‘The Workload On All Involved Is Enormous’: Q’s With Stageco Germany CEO Dirk Lauenstein

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Dirk Lauenstein, CEO of Stageco Germany.

Born out of supplying stages for renowned Rock Werchter Festival in Belgium in 1985, Stageco has grown into one of the most prominent international staging companies in the world. Aside from it headquarters in Belgium, the company has local offices in Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, and the USA.

For this week’s focus on Germany, we reached out to Dirk Lauenstein, CEO of Stageco Germany, to talk about the reality of staging events again after a long enforced break. With German mega events like Rock im Park/Rock am Ring returning, and promoters aiming to make up for lost business, there are more events on sale than ever. Coupled with the exodus of live professionals over the past two-and-a-half years, it makes for an extremely challenging working conditions.

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

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The stage built for three mega concerts in Munich. Stageco 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)

Pollstar: What is the mood at Stageco like at the moment? How good does it feel to supply events again despite existing challenges?
Dirk Lauenstein: On the one hand, it feels very good to be back doing what we do best, building stages. We missed that for a long time. On the other hand, at some events, unfortunately, the joy gets stuck in our throats, which often doesn’t feel so good.
We, all employees and service providers, are in an extreme situation, the effort and workload on all involved is enormous.

How satisfied are you with the events you have been involved in this year? Was it a particular challenge to implement them because of the past two years?
The impressions are very mixed, and range from “not at all satisfied” to “very satisfied.” It was indeed a special challenge to start up again after a two-year forced break, and certainly no ‘soft start.’ The demanding technical requirements combined with sometimes extremely short planning periods, and scarcity of resources, made us go to the limits of what’s feasible.

Is it possible to plan with relative certainty with regard to the fall of 2022 or early 2023, or are you sitting on coals to some extent in view of potential political decisions?
From our point of view, it is the promoters and organizers of large and medium-sized events that challenge us with their ideas and visions. We are very happy to accept these challenges.

See: Stageco Reflects On Germany’s First Mega Events Post-COVID

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It all pays off when the crowd gets to enjoy the hard work put into a show by everyone involved. (Picture by Brina Vanray)

How do the worldwide price increases, especially for energy, affect Stageco?
The increased cost of diesel and the shortage of transport capacity in general have an impact on our transport logistics. Prices for transport have gone through the roof. Raw materials such as steel have become more expensive, and delivery times are often longer than what they used to be.

Do you observe, like other countries in Europe as well as the UK, that industry professionals have changed their professions during the employment bans placed on live?
There is a shortage of qualified personnel and, in our experience, this exists throughout Europe. We expect that the currently very difficult working conditions will lead to a further exodus of personnel to other industries after this season.

You have been around for a long time, there have always been challenges for the live business in the past. Is it still correct to say nothing is comparable to the past two years?
The pandemic was a different challenge. The live entertainment sector has managed global crises well in the past. However, the pandemic completely crippled our sector, that has never happened before, that was indeed unique.

What will be important in the coming months?
The pandemic, the standstill of the sector, the exodus of personnel, the scarcity of resources, all this does not matter in many people’s minds, who think things will continue the way we left off in 2019. Higher, faster, further.

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

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