also shown by the great start of [next year’s] pre-sale. Without knowing the acts for next year, our guests have already sent us an extremely positive signal.

The successful premiere of Tempelhof Sound with more than 40,000 guests was an exciting start to the festival summer for us. Of course, despite all our experience, you never know exactly how a premiere will go, but on site we quickly saw that our concept worked: the location, the curated line-up and the festival identity meshed perfectly, and it was palpable that Tempelhof Sounds fills an important gap in Berlin. Incidentally, we also attracted international attention in our first year, with around 15 percent of guests coming from abroad, and we expect this trend to continue in subsequent years.

Tempelhof Sounds: Muse, Idles, Alt-J & More At New FKP Scorpio Festival

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Florence Welch gracing the stage at the premiere of Tempelhof Sounds in Berlin. (Picture by Frank Embacher)

What personal impressions, anecdotes from the premiere of Tempelhof Sounds can you share with our readers?
It was very nice to experience that Tempelhof Sounds not only brought its guests together: Quite a few artists also stayed longer to roam the grounds and enjoy music. Alt-J went to see Muse, Florence Welch was thrilled by the Idols’ show. It’s just great to see how much our acts appreciate each other, and that Tempelhof Sounds was a meeting place for them.

Was it a particular challenge to implement the events in the context of the past two years?
Festival production has faced and continues to face several challenges: Rising prices for materials and energy, largely due to the pandemic and the terrible war in Ukraine, as well as the lack of staff are the most pressing issues.

It’s clear that we could not carry out events based on the costs calculated in 2019: 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. As far as the staff shortage is concerned, we were fortunately able to take countermeasures early enough because we are well networked and were in dialog with our partner companies early on. Nevertheless, it was a challenge – even though we fortunately mastered it.

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Ed Sheeran at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium in Cork, Ireland, promoted by FKP Scorpio. The Sheerans of this world have no issues selling tickets even in a post-pandemic, inflationary economy. (Picture by Ralph Larmann)

How is the touring business developing? There are some top-class acts announced for the rest of the year. Is it possible to plan with relative certainty, or are you sitting on pins and needles in view of potential political decisions? What do you say to the international artist agents in terms of planning security for Germany?
The touring business is going very well for us, thanks to the [crowd pullers] mentioned, even if we are still feeling restraint in many cases aside from the big names such as Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones or Justin Bieber.

As far as the fall and winter are concerned, we are very confident. The draft of the Infection Protection Act does not indicate 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.

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

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Folkert Koopmans won at this year’s ILMC Arthur Awards in London in the promoter category. (Picture by ILMC)

Judging by ticket sales, is the German public ready, or even hot, to go to events again? Are there certain target groups that are perhaps more hesitant than others?
Overall, the return to normality is still underway; understandably, many people were still unsettled well into spring, after the Omicron wave and ongoing uncertainty about regulations. We expect further consolidation after a final political answer is found for the fall.

Basically, we observe that big names are less affected by buying restraints than smaller shows, although this effect is also caused by the fact that due to the high pent-up demand, more events than usual are competing for what should be constant demand.

Many European and UK promoters are noticing an oversaturation of events, so not every event is selling tickets as expected. There is simply too much supply in some cases. Is this consistent with your own observations?
We share that observation. We are experiencing a pandemic-iduced event backlog right now, which is fortunately temporary, but catalyzes existing problems during this transition period: So, significantly more events than usual are competing for limited resources – be it personnel, materials, or just the demand of the actually culture-hungry audience itself.

Holly Humberstone at Southside Festival 2022. (Picture by Kai Marks)

Do the worldwide price increases, especially for energy, make further ticket price increases necessary? Of course, inflation also leads to less purchasing power among fans. How do you navigate this situation? Is there still room for maneuver in terms of festival capacity?
The worldwide price increases in all areas mean that our previous calculations are no longer economically reasonable. We are doing everything we can not to simply pass on the increased costs to the audience, even if smaller increases, for example in the festival area, were necessary.

You have been around for a long time, there have always been challenges for the live business in the past. Is it nevertheless correct to say that nothing can be compared to the past two years?
The pandemic and its effects, exacerbated by the unstable global security situation, is an unprecedented break for the economy as a whole. 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.

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