It is the powerhouse at the centre of the European Union (EU) and the wider continent and although bordering on recession, has a rampant live music scene, from festivals and stadium shows down to clubs, with at least one promoter seeing a resurgence in that sector. Christopher Barrett reports
In the past decade ticket prices for many of Germany’s music festivals have more than doubled.
In 2006 a ticket for heavy metal festival Wacken Open Air was €79 ($88), this year it was €220 ($245). Newer events have also seen sharp entry price rises.
The near record low of 3.1 per cent unemployment is far below the eurozone average of 7.4 per cent and this is good news for promoters.
“It is great from a ticket sales perspective but makes it very hard to find people to stand at the gate of a show for €15 [$16.50] an hour,” says Wizard Promotions MD Oliver Hoppe.
Germany has Europe’s largest economy, but the impact of global trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty saw it shrink 0.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year. With economists predicting a further decline in the third quarter, there are fears of a recession.
Despite the broader concerns, leading players report jealthy business in a market that was valued at €4.99 billion (5.55bn) annually in the most recent report by BDKV (Bundesverband der Konzert- und Veranstaltungswirtschaft, or Federal Association of Concert and Event Management – see box).
It is a market with many major players and among the biggest is Live Nation Germany (LNG), which was launched in 2015 when veteran promoter Marek Lieberberg and son Andre left MLK to head up the operation.
Eventim-owned MLK continues to organise twin festivals Rock Am Ring (cap. 80,000) and Rock Im Park (70,000), which were founded by Marek and still run by his team.
Andre Lieberberg says stadium dates by Muse, Metallica and Bon Jovi, arena tours by acts including Slipknot, Tool and Ariana Grande, along with festivals such as Wireless Germany (40,000) in Frankfurt, have helped make 2019 a strong year for LNG.
With promising new domestic artistes, particularly in the urban genre, breaking through and a rising demand for boutique urban festivals, Lieberberg says the market is in good shape.
However, he is concerned the large-scale, greenfield, festival sector is saturated.
“We expect some of the more traditional festivals not to perform as in previous years, although if done right they are still the most important annual events of the outdoor season,” he says.
Despite intense competition, Lieberberg is considering launching new festivals next year.
“Tailor-made, mid-size events with a strong emphasis on experience in addition to musical programming, seem to be the most promising formats to look at when establishing an event from scratch at the moment,” he says.
In March ticketing giant CTS Eventim launched Eventim Live, with the aim of pulling together its 28 European promoter subsidiaries or partners to coordinate activities across the continent.
Among the 11 German participants are FKP Scorpio, Konzertproduktionen, Peter Rieger Konzertagentur and regional promoter Semmel Concerts.
While CTS is also active in the venue business, owning Cologne’s Laxness Arena (20,000) and The Waldbühne (22,000) in Berlin, it is Germany’s leading ticketing operator, with domestic ticketing revenue of €250 million ($279m) last year.
“We’ve sold more tickets for smaller events, by artistes across all genres, and for events in a wide variety of locations,” says CTS CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg.
However, he is concerned about the impact unscrupulous secondary ticketing operators are having on the market and is calling for tighter legislation to tackle them.
“More and more artistes and promoters are approaching us wanting to personalise tickets and we support them to the best of our ability,” he says.
The company also operates face-value ticket exchange Fansale, which Schulenberg says is being enhanced with new functions.
Divide and rule
FKP Scorpio was founded in 1990 and has offices across western Europe, recently opening one in Poland. Eventim took a majority stake in the business in 2017.
As well as organising more than a dozen festivals, including twin events Hurricane (68,000) near Bremen and Southside (60,000) in Neuhausen ob Eck, it promotes around 350 tours per year.
Among FKP projects this year was 28 concerts across Europe with Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour, including two in Germany at the Hockenheimring (100,000) motor racing circuit. Other shows include Pink at Hamburg’s 76,000-capacity Volksparkstadion and four arena dates with Hugh Jackman.
MD Folkert Koopmans says it has been an exceptional year and he is especially pleased with the results of its Hurricane and Southside festivals, which were both headlined by Foo Fighters, Mumford & Sons, Die Toten Hosen and The Cure.
The pre-sale for next year’s events bodes well. “We sold a record 40,000 tickets during the first two days following both events,” says Koopmans.
The promoter agrees that the festival market is saturated but doesn’t expect it to stay that way.
“The last couple of years were characterised by inclement weather, a higher public awareness of terror threats and therefore a decrease in demand that concerns the whole industry, so it’s likely that we will see many new and inexperienced players left behind,” he says.
Strength in numbers
Launched in Berlin in 1978, Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) was the first promoter to become a multi-faceted corporate entity.
DEAG and its subsidiaries promote shows across Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the UK. German subsidiaries include Klaus Bonisch Konzertagentur, ACT Artist Agency and Wizard Promotions.
This year has seen DEAG acquire a majority stake in Christian Doll’s C2 Concerts and I-Motion– the German subsidiary of US-based EDM powerhouse LiveStyle (formerly SFX Entertainment).
I-Motion organises major electronic music events, including Mayday (25,000), Nature One (60,000) and Ruhr in Love (45,000), which collectively sell more than 200,000 tickets a year.
DEAG shows this year include six by Kiss, at venues including the Stadion Essen (20,000) and Berlin’s Waldbühne (22,000) and Lenny Kravitz at venues including the SAP Arena (14,000) in Mannheim.
“It smells like a record year,” says DEAG CEO Prof Peter Schwenkow. “We are expecting to achieve the strongest third quarter for eight to 10 years,”
DEAG started the year acquiring the remaining 24.9 per cent of ticketing platform My Ticket.
“We are selling between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of tickets to our shows through My Ticket and an increasing amount of third-party event tickets,” says Schwenkow. “Germany now has four major competing ticketing systems.”
Schwenkow, who plans to introduce dynamic pricing via My Ticket in the first quarter of next year, says the concert and festival market has become saturated and margins have become slim, but his business has been safeguarded by its diversification into other sectors, including family entertainment and exhibitions.
“The 10 biggest promoters in the world are competing like crazy, but it is the artistes that are making the money and not the promoters,” he says. “You can only get out of that by having a ticketing service and by promoting other kinds of shows.”
Setting the stage
Christian Doll joined Ludewig KVL in 1993 and took over its management five years later and set up C2 Concerts in 2010, promoting around 400 shows per year. Doll is confident there remains a lot of potential in the market, despite the congestion, and this year saw him launch a new festival in Stuttgart. Among the event’s diverse line-up were Maximo Park, Samy Deluxe and Wanda.
“The Kessel Festival had a great premiere in June, we had almost 30,000 people,” says Doll. “Our concept, to combine music, culture, sports and family entertainment, worked out well.”
Doll says escalating ticket prices are unavoidable. “Rising expenses and higher artiste fees will see tickets prices increase even more in the coming years,” he says. “I think some tickets are way too expensive already, the big arena shows, but as long as they sell out it works.”
Part of DEAG since 2013, Wizard Promotions is n by Oliver Hoppe, son of founder Ossy, oanises around 700 shows per year and runs the Matapaloz (80,000) rock festival in Leipzig.Wizard was among the first promoters to tap into the demand for American country music and works with the Country Music Association to bring in touring country event Introducing Nashville. Dates this year included Hamburg’s Gruenspan (900) and Berlin’s Columbia Theater (3,500), with a line-up including Danielle Bradbery, Devin Dawson and Travis Denning.
Touring festival Country to Country (C2C) debuted in Germany in March at the Verti Music Hall (4,350) in Berlin with a line-up including Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge, while KP Scorpio will launch Seaside Country Festival (4,000) in May next year at Weissenhäuser north of Hamburg, with acts including Brothers Osborne and The Adelaides.
“We always had a focus on country music, but everyone has woken up to it now and is trying to get some market share,” says Hoppe. “American country music has a strong following here, dating back to when the US had a military presence here. In recent years the country audience has grown partly because the genre has become very musically diverse.”
Promoter MCT Agentur’s biggest tour is Rammstein, which has already taken in stadiums across the country and, in 2020, will involve two shows apiece at Red Bull Arena (50,000) in Leipzig, Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena (97,000), Dusseldorf’s Merkur Spiel-Arena (54,600), Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion (57,000) and Olympiastadion (74,000) in Berlin.
MCT CEO Scumeck Sabottka, who co-founded the Southside and Hurricane festivals with Koopmans, but ended his involvement in them this year, has launched the Pitchfork Festival (4,000) at Berlin’s Tempodrom, set for May, with a mix of new and established artistes.
“It’s hugely exciting, Pitchfork is a brand that many music lovers know and love,” says Sabottka. “We are trying to curate it as boldly as we can and will start with a 4,000 capacity and grow it from there.”
Its relatively small capacity hasn’t stopped agents approaching Sabottka asking for six-figure sums for their artistes.
“They need to understand that this free ride of charging as much as they can possibly get for acts and revving-up ticketing prices has to stop, otherwise we promoters will all go bankrupt,” he says. “If you can only make money on the last 10 per cent of ticket sales the risk is too great.”
Sabottka is also concerned by the amount of uncertainly surrounding the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU), with even the German Foreign Office being unable to offer any advice.
“Many agents have written to us asking what we will do next year,” he says. “We really don’t know, whether it is going to mean more work, but that isn’t what really concerns me. The idea of the EU is that we are all under one umbrella and I am very sad that it appears to be crumbling”.
Entertainment for all
Peter Rieger Konzertagentur (PRK) was founded by the late Peter Rieger in 1983, with the company is now run by Klaus-Peter Matziol. It has been a subsidiary of CTS Eventim since 2000.
Among key PRK projects this year have been 10 Pink stadium shows, including two nights at Munich’s Olympic Stadium (57,450), seven stadium concerts by Phil Collins, including the RheinEnergieStadion (50,000) in Cologne, and seven arena shows by Elton John.
Matziol says there is great demand for such shows, but he fears costs could escalate.
“Fans are obviously still willing to pay very high prices to see stars, but the volume and cost of productions are growing in a threatening spiral,” he says. “We think it’s important to offer a fair mix of ticket prices so that as many people as possible can afford the shows.”
Matziol is another who wants to see strengthened legal anti-ticket tout measures but he says highly priced ticket add-ons, such as VIP packages, are also causing confusion among consumers, who are too often unsure whether the source is a legal ticketing platform.
Dieter Semmelmann, CEO of Semmel Concerts, says its The World of Hans Zimmer European tour was attended by more than 250,000 people this year while domestic tours with artistes including The Kelly Family and Roland Kaiser have also been highlights.
He says the market has become too congested and that with the cost of increasingly elaborate productions leading to ever higher ticket prices it could reach a crunch point.
“The ticket buyer will react to these developments soon and then the wheat will separate from the chaff,” he says. “We have to be careful with ticket prices and offer entertainment for all incomes. So we are also working in the B market with smaller capacities and guarantees.”
The generation game
ASS Concerts & Promotions was founded in 1979 and has been run by MD Michael Bisping since 1986. It is part of Mehr-BB Entertainment, which operates several venues including Capitol Theater (1,250) in Düsseldorf and the Mehr! Theater (3,500) in Hamburg.
The company generally works on club and theatre tours, which this year have included John Mayall, The Stranglers, Foreigner and Snarky Puppy.
Bisping says the market is very challenging for new artistes.
“We need a wider platform in the media, particularly radio and TV, for young talent and live music in general,” he says. “Radio does not play any new material and TV has hardly any slots for live music.”
He agrees ticket prices for established act’s shows have risen too high, and that it is harming the next generation of artistes.
“High priced shows take too much money out of the market that could otherwise be spent on shows by young artistes. We need to support a generation of new talent, which will benefit all our futures.”
Marc Oßwald helped set up CTS Eventim subsidiary Vaddi Concerts In 2017. The longtime manager of hit Schlager artiste Dieter Thomas Kuhn, Oßwald also runs Freiburg’s three-week Zelt Musik Festival (ZMF), which was has a daily capacity of 12,000.
Among this year’s Vaddi highlights has been a near sold-out 25-date tour by Kuhn, with 130,000 tickets sold. Oßwald says he was also happy to see ZMF attract an attendance of 120,000 over its 19 days. Among the acts to perform were Foals, Metronomy, Kamasi Washington and The Beach Boys.
“There is more local talent than ever and the market for local artistes is very strong and growing but in general there are not enough acts, especially for city festivals,” he says.
In the far south of Germany, Allgäu Concerts promotes around 80 concert per year, with more than a dozen of them being open air shows with capacities up to 12,000.
For the past 14 years Allgäu has run the Castle Salem Open Air (6,500) concert series, which has seen performances by international talent including Pink, Santana, David Garrett and Sting.
“Our most successful concert this year was Mark Forster at Königswinkel [11,000]; our wonderful baroque garden venue in Füssen close to the Neuschwanstein castle,” says promoter Michaela Schneider.
For the past 47 years, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK) has been a prominent independent promoter, with founder Karsten Jahnke’s grandson Ben Mitha joining the company in 2014 as MD.
Mitha says KJK is enjoying great results with home-grown acts, such as Max Giesinger and Michael Patrick Kelly, as well as international artistes. Its shows this year include a nine-city Herbie Hancock tour, Cher at Hamburg’s Barclaycard Arena (15,000), two Solange Knowles dates at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie (2,100) and Lewis Capaldi at Stadtpark Open Air (4,000).
Across Germany, Switzerland and Austria KJK will promote 250 more shows this year than it did in 2018, but Mitha bemoans a lack of venues in almost all key German cities.
“Hamburg and Munich are missing a decent 4,000-capacity venue, Dresden and Frankfurt are missing an arena sized venue, while Stuttgart and Hannover doesn’t have enough clubs in the range of 500 to 800 capacity,” he says.
“With more and more bands being out on the road we’re definitely facing a lack of venue avails in pretty much all cap sizes during the high touring periods in spring and fall.”
Room for choice
The city of Dusseldorf owns five venues operated by D.Live, including the Merkur Spiel-Arena (50,000), ISS Dome (13,000) and Mitsubishi Electric Halle (7,500).
D.Live CEO Michael Brill says concert attendance is up at its venues year-on-year. While Bon Jovi played the Merkur Spiel-Arena, among artistes to play the Dome this year are Hans Zimmer, The Kelly Family and Panic! At the Dicso.
“Düsseldorf is a fantastic live entertainment market,” says Brill. “We are right in the heart of the region, close to the Dutch border, with 15 million people living in a radius of 100 km.”
Brill says being able to offer a choice of venues to promoters is advantageous.
“Our portfolio strategy played out nicely this year when Panic! At The Disco sold-out our Mitsubishi Electric Halle and was transferred to the ISS Dome. It was possible to sell an additional 5,500 tickets,” he says.
In Leipzig, ZSL Betreibergesellschaft manages the Red Bull Arena (50,000), home of the RB Leipzig football team. The stadium is open to concerts between the end of May to the beginning of July.
It also operates the newly renamed Quarterback Immobilien Arena (12,300), which until this year was known as Arena Leipzig. Both venues are owned by the city council.
Acts playing the Quarterback-Immobilien-Arena include Herbert Grönemeyer, Slipknot, Udo Lindenberg, Seeed, Michael Bublé and Volbeat.
“Our flexibility allows us to adapt the arena to host shows starting from a 1,000 capacity up to the maximum,” says ZSL MD Philipp Franke.
ASM Global, formed rom the merger of AEG Facilities and SMG, operates two arenas for concerts, both of which provide plenty of room for manoeuvre on formats.
Barclaycard Arena can host 2,000-capacity shows upwards, while Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena offers formats from a 700-capacity set-up to the full-house, centre-stage 17,000 maximum. Artistes playing the venues include Florence + the Machine, Udo Lindenberg and Muse.
ASM Global Germany VP & COO Uwe Frommhold says both venues have enjoyed record results with live music in recent years and that while the company is focused on embracing technological advances, such as instant automated customer interaction via chatbots, the take-up of cashless payments in the venues is frustratingly slow.
“Germany is still a cash first country when it comes to payment behaviour,” he says. “We could deliver a more seamless experience for our customers if a cashless mentality would prevail. We have been offering cashless payment in our arenas but usage numbers are pretty low.”
Looking ahead Live Nation German’s Andre Lieberberg says festival on-sales have generated good results for next year’s events and things are generally shaping up well.
“We are seeing a lot of arena and mid-size tours being worked on and confirmed for 2020 already, while the number of stadium and outdoor shows is not yet as the same level as 2019.”