In an excerpt from the guide, IQ delves into the biggest touring market in Europe and the third-biggest in the world: Germany.
Germany is the biggest market in Europe and the third-biggest in the world, after the US and Japan. It generated revenues of around €5bn a year in pre-Covid times, though things are significantly tougher since the return of unrestricted shows in spring 2022, as energy prices and economic concerns squeeze sections of the market.
The German promoting business remains muscular and is largely steered by powerful consolidated groups – from local giants CTS Eventim, FKP Scorpio, and DEAG, to Live Nation – though there remain a number of hardworking independents.
Between them, the big groups account for a significant chunk of the nation’s national promoters. CTS Eventim, for instance, holds stakes in FKP Scorpio, Semmel Concerts, DreamHaus, and Peter Rieger Konzertagentur, accounting collectively for recent tours by Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, Muse, Måneskin, and others, as well as major festivals including Rock am Ring and Rock im Park and Hurricane/Southside.
Live Nation GSA entered the market in 2015 through its acquisition of Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK). It brings all the expected superstar tours you would expect – Bruce
Springsteen, for one, arrives next July for four German stadium shows and another in Austria, while Sting, Lil Nas X, Bryan Adams, and Rosalía did the rounds before Christmas.
Live Nation bulked up further in September, adding longstanding independent Goodlive to its holdings. The festival, booking, and services agency brings events including Munich debutante Superbloom, electronic fest Melt!, and hip-hop and reggae event Splash! in Ferropolis; metal and punk festival Full Force in Löbnitz; and hip-hop event Heroes in Geiselwind.
“THE MAJORITY OF ACTS – ESPECIALLY THOSE NOT IN THE TOP RANGE OR HAVING A BUZZ RIGHT NOW – ARE STRUGGLING TO SELL TICKETS”
The Eventim-affiliated, Hamburg-based FKP Scorpio is, of course, a group in its own right, operating across the Nordics, Austria, Benelux, the UK, and Poland. In Germany, it has lately promoted stadium shows for Sheeran and the Stones, as well as a heavy slate of festivals – from the twin Hurricane and Southside indie events to M’era Luna in Hildesheim, Highfield in Großpösna, and Berlin’s Tempelhof Sounds.
Broadly speaking, festivals and blockbuster headline shows have remained strong in Germany this year. Cities like Berlin, Cologne, and Munich remain busy, affluent markets for live shows, with Hamburg not far behind.
But in a time of economic uncertainty fuelled by the war in Ukraine – combined with a perfect storm of post-Covid factors that have put a premium on material and staffing of all kinds – the softness of the everyday touring market is a major challenge for the German business. While the biggest acts sail on undaunted, all promoters have tales of smaller shows either half-filled or cancelled due to weak demand.
“Looking at this demographically, the younger people are going to shows more in comparison to older people, but in general it’s challenging,” says FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt.
“Of course, there are some acts that sell all the time, but the majority of acts – especially those not in the top range or having a buzz right now – are struggling to sell tickets. A lot of acts are cancelling at the moment, and not for logistical or other non-transparent reasons. They are just saying, very openly: we can’t make this tour financially work with the ticket sales and the costs we have. They are potentially playing to half the people, with double or triple the cost.”
“YOU PUT GREAT ACTS ON, YOU PUT GREAT SUPPORT ACTS ON, YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT PRICING, AND STILL TICKET SALES ARE RUNNING AT 50%”
All promoters have been forced to reckon with a very different market in 2022, even as they have scrambled to honour the previous two years’ worth of Covid-era tickets.
“You put great acts on, you put great support acts on, you really think about pricing, and still ticket sales are running at 50%,” says Scumeck Sabottka, founder of independent Berlin-based Robbie Williams and Rammstein promoter MCT Agentur, who, again, notes that his flagship shows have done very well.
“Maybe next year it gets better, but I think the new normal could easily be 70%, so we need to gauge our costings and offers on that. At the moment, I think we, as promoters, are carrying a lot of pressure on our shoulders.”
German promoters in the DEAG stable include Frankfurt veteran Wizard Promotions – now under the stewardship of Oliver Hoppe, son of legendary founder Ossy – which leans in a rock direction, with Iron Maiden, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe, and Scorpions all on the schedule for 2023. Hoppe junior, (who in September added the title of DEAG executive vice president, product and innovation to his Wizard responsibilities), shares the mixed outlook, “All in all we managed to entertain over a half a million visitors in the summer, and that was tough work but also an exciting exercise. But it’s a struggle. Nobody knows where inflation, labour shortages, energy costs, and the ongoing pandemic will take us.
“There seems to be a pattern that high-demand shows are still high in demand, but I am very concerned about club shows and emerging artists. I am expecting every day for some grand-scale tour to hit the wall, but so far, from what we are hearing and seeing from the market, that isn’t happening – so I think there is hope.”
“WE SEE STRONG SALES ON A+ TALENT AND ESTABLISHED FESTIVALS BUT SOFT TICKET SALES ON EVERYTHING ELSE”
Also in the DEAG family – along with UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live, whose Stuart Galbraith recently ascended to the group role of executive vice president international touring – are Christian Doll’s Stuttgart-based C2 Concerts and the German arm of I-Motion. The former’s 2022 tours include German dates for the Harlem Globetrotters; the latter, part-acquired in 2019 from US promoter Randy Phillips’s LiveStyle, operates several long-established electronic music festivals including Mayday, Nature One, and Ruhr in Love.
Sina Hall, Semmel Concerts senior project manager, entertainment, says dialogue with agents and other stakeholders is ongoing, as the market adapts to a new set of conditions. “If you look at the situation for promoters or clubs that are not necessarily part of a group of companies, most of them most likely used their money to make it through the pandemic, so they have to be more risk-conscious when making decisions now,” says Hall.
Relatively few promoters have launched during Covid times, for obvious reasons, but one exception is DreamHaus, the CTS-Eventim-backed venture helmed by former Live Nation GSA managing director and COO Matt Schwarz, which landed in early 2021 with one significant advantage over the wider market. “The beauty of being a start-up during Covid times is that we didn’t have to deal with any aftermath of cancelled or multiple-postponed events,” Schwarz noted in IQ’s recent German market report.
In other respects, DreamHaus – which operates the blockbuster Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals, as well as Tempelhof Sounds and arena shows this year for Lewis Capaldi, Yungblud, Muse, Måneskin, and others – sounds a familiar note of caution.
“We see strong sales on A+ talent and established festivals but soft ticket sales on everything else,” says Schwarz. “Pushing down the increased costs of touring and local production to the customers via higher ticket prices is not a sustainable solution. The worst is yet to come, so we are more selective in our bookings and the M.O. is ‘less is more’ for now.”
“THE WORST IS YET TO COME, SO WE ARE MORE SELECTIVE IN OUR BOOKINGS AND THE M.O. IS ‘LESS IS MORE’ FOR NOW”
In its structure, Germany is a unique market. Under its distinctive regionalised system, local promoters with strong local knowledge typically co-promote with national promoters in any given city.
The local promoting business these days also betrays a strong corporate interest. Eventim owns a number of such promoters, including Bavaria’s ARGO Konzerte, Cologne’s Dirk Becker Entertainment, Promoters Group Munich, and Vaddi Concerts in south-west Germany.
Other prominent local operators include DEAG companies ACT (Berlin), River Concerts (Hamburg), Rhein Main Concerts (Frankfurt), Global Concerts and KBK (both Munich) and Handwerker, based in Unna; Hannover Concerts, in the northern German city of the same name; and Undercover, based in Braunschweig and operating in northern Germany and beyond, which was acquired by BMG in 2020 to lay the foundations for a new live music and events unit.
Some local promoters have expanded well beyond their original regions: Semmel Concerts, now a major national player, focused on Bavaria and Eastern Germany when it first launched more than 30 years ago.
These days, its shows span Germany and Austria and its calendar includes three postponed Berlin dates on Elton John’s farewell tour next May, as well as concerts by Hans Zimmer, Céline Dion, John Cale, and others next year.
“IT MAKES THE BUSINESS KIND OF BORING IF THERE ARE ONLY THREE OR FOUR BIG CORPORATES FIGHTING EACH OTHER”
In a globalised era where scale and network clout count more than ever, Germany is hardly the only market in which independent promoters have inexorably been absorbed into international groups. Ben Mitha, managing director of Hamburg-based Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, the persistently independent promoter founded by his grandfather, doesn’t condemn any other company for doing so, though he maintains that the market needs indies for its all-round health.
“I totally understand those people, especially in these last two challenging years, who are seeking shelter under a corporate umbrella,” says Mitha. “At the same time, it makes the business kind of boring if there are only three or four big corporates fighting each other. I think you also need those independents out there doing it for the passion or investing in some niche that might not be interesting for the big companies.”
Karsten Jahnke’s forthcoming shows include a Hamburg appearance for Robbie Williams as well as dates for Avril Lavigne, Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice, Elton John, and numerous smaller acts. This year’s successes have included The Cure and 49 nights at Hamburg’s Stadtpark for the Open Air series, with Deep Purple, Sting, Joe Jackson, Michael Kiwanuka, and Olivia Rodrigo among those collectively selling 170,000 tickets.
Among the market’s other nationally focused indies, is Berlin-based booker and national promoter Z|ART, founded in 2014 by Max Wentzler and Hauke Steinhof. Wentzler says there are enthusiastic audiences out there for fresh talent but suggests spiraling costs can easily have a brutal effect on promoters, even when a show is an apparent success.
“We are used to suffering in the live business, but it is haemorrhaging a little bit,” says Wentzler. “Margins have been decimated, basically, and it feels like all the income is being eaten up by security, ticketing, and stagehand companies, and also venues, who have increased their rates in response to energy prices because they are going to get hit with a huge bill.”
“MARGINS HAVE BEEN DECIMATED, BASICALLY, AND IT FEELS LIKE ALL THE INCOME IS BEING EATEN UP”
Other independents include Hamburg’s a.s.s. concerts & promotion. Part of the Mehr-BB Entertainment Company, a.s.s. has operated as a booking agency and tour promoter for German and international rock, pop, folk, jazz, and world music artists since 1979, presenting up to 1,200 concerts a year.
A Covid-era consolidation saw two more Hamburg-based concert promoters, Funke Media and Neuland Concerts, merge to form what the company describes as “one of the largest owner-managed concert agencies in Germany.”
Operating as Neuland Concerts and working as both promoter and agency, Neuland’s current schedule includes dates for German stars Ina Müller and Max Mutzke. In Munich, Astrid Messerschmitt’s United Promoters has a superstar pedigree, having worked shows for Eric Clapton, AC/DC, and others, as well as maintaining a longstanding relationship with legendary veteran Marcel Avram.
Hamburg’s Music Minds Productions has also seen it all and has recently staged shows for 50 Cent at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena and The Police’s Andy Summers in Hamburg and Berlin. Of the market’s standalone festival promoters, Cosmopop is responsible for the 28-year-old Time Warp electronic festival in Mannheim and its international editions in Brazil, Chile, and the US; Opus produces the renowned Jazzopen Stuttgart; while ICS (International Concert Service) controls Wacken Open Air in Schleswig-Holstein, which remains one of the world’s biggest and most-esteemed rock festivals.
“I WOULD WISH THAT IN MANY CASES SOLUTION-ORIENTED THINKING COULD COME FORWARD INSTEAD OF EGO-DRIVEN THINKING”
The market is competitive and tough, with even the winners licking their wounds after a bruising year. Superbloom managing director Fruzsina Szép – recently profiled in the German editions of Rolling Stone and Vogue as the one and only woman in charge of a German festival – believes more collaboration would benefit all.
“I don’t see any other festivals as competitors,” she says. “I’m really happy to have many great festivals in Germany, in Europe, in the UK. And if we have to tackle the same problems, then why not learn from each other to make it better?
“I’m very much in balance with my own ego, and I would wish that in many cases solution-oriented thinking could come forward instead of ego-driven thinking. People shouldn’t be afraid to say, ‘Well, we had problems, we had challenges.’”
The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.
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