France In Focus: Leading The Return Of The European Biz

France boasts more than 1,000 festivals. The provinces outside of Paris offer some of the most scenic event locations imaginable. Pictured here is Les Eurockéennes de Belfort.

The French business is back in full swing, according to the country’s leading live professionals. Whether you speak to agents, promoters, or venue operators, they’re all saying the same thing: 2022 was amazing, and 2023 is set to be even better.

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Some are booking shows as far in advance as 2026. And while only a short while ago it seemed like only blockbuster concerts were selling out, the club and theater business is catching up.

Even boutique businesses are prospering. Clotaire Buche, co-founder of agency, management, and live company Junzi Arts, said, “2022 has been a very good year for us, we had three big tours, two in Europe, one in France, grossing nearly €5 million. Our turnover in 2022 was 50% bigger than in 2019.”

Most people we spoke with for this special feature reported better figures in 2022 than in 2019, which is remarkable,

Most of the French business is centered in and around the capital of Paris. But, according to Matthieu Drouot, who runs one of the country’s last independent promoters, Gérard Drouot Productions, the “regional markets such as Lyon, Nantes or Bordeaux are developing, which is also sparked by people leaving the capital in search of a higher quality of live at reduced costs.”

Paris boasts venues of all sizes and for all occasions. Pictured here is the Queen Extravaganza at the Olympia. (Picture by GregH Photographer/GDP)

Since most international tours only make one stop in France, however, Paris still gets the bulk of shows. The capital alone offers all capacities a promoter could ask for, from small clubs to the 75,000-capacity Stade de France, where Metallica, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Depeche Mode, and Mylène Farmer are scheduled to perform this year.

But, as Live Nation France managing director Angelo Gopee pointed out, “France is not just Paris.” His team is promoting 20 stadium shows this year, many of which are not in Paris, but in Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse.

All this increased business is offset by dramatic cost increases in all of Europe, especially for energy, which forces service providers across the supply chain to raise prices. So, even if promoters are selling more tickets than ever, as Buche pointed out, “the margins remain very small in our business.”

And while one would think that the economic climate prevents music fans from spending money on tickets, Drouot’s experience has been the opposite. “People buy more tickets, and at increasingly higher prices,” he said, adding, “I’m not only talking about my shows, I see what my competitors are doing, and I see what kind of ticket price they can charge. There are more and more promoters in France, either from corporate companies, but also independents, and people are buying tickets from everywhere. I was worried last year because after COVID, it was very difficult to sell tickets in clubs; theaters were struggling. And after COVID, people jumped instantly on the arena and stadium acts.”

Beyoncé performing at Stade de France. (Daniela Vesco / Invision for Parkwood Entertainment / AP Images)

This enthusiastic return led to a new sales record in France, when Coldplay sold out four nights at the Stade de France in July 2022, a feat not even Beyoncé or AC/DC have managed so far.

France is also a country with a strong festival business, giving the Netherlands a run for its money as the country with the most open-air music events. World-renowned events like Printemps de Bourges, or Les Eurockéennes de Belfort bring international superstars to regions far outside of Paris, where nature itself provides some of the greatest live music venues imaginable.

Eurockéennes, for example, takes place on an enchanting peninsula between two lakes, one of which serves as a backdrop to the main stage. From David Bowie to Daft Punk, from Bob Dylan to Jay Z, the festival has hosted many of the biggest names in pop culture since 1989.

Festival manager Jean- Paul Roland said the 2023 edition, June 29-July 2, experienced “a record start in ticket sales. I can feel the public’s great impatience to return to the Eurockéennes this summer and relive the flavor of live gatherings.”

Roland said, rising transport, energy, labor and materials costs have forced him to slightly increase ticket prices. With an average price of €50, it is still far from what has become the norm, particularly in the UK and U.S. “The budget allocated to artistic programming has remained stable for several years. But for the first time our budget allocates a substantial forecast envelope to the risk of inflation that could occur, in particular an increase in costs of technical service providers,” he explained.

“We are professional optimists. This does not prevent us, like any entrepreneur who manages a €10 million event, from being vigilant and having our eyes glued to the rear-view mirror, side windows, and of course the windshield while driving,” Roland added. “Festivals, in their traditional almost immutable form, remain for many spectators one of the last vestiges of joyful intergenerational sociability. Beyond the entertainment component festivals still allow everyone powerful human adventures with often unforgettable episodes that remain temporal landmarks in the course of a life.”

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