After finally shaking-off the worst effects of the 2008 economic crash, Austria’s recovery is now so advanced that, measured by GDP per capita, it is the 12th richest country in the world and has the 10th best employment rate within the European Union (EU).
Musically, it is not blessed with a stable of artistes that have brokjen internationally, while its recorded music market also suffers from a lingering over-reliance on a declining physical sector, with streaming yet to plug the gap.
The result, according to the last set of International Federation of Phonographic Industry figures, was a dip in revenues in 2016 of 7.7 per cent, giving a total of $86.9 million,
In the live arena, the territory has recently saw the arrival of pan-Europe German conglomerate Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) and global giant Live Nation Entertainment (LNE), although DEAG has already departed, following the closure of its subsidiary, Blue Moon Entertainment (see page ?).
LNE has a n office in Vienna, part of its GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) division, established after it persuaded the founder of German promoter Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur and his son, Marek and Andre Lieberberg, to launch an LNE office in Frankfurt, Germany, in early 2016.
“We have had an office in Vienna for two years, self-promoting shows across Austria, from clubs right through to stadium level,” says chief commercial officer and MD of LNE GSA Matt Schwartz.
“A massive highlight this summer were the sold-out shows at the Ernst-Happel Stadium [cap. 68,500] in Vienna for Guns N’Roses and Coldplay.
“Austria is a great market with a huge amount of potential.”
Other shows from LNE’s second full year in the country included Bruno Mars and Neil Diamond, both of whom played at Wiener Stadthalle (16,152).
The largest promoter in Austria is Barracuda Music, which formed in late 2015 when NuCoast Entertainment, Skalar and Music Net joined forces. The firms had worked closely together for a number of years prior to this.
According to the company, 2017 was its most successful year to date, with almost one million tickets sold.
“The entry of Live Nation to the market is definitely a challenge, but we are still by far the biggest player – and still independent,” says Barracuda CEO Ewald Tatar.
“The climate is generally good and solid, only the increase on VAT on tickets from 10 to 13 per cent has affected our profits. The trend on ticket prices generally is slightly up. It’s hard to give an average price, but for regular arena shows, I would say around €50-60 [$60-70].”
Two highlights Tatar picks from Barracuda’s 2017 programme are the Rolling Stones playing a greenfield site in Spielberg, to an audience of 92,000, and Robbie Williams selling 85,000 tickets across two August shows at the Worthersee Stadium (35,000) in Klagenfurt and Vienna’s Ernst-Happel Stadium.
The firm’s line-up for 2018 includes two sold-out Ed Sheeran shows at the Ernst-Happel Stadium in August.
There will also be the return of the company’s three festivals, Nova Rock Festival (30,000), with Iron Maiden amongst the headliners, Clam Rock (9,000), featuring Status Quo and Jimmy Cliff, and Picture On (2,500), where acts are yet to be announced.
“Our festivals sold better than last year and that market is very good again,” says Tatar.
In regard to Blue Moon’s withdrawal from the scene, Barracuda’s Richard Hoermann, says, “It hasn’t affected us or our business. The festival they launched was dead on arrival, nobody needed it and nobody is missing it now.”
Hoermann was previously MD of NuCoast, which also promoted in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and was responsible for bringing acts such as Paul McCartney, P!NK and Tina Turner to the country.
“We are fortunate that we have a strong market and we are the fourth wealthiest country in the EU,” he says. “People have a powerful income situation which sells us tickets.”
Those healthy salaries are needed as Hoermann explains that on average ticket prices are 10 per cent above those in neighbouring Germany. The majority of tickets are sold for events in the capital.
“We have a population of eight million and two million of them are in Vienna, so that is where the money is,” says Hoermann.
“But we are lacking a venue of 3,000 to 8,000 capacity, which all the major cities seem to have built in recent years. There are talks and plans being made to rectify this, although there is nothing concrete at the moment.”
Another of the country’s veteran promoters, AL-X CEO Alex Nussbaumer, believes DEAG’s link-up with Bad Moon and the attempt to launch a festival was doomed from the start.
“It was not going to work, as the Austrian market is sensible and not comparable to Germany,” he says.
He cites the major problem in the live sector as simply “too many shows” and says that people are also spending less on new artistes, and that is creating difficulties investing in upcoming talent.
AL-X’s biggest recent shows have been Paul Weller at the Museums Quarter Halle E (1,800), with tickets costing €56 ($66), and The Cure at the Marx Halle (10,000), both in Vienna.
“Ticket prices are getting higher and higher,” he says. “Obviously there is no limit if fans really want a ticket, but they will turn it down it it’s an unknown act, so even an extra euro can be critical to their buying decision.
“Looking ahead I would like to see more realistic artiste fees and not subsidised, overpriced ones by the likes of Live Nation, just to get the artiste no matter what.”
“Austria is a great market with a huge amount of potential”
Founded as recently as 2015, Vienna-based Arcadia Live is a joint venture involving the German promoters FKP Scorpio, Four Artists Booking, Chimperator Live and KKT.
“Generally 2017 has been a pretty good year, even stronger than 2016,” says Arcadia Live head of booking Silvio Huber. “Most of the festivals did really well, there was a significant rise in the number of stadium shows in Vienna and a steady growth of arena and club shows.
“A small territory is a never-ending challenge as your possibilities are limited in many ways,” he says. “You have to consider every move and you need to know your market and audience very well.
“Naturally we benefit a lot from our strong network within the FKP group. We have great people in each country, which automatically leads to an almost inexhaustible source of ideas and concepts.”
The firm runs two boutique festivals, both of which returned for a second event this year. Nu Forms spotlights drum and bass DJs and artistes, while Out of the Woods is indie-focused and featured headline sets from alt-J, Feits and Phoenix. Both events took place at the open air Ottakringer Arena (8,000) in Weisen.
Like Nussbaumer, Huber notes the “constant upward trend” for ticket prices.
“It seems we have not yet reached a critical peak and people are willing to pay high prices for their favourite artistes,” he adds. “The ticket for an average arena show is €50-70 [$59-83] and stadium shows are €80-100 [$94-118].”
Top of Huber’s wish list for the market is “a mid-sized, solid arena for 4,000-8,000 people in Vienna.”
Manfred Leodolter, who founded promoter Showconnection Austria in 2002 is typical of promoters across Europe who shrug off setbacks and generally believe things will work out for the best, backed-up by hard work and a passion for the music.
He is as unphased by the arrival of LNE as he is by the departure of Blue Moon.
“Of course we can discuss whether or not the strategy of Live Nation to give one promoter three countries is right or wrong, but as I said, it makes no difference to me,” Leodolter says.
“As for Blue Moon, I have just one thing to say, ‘good night and good luck’.
“I do my business as I always have, but I sometimes think back to the good old times when I made extremely successful business with [UK-based promoter and agent] Rob Hallett, and I also look forward with a smile to the new times coming.”
One gig that brought a smile to Leodolter’s face in 2017 was promoting Elton John at Klagenfurt’s Worthersee Stadium.
Next March he will bring New York DJ duo The Chainsmokers to play at the Hauser Kaibling Snow Air event, for an audience of 10,000.
“A small territory is a never-ending challenge as your possibilities are limited in many ways; you have to consider every move and you need to know your market and audience very well”
Messe Congress Graz is a complex of seven venues in Graz, the capital city of the southern Austrian province of Styria.
Three of the venues regularly host live music, Congress Graz (2,300), Messe Graz (two indoor halls and one outdoor area, with capacities ranging from 7,000 to 35,000) and Stadhalle Graz (11,000).
“More than 120 live music events of all genres have been staged at our venues this year, with about 200,000 visitors,” says Messe Congress Graz’s Christoph Strimiter. “The figures for 2016 were nearly the same, but the interest of promoters and bookers in our open-air venue is rising.
“The process for increasing the maximum capacity of Stadthalle Graz is ongoing with the finishing line is in sight.”
Among artistes playing the venues are Bryan Adams, who performed at the Stadthalle Graz for 8,000 fans; Bryan Ferry, with a sold-out solo show at the Congress Graz, and Andrea Bocelli, who drew 8,000 people for an open-air show.
“Austria is always pretty good for live concerts,” says Karl Haas, MD of Vienna-based Fechter Management.
“We focus on mainly local acts and promoting artistes from abroad rather rarely.
“The main challenge is ticket prices, which are just getting higher and higher – generally because of costs rising, whether that be the acts, the advertising, or venue fees.”
The highlight of Fechter’s year was a six-date tour by Manhattan Transfer, playing venues with capacities of up to 1,400.
“I’m very optimistic about 2018,” says Haas, “as the economics seem to be getting better, which of course affects our business positively.”
At PSI2, an independent promoter also based in Vienna, MD Paul Debnam is not so optimistic about the economy.
“I do not see much growth for live music next year, as austerity looks likely here,” he says, “That means venue subsidiaries will be cut, which raises venue costs, and that is passed on to the customers, who are getting very tired of over-paying.”
He points out that, if it comes to pass, such a trend would increase the impact on ticket prices that have already been hit by the rise in sales tax.
Revenues for PSI2 are roughly the same in 2017 as they were the previous year, with Debnam citing “an overcrowded market fighting for sales”, as one of the main challenges in the sector.
Secondary ticketing is not a huge issue in the country, he says, but this is not necessarily a huge positive.
“Its absence is explained by the fact that 99 per cent of shows are not sold out anywhere in Austria, so it does not come up,” says Debnam. “Also, PSI is fortunate enough to have its own in-house system, so we have complete control and we know how to deal with anyone abusing our ticket sales.”
PS12 concerts include a Sum 41 show at the Posthof (1,400) in Linz and Paramore at the outdoor area at Arena Wien (1,000), which can accommodate 3,000 people.
“The main challenge is ticket prices, which are just getting higher and higher – generally because of costs rising,
The biggest indoor arena in Austria is Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, and over the last 12 months the 16,152 cap venue has welcomed Queen and Adam Lambert, James Blunt, and Gorillaz.
The complex is also home to E-Box available in a club set-up with a capacity of 1,200.
Wiener Stadthalle CEO Wolfgang Fischer explains that the decision by city government to abolish the 15 per cent tax on all dance venues and events makes the club option even more attractive.
Next year the venue will celebrate its 60th anniversary, with artistes such as
Depeche Mode, Metallica, Katy Perry, Helene Fischer and Andrea Bocelli set to play there.
Like many others, Fischer highlights the rise in sales tax on tickets as something he would like to see reversed. He also reports that the venue’s security arrangements have been stepped up.
“After the terrible attacks in the last 12 months, Weiner Stadthalle has higher than ever safety standards,” Fischer explains. “These include personal checks and the removal of bulky items such as backpacks, and liquids. These measures are constantly evaluated and customized for each event.”
As with venues across the globe, increased security measures do not seem to have dampened promoters and venue operaters determination to continue meeting the demand for live entertainment.
Population: 8.7 million
Language: Austria German
GDP per capita (US$): 47,726
US$ exchange rate: 1.17748
Broadband households: 4.9m
Internet users: 7m