2016 has slowly but surely come to a close. Here are some year-end statements from a cross section of Europe’s live music scene.
at Eurosonic Noorderslag 2016
First is Marek Lieberberg, CEO of Live Nation GSA: “2016 was a memorable year, in which we instantly established Live Nation GSA and, at the same time, led it to the forefront of the European music industry. From grassroots acts to stadium shows, theater productions and entertainment, Live Nation GSA is presenting a unique spectrum.
“In 2017, we are going to produce a record number of arena and stadium concerts. But that is just one aspect. Our main focus is directed at the integrity of our visitors, the freedom of art and our entire way of life, which has to resist the threat of extremists!”
Solo Agency founder and head of the Isle of Wight Festival John Giddings said 2016 was good. “The big acts still sell a huge amount of tickets,” Giddings told Pollstar. In 2017, he is hoping for client Little Mix to break worldwide and Phil Collins to take the stage again – and for the government to ban secondary ticketing.
For Italian promoter Claudio Trotta’s company Barley Arts, it has been a “very intense” year, marked by successes, such as the biggest Bruce Springsteen shows in Italy since his debut in the country in 1985. Some 150,000 people attended three shows at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.
Barley Arts also “had the privilege of organizing the last two Motorhead shows in Italy.” What is more, Trotta’s decade-long fight against secondary ticketing was rewarded when Italian TV program “Le Iene” aired a program exposing the involvement of Live Nation Italy and Vivo Concerti in directly supplying the secondary market with tickets.
The program fueled worldwide debates on ticket resale. “It was no easy year,” said Christof Huber, general secretary of European festivals association Yourope. Despite most markets reporting solid overall numbers, “the weather situation was highly precarious for many festivals in the beginning of summer.”
Rock am Ring and Hurricane/Southside were two prominent German examples, but festivals in Belgium, Holland and the UK struggled with the forces of nature too.
“Many promoters said they had never witnessed anything like it, as far as weather is concerned,” Huber said.
The second major factor that shaped Europe’s festivals in 2016 was the specific security situation caused by a series of terrorist attacks all over the continent. It shaped the way festivals are produced and “shaped the state of politics in Europe, resulting in fear politics and pressure from the right, making the points we raised in our Mission Statement even more relevant. “While some may have thought the situation has calmed down, [the recent attack in] Berlin started the discussion all over again,” Huber said.
Huber remembers the revolutionary spirit in which many European festivals were founded. He intends to reignite some of that spirit going forward.
“We have to get even more organized as festivals in Europe,” he said. “Many festivals that were launched were political, defiant and rebellious. I’d like to see festivals return to that spirit to some extent, and spread a message to the youth.”
John Langford, vice president and GM of The O2 London, told Pollstar, “It’s been a great year for The O2 and we’ve had some fantastic shows in our arena and venues. From boxing to basketball, Adele to Amy Schumer, we’ve yet again welcomed the best UK and global stars to our tent.
“As we head in to our 10th year, we’re hoping for more great content for our arena, the continued support of our partners and even more fans coming through our doors.”
Tom Sutton-Roberts, who runs another London venue, the iconic Troxy, said he feels “fortunate to hold so many great events at Troxy and it’s been amazing to see the venue grow.
“The caliber of artists we’re now attracting is brilliant,” he said, referring to Robbie Williams’ recent BRITs Icon concert, “which was one of, if not the, biggest production we have ever had.”
Another huge part of Troxy’s business is corporate events, in 2016 most notably the Kerrang Awards, the Artist and Manager Awards, Unsigned Music Awards and a number of indoor sporting events.
“For 2017 we’re hoping for more of the same! Troxy’s reputation is quickly growing within the live music. We have invested heavily in our in-house production capabilities and equipment, which we will continue to do throughout 2017 to make it easier for touring shows to drop into the venue,” Sutton-Roberts said.
Back in Germany, Mercedes-Benz Arena’s Michael Hapka told Pollstar that “2016 was a solid year with 129 events in total, including top-class shows by Adele, Muse, Justin Bieber and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We’ve successfully refined out street music festival East Side Music Days and started building the Mercedes Platz in front of our arena.”
The prospective entertainment destination will host another music venue, cinema, bowling lounge and about 15 gastronomic facilities. “We expect more events in 2017, and our utilization in the first two months of the New Year is great with 38 confirmed events. What is more, the arena is going to get its WIFI infrastructure up to speed and swap all of the monitors in the visitor area,” Hapka said.
Andras Berta of Sziget, Hungary’s most iconic festival, said 2016 was a great year for the fest. “With almost half a million visitors we broke all previous records regarding sold tickets,” Berta said. “We also managed to further improve the international status of the festival, welcoming fans from over 100 countries. Being a mid-August festival in the Eastern part of the continent means it’s still a big challenge to get the headliners we need, while we also realize that artist fees are getting higher and higher each year.”
Berta is concerned about the long-term prosperity of the business.
“We still don’t think it’s a healthy structure, having too many festivals bidding for not enough potential headliners and thus creating rocketing prices,” Berta said. “In any case, Sziget seems to be in a strong position due to the fact that our program structure is a lot more diversified compared to many of our competitors.”
His goal is to “keep the values of the festival.” Therefore, apart from some fine-tuning, no big changes are planned for the 2017 edition, which also marks the festival’s 25th anniversary. Berta also revealed that “Sziget, as a company, is looking into new opportunities, and is also negotiating with potential partners abroad to co-organize festivals.”
Speaking from an agent’s perspective, ATC Live’s Alex Bruford said: “2016 has seen streaming overtake the importance of radio airplay in many markets, which has in turn impacted tour routing decisions. Markets that were previously deemed less important have become more significant due to their impact on an artist’s global streaming plot, so we have been adjusting routings accordingly.
“There is more great new music than ever before, as artists embrace technology and information available to improve their art. Conversely there is less investment in artists’ long-term futures than at any point previously,” Bruford said. “As we focus on building careers this is a concern and one of the biggest challenges is turning a high streaming song or artist launch into a career that lasts many years.”
Bruford pointed out that “global events have negatively affected touring, with certain artists no longer wanting to play some markets, or it no longer being logistically viable.” He called the global campaign against secondary ticketing “a huge positive,” with the U.S. leading the way by passing legislation against bots.
“The UK is a close second thanks to the work of Fanfair and many MP's, artists and managers highlighting the issue,” Bruford said.
In 2017, he hopes “the industry can obsess less about the latest hot act and instead focus on supporting the exceptional artists over the longer term, and allow them to get to album two or three and have a chance to build a fanbase and a career.
“I hope the unacceptable sexism that still exists within the music industry can finally be extinguished,” Bruford said. “I hope that artists and music fans can be free to play and listen to music the world over without fear.”