Prevented by the health crisis and broken tours, artists of international stature will be back on stage in Luxembourg for the next two months. A “best of” poster which however comes up against the new realities of the market.
After so many months of deprivation and waiting, the proposal is dizzying: in Luxembourg, over the next two months, the music scene will regain its pre-pandemic momentum and its flashy offers. A “large-scale” program, synthesizes Olivier Toth, director of the Rockhal, without saying more. The poster indeed speaks for itself: Black Eyed Peas, Imagine Dragons and The Killers at the foot of the Belval blast furnaces; Kings of Leon at the new Usina 22 festival in Dudelange; Die Fantastischen Vier and Seeed at Luxexpo Open Air; and The Hives, gondola head of the Siren’s Call.
Without forgetting multiple eclectic and scattered offers (Gorillaz, Woodkid, The Smile, Ben Harper, Jessie J, Simple Minds, Nick Cave, Alicia Keys, Sean Paul, Tom Jones, Francis Cabrel, The Kid Laroi…). On paper, it throws. In fact, it says that since April, the situation in theaters and outside has settled down thanks to the abandonment of sanitary measures, thus allowing groups and artists to go on the roads, and to imagine, finally, financially “viable” tours.
Thus, last month at the Atelier, Michel Welter and his team did not count the hours: “There were a total of 17 concerts and evenings, for nearly 15,000 people”, he counts, happy to bury a “catastrophic” start to the year. But the man remains branded by the pandemic and the organizational ordeal that ensued. Recent examples unfortunately confirm his restraint, such as the postponement of the Seasick Steve concert, and the cancellation of the visit of AnnenMayKantereit, both for the same reason: the covid. “There are no more restrictions, but the risks are still there!” he proclaims.
Earn less, but win together!
Moreover, the program to come, in its diversity as in its quality, is essentially explained by the chaos born of the crisis and the incessant waves of postponements, as explained by Olivier Toth. “There are few new things. This enormous wealth is to be seen as a kind of ” best of” of the last two and a half years, a compilation of missed appointments. An abundance which, if it overloads the calendar, does not only have drawbacks, especially in terms of the ties that unite the national scene.
In this sense, the Atelier does not hesitate to “share” its proposals, as with the Wiltz festival, the Echterlive or Neimënster, when it does not compose directly with colleagues (Usina 22, with De Güdde Wellen and the ‘Opderschmelz). “Today we are harvesting the fruits that we planted for two years,” explains Michel Welter. During the crisis, either we chose to cry in our corner, or we stuck together. Together, the spine is more rigid, the stability reassuring…” He adds pragmatically: “It’s true, we earn less by not taking all the risks on our shoulders, but we earn more safely!”
Financial considerations that lead to another, much more random: if the concerts resume their rhythm, will the public do the same? “I have not identified the full extent of this bazaar”, still blows the head of A-Promotions, even if there are tangible facts. “Our last concert before the pandemic was James Blunt, he recalls. There were some 3,000 people at the Rockhal. He returned to the Atelier on Tuesday, and it was almost sold out. But that’s two-thirds less audience…”
An audience stuck between fervor and reluctance
Clear changes, combined with a difficult economic context, which also upset Olivier Toth: “Today, the purchase of tickets is often done at the last minute. In view of the reports that we have known since March 2020, it is an attitude that can be defended. I understand the public, even if it puts us in a delicate position. In this case, reduced visibility, not the most practical to assess the profitability of a concert. A remark all the more true when we expect mastodons from mid-June. “There is still a large volume of sales which will be done at the last moment”, he confirms about the three paid dates of the Open Air Belval, hoping however to fill up (that is to say 10,000 people).
A confidence perhaps due to the MEUTE show, Tuesday at home, which the director of the Rockhal attended. “The fervor of the public warmed my heart. Live is a unique moment! I dare to believe that the old habits will return. Olivier Toth thus intends, in the coming months, to “recreate enthusiasm” with the spectators, particularly towards the youngest. “They didn’t get into the habit of going to concerts, simply because there weren’t any! There is an effort to be made towards this population ” prevented” “.
John Rech, at the head of Opderschmelz, also noticed these drops in attendance, in particular this third “chilly” (not the youngest for once) who was missing during the last Like a Jazz Machine. “But outside, it is surely less anxiety-provoking”, he continues, with two arguments up his sleeve: the success of the open-air concerts given in Dudelange during the summers of 2020/2021, and the ticket office of Kings of Leon who is doing like a charm: “The goal is almost achieved!”, he smiles, i.e. 8,000 people (and more if they like) who will be able to take their ears off at the Neischmelz.
Ecology and law of the market
But who says desire for greatness also says means at the height. And here too, the health crisis has done less visible damage. Michel Welter begins: “There was a flight of staff to other sectors, as was the case in catering or in construction.” A workforce “often independent or temporary”, made available by the production companies, gone to other trades. “It’s becoming an important subject that requires planning and anticipation,” agrees Olivier Toth. Understand having the right resources at the right times. “In Germany, there have been canceled festivals, and it is not due to sales, nor to the virus!”, Hammers, definitive, John Rech.
History to make the case more complex, this shortage also affects the equipment (sound, light, video), essential to the coating of any large-scale production. “We find ourselves going to look for equipment abroad, and for more money!” Loose Michel Welter who adds sugar to the already decayed tooth. “Today, agents minimize the risks. It is preferable for them to let an artist leave with his group, but without equipment or production staff”, thus leaving the organizers to manage all the stewardship.
John Rech also had to shop further than usual, especially for Kings of Leon, even if he admits to “booking the equipment more than a year in advance”. However, this is not the case for the two other major events in Dudelange: the Fête de la Musique and the Zeltik (which is also celebrating its 25th anniversary). “Everything comes from the Greater Region. This is important, if only for the reduced impact on the environment.” Friendly ecological impulses which certainly do not weigh heavily in the face of the harsh law of the market: with an environment with more limited means (material and human), and an offer which suddenly explodes, inflation is watching! “On the new tours, we can see that the prices have increased,” he concludes, even predicting a jump of “30% to 40%” for certain events.
“New challenges to overcome”, slips Michel Welter as a regular, to watch from the start of the school year, after the summer festivities. They are the ones that, for the moment, interest Olivier Toth, who has already put on the overalls for the days that promise to be “intense”. He takes the opportunity to recall that a new and fourth proposal has been added to the Open Air Belval: a large free concert to “celebrate with the family”, as the Rockhal writes, with Gast Walzing conducting a wide range of artists and groups from Luxembourg. The palette is now complete and the appeal of the foot to the public is still evident. The rallying cry is even ready. “There will be concerts in different places and different capacities. We can be outdoors or indoors. There will be plenty of styles of music, with returning artists and new ones. There is no longer any excuse not to come!”
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