Power Act versus Market Power

21. Sept. 2017 @ Private Cinema (East Hotel)

Speaker: Oliver Hoppe (Managing Director, Wizard Promotions Konzertagentur, Germany), Philipp Jacob-Pahl (Agent/Promoter, Landstreicher Booking, Germany), Ben Mitha (Managing Director, Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion, Germany), Katrin Wedemeyer (Managing Director, Mittendrin, Germany)

Moderator: Gideon Gottfried (Journalist, Pollstar, Germany)

Go to the programme here.

The increasing market dominance of big corporations dealing in concert and festival promotion is a hot topic for many industry professionals, and a fully packed East Cinema on Thursday morning made that clear.

Philipp Jacob-Pahl (Promoter/Agent, Landstreicher Booking), Ben Mitha (MD Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion) and Katrin Wedemeyer (MD Mittendrin) represented the independent promoters on the panel. They agreed that they have to find their niche in a current market climate that’s characterized by aggressive competition around tours.

“This does not mean that the niches have to be small,” said Jacob-Pahl, who pointed out that the battle with corporations predominantly takes place on the international stage when buying international acts to tour in Germany.

The fourth panelist was Oliver Hoppe, MD of Wizard Promotions, which belongs to DEAG since 2013. He explained that his company was in many ways even more affected by the ongoing internationalization, commercialization and Live Nation’s market entry than many independents. After all, DEAG is competing for the same large-scale artists.

In doing so, it is the global deals that corporations offer to artists that pose the biggest problem. These deals bind artists to a certain corporation in every territory around the world. “It’s not a fair competition anymore. It was once about making the most attractive offer with the best perks or about who had the best strategy. Today, as an independent, you sometimes don’t even have the opportunity to make an offer,” Mitha explained.

What’s more, many artist managers, who are actively signing new acts, are working for Live Nation. Company policy automatically places their artists under the firm’s control.

In Pahl’s experience, a personal relationship with the artist still trumps the cheque book in many instances, albeit mostly when it comes to working with domestic acts. Which is why those acts are a priority for both Landstreicher Booking as well as Karsten Jahnke.

Being a local promoter, Wedemeyer is particularly suffering under the aggressive behaviour of big players. He explained: “We have a relatively small market in North Germany. You can still feel the big corporations pressing into our market, suddenly promoting shows in Kiel or Flensburg. And we’re also affected by radius clauses.”

Festival promoters will present acts with these clauses to prevent them from playing shows in the proximity of and around the time of the festival. The aim is to keep interest in the artist buzzing. While this way of thinking may make sense for superstars, a radius clause for small bands is “bullshit,” said Pahl.

Another method employed by the corporations is to offer acts a festival show, but only if they also did the tour with said corporation. “This is of course annoying, especially if you’ve built an act from a 150 capacity club and are now ready for the arena. But the arena show is done by Scorpio because they also do Hurricane Festival and many others,” said Wedemeyer.

Local promoters still play an important role in Germany, even if they have to be more flexible and constantly find new business opportunities to survive. In the current climate, however, this is also true for the bigger independents such as Jahnke or Landstreicher, and even DEAG.

There’s reason to remain hopeful: while the big players know how to do stadium shows, they have shortcomings when it comes to the 500 capacity spaces, according to Pahl.

Mitha concluded: “It is what it is. You either want to continue playing along, stay hungry and find new ways, or you become part of a corporation yourself someday to avoid being pushed out the market entirely. You either put your foot down or are left behind!”

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