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No big deal!? Live Nation’s impact on the Belgian festival market

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The live music and festival industries are undergoing globalization challenges similar to other creative industries, but the impact of global live music promoters on local markets seems to be flying under the radar of scholarly attention. To open up debate on the impact of global live music promoters on local popular music festival markets, this article seeks to conduct an exploratory study including empirical data on this matter. As Live Nation, the world's largest and leading global live music promoter, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Belgium, the article questions to what extent Live Nation's more than a decade-old takeover of the reigning competing live music organizations has affected the local festival market structure, its booking policies, ticket prices and the supply of local talent staged. The results show that while Live Nation has undoubtedly provoked changes in the structure of the Belgian festival scene, its powerful share and position has also stimulated rather than threatened local talent, and tempered rather than raised ticket prices. Thus while globalization of the local festival scene has certainly been a 'big deal' in terms of market power, it has not necessarily been the worst possible outcome either.
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CIJ 5 (1+2) pp. 87–103 Intellect Limited 2012
Creative Industries Journal
Volume 5 Numbers 1 & 2
© 2012 Intellect Ltd Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/cij.5.1-2.87_1

creative, live music and
festival industries
globalization
monopoly
cultural diversity
ticketing

University of Antwerp

Ghent University
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


The live music and festival industries are undergoing globalization challenges simi-
lar to other creative industries, but the impact of global live music promoters on
local markets seems to be flying under the radar of scholarly attention. To open up
debate on the impact of global live music promoters on local popular music festival
markets, this article seeks to conduct an exploratory study including empirical data
on this matter. As Live Nation, the world’s largest and leading global live music
promoter, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Belgium, the article ques-
tions to what extent Live Nation’s more than a decade-old takeover of the reigning
competing live music organizations has affected the local festival market structure,
its booking policies, ticket prices and the supply of local talent staged. The results
show that while Live Nation has undoubtedly provoked changes in the structure of
the Belgian festival scene, its powerful share and position has also stimulated rather
than threatened local talent, and tempered rather than raised ticket prices. Thus
while globalization of the local festival scene has certainly been a ‘big deal’ in terms
of market power, it has not necessarily been the worst possible outcome either.
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The live music and festival industries, both part of the broader live entertain-
ment business, are encountering challenges similar to those occurring in other
media and digitalized creative industries (such as in the recording and movies
industries). An enduring cultural and economic globalization process of the
live music industry appears to affect the structural and cultural individualities
of local companies such as concert and festival organizations. Live enter-
tainment has become an important part of the creative industries sector in
terms of economic output. Concerts and festivals are also gaining importance
in the music industry, while the supply of live music is increasingly getting
absorbed into global event conglomerates. These global event conglomerates
are acquiring their place in local markets through starting up joint ventures or
swallowing up existing local event promoters via affiliated local divisions
(Moss 2009; Wikström 2009).
There is no better example than Live Nation (until 2005 named Clear
Channel Entertainment) to illustrate that globalization goes beyond the media
and digital creative industries. Live Nation is the world’s largest promoter of
live music. It has stakes in ticket distribution (Ticketmaster) and music record-
ing with subsidiaries in more than 22 countries around the globe. After having
monopolized the North American live music market, this behemoth stepped
foot on the European live music scene’s turf. The European reaction to this
American entertainment conglomerate buying up local promoters was initially
one of scepticism and panic. Local competitors, artists and their publics feared
that Live Nation’s strong synergy model and its increasing worldwide buy-
outs of local organizations would lead to abuse of a dominant position. Live
Nation’s perforation of local markets would result in less local talent and more
American artists onstage. Additionally, the company was accused of limit-
ing points of sale for tickets and driving up ticket prices to convert its market
power into cash, and the combination of Live Nation being a festival organ-
izer and a booking agency was said to be foreclosing on the market and would
lead to conflicts of interest with competing organizers (e.g. Figueroa et al.
2004; Krueger 2005).
Partly due to a lack of empirical data, however, little is known about Live
Nation’s actual impact on European local live music scenes. Studies on big
media moguls seem to be overshadowing research on American live music
giants’ impact on local music and festival markets (Evens 2005; Huijgh 2007;
Huijgh and Segers 2005). Additionally, whereas the little existing literature on
music festivals focuses on impact studies calculating the regional multiplier
effects generated by festivals on regional economic activity (e.g. Crompton
et al. 2001; Crompton and McKay 1994; Gazel and Schwer 1997; Felsenstein
and Fleischer 2003) and on the factors affecting the demand for live music
(e.g. Earl 2001; Willis and Snowball 2009), little attention has been paid to the
supply-side and market structure of popular music festivals.
This article therefore seeks to conduct an exploratory study including
empirical data with the goal of opening debate on the impact of global live
music promoters on the supply-side and market structure of local popular
music festival markets. In so doing, it builds upon a case study approach. As
Live Nation Belgium has recently celebrated its decennial in 2011, it is a good
time to take stock of its impact on the local festival market and look to the
future. In particular, the article aims to answer to what extent Live Nation’s
takeover of the reigning Belgian competing concert organizations, management
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and booking agencies, and ticket vendors has affected the local festival market
structure, booking policies, ticket prices and the supply of local talent staged.
The research is based on statistical analysis of empirical data coming from
a number of sources. For analysing the origin of the staged artists, and book-
ing policies we used internal data from Live Nation Belgium’s booking and
playlists covering a ten-year period, which were acquired after contacting
the organization. We verified the reliability and completeness of the data by
checking these lists with the main Belgian music magazines’ concert sched-
ules and with local venues’ data and imported and calculated it in SPSS.
Additionally, time series of ticket price evolutions since 2000 were retrieved
from music festivals’ websites, the Federation of Music festivals in Flanders,
and through contact with their respective festival organizations. In order to
measure market shares and assess market concentration, secondary data
were used. Using these data, standardized metrics were applied to make the
data as comparable as possible and upon which we elaborate in the empiri-
cal section. Serving as background information, qualitative data were derived
from in-depth interviews, focus groups and panel debates with more than
30 stakeholders (such as festival organizers, booking agencies), from both
local companies and subsidized concert organizations in Belgium.
What follows, is first the broader conceptual context (broader categories,
rise and boom and globalization of the popular music festival industry) in which
the research subject is to be understood. Second, and set against this back-
ground, the paper conducts an analysis of Live Nation’s impact on the popular
music festival market in Belgium (its market structure, share and position, its
booking policies, ticketing and programming policies). Conclusions follow.

The broader category of creative and live music industries
The festival industry is part of the live music industry, which in turn belongs
to the broader category of creative industries in which festivals industry’s rise,
boom and globalization must be understood. Though there is no space to
get too specific here, there remains dissension on definitions, and subfields
in the creative industries category as well as its relation to the cultural
industries category (e.g. Galloway and Dunlop 2007). To simplify a contested
area, while the concept of cultural industries primarily originated from the
scholarly community, the term ‘creative industries’ has often been applied
in policy-making circles, and while the first emphasizes cultural values the
later has a more economic overtone (monetary value) (Huijgh 2007; Huijgh
and Segers 2005). Definitions on both cultural and creative industries,
however, show some important overlaps such as the distinction between
‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ sub-sectors (see Crane 1999: 6; Hesmondhalgh
2007: 13; Throsby 2003: 113; Murdock 2003: 25). The division between core
and periphery boils down to the fact that besides having a number of shared
characteristics, media and digitized creative/cultural industries differ from the
live sectors with respect to media-dependency, technological benefits, levels of
production, reproduction costs and high marginal costs, reproduction poten-
tial and difficulties, increased productivity and capital intensity (Huijgh 2007).
The live music and its festival sector in particular is considered to be a
peripheral creative industry and confronts relatively high production and
marginal costs compared to for example the recording industries. Because it
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still largely operates in the pre-industrial framework of popular music, and
given that technological innovation is not equipped with a safety net for
this pre-industrial nature, the live music industry is, as G. Hull (2004) notes,
somewhat ‘the odd man out’ within the music business. Partly due to demand
uncertainty and high artist fees, the organization of live music is considered
to be a risky business with low profit margins (e.g. Hesmondhalgh 2007).
Nevertheless the substantial revenues generated, rigid cost structures and
growing artists’ fees are reducing the promoters’ profitability on released
ticket turnover (Krueger 2005; Wall 2003). Attracting a large crowd (volume)
and setting high ticket prices (margin) are traditionally regarded as effective
economic strategies. Due to this lag in productivity, the recurrence of concerts
leads to a rising spiral that has come to be known as the highly contested ‘cost
disease’ (Baumol and Bowen 1966). This thesis however has been questioned
in the past (e.g. Cowen 1996; Cowen and Grier 1996) and was later nuanced
by W. Baumol among others (1996) as well.
In fact, some scholars (such as Frey 1996) think of the organization of festi-
vals as an effort to overcome the cost disease, as they can supply performances
more cheaply than regular concert venues. Festivals often run with a small
number of permanently employed staff and operate with many volunteers.
In addition, festivals evade the restrictions imposed by government and trade
unions, and therefore are able to produce more efficiently. In recent years,
it is noticeable that festivals have rapidly acquired a central position within
the ‘popular music system’, as labelled by T. Wall (2003:77). As live perform-
ance revenues have increasingly become important to artists due to declining
record sales, ticket prices have soared and consumer demand has followed
(Black et al. 2007; Curien and Moreau 2009; Krueger 2005). Live music festi-
vals that were originally used as a promotion tool for the sales of records,
seem to have evolved into the primary profit centre for the music business
(Frith 2009).
Rise, boom and the globalization of popular music festivals
While festivals have been part of the live music scene since the beginning
of the early 1900s, there has been an astonishing increase in the size and
number of popular music festivals over the last 20 years. Despite the flower
power movements giving rise to historic alternative pop music festivals such
as Woodstock (August 1969), and the recent emergence of large-scale music
events in South-America and Asia, some authors (see Bårdsen 2010) consider
music festivals to be a typically European phenomenon. Riding the wave of
the 1960s, now-famous popular music festivals such as Pinkpop (1970 in
the Netherlands), Glastonbury (1970 in the UK), Torhout/Werchter (1974 in
Belgium) and Roskilde Festival (1971 in Denmark) helped found and became
symbols of the diverse European music festival landscape.
While early popular music festivals were more often than not free to the
public as they served ideals of ‘peace love, and rock-n-roll’, over the years
they became more interesting economically. The recent explosive growth and
economic attractiveness of these festivals can been explained by several supply
and demand factors. B. Frey (2000: 3–8) mentions the rise in real disposable
income, increased amount of time and money devoted to holidays, wider
availability of tickets through the Internet, increased political support, subsi-
dies and globalization. Inspired by writings on creative economy, cities and
class (see John Howkins, Charles Landry and Richard Florida) local authorities
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are also increasingly supporting festivals that must attract tourists and stimu-
late their regional economies. Most festivals therefore take place during the
summer months to cater to tourists’ cultural interests. Festivals are usually
held yearly at a given (often open air) location, sometimes spread over several
days, giving the organizers opportunities to build a reputation that can help in
the booking of popular artists and in attracting visitors. Festivals are made up
of many acts (forming the ‘lineup’) and are therefore called ‘multi-act events’
(Sayre and King 2003).
Popular music festivals appear in several forms catering to different
demands and audiences. D. Klaic (2000: 5–6) speaks of two groups of festival:
(1) festivals developed by the city out of tourism and creative economy moti-
vations with formal organizational committees, (2) festivals developed out of
the organizer’s ideal frequently directed towards specific niche publics. While
some music festivals focus on one particular (sub)genre and try to lead in that
specific market, others target broad audiences by offering variety in music
genres and entertainment. Popular music festivals are often typified as ‘gener-
alist festivals’ (Leenders et al. 2005), which appeal to as many people as possi-
ble and experiment with extending the scope of the audience by establishing
additional stages to their repertoires. Therefore, booking the right artists and
forming a compelling line-up are essential to the success of popular music
festivals. M. Leenders, however, is of the opinion that generalist festivals
prove less successful than niche festivals in terms of visitor growth. The type
of music that is staged determines the demographic features of the audience,
which are used by organizers to appeal to corporate sponsors interested in
certain target groups (Oakes 2003).
Audience demographics thus partly influence the tickets prices; price
discrimination aims to serve consumers with different preferences. Since
popular music festivals usually stem from private and for-profit initiatives and
are increasingly organized by a limited number of companies with a turno-
ver of tens of millions of Euros, revenues from ticket sales and sponsorships
provide the majority of total income. Since demand for these festivals is price
inelastic, prices and revenues can be raised without substantial decreases in
attendance. S. R. Bårdsen (2010) found that festivals generating significant
self-generated income are more likely to realize positive profit margins and
have a good long-term survival chances. Subsidies and government interfer-
ence could even lead to ossification and conservatism, and might smother
creativity and flexibility among festivals (see Frey 1994; Getz 1989).
The boom of popular music festivals is a world-wide phenomenon. The
recent launch of large-scale festivals inside Eastern Europe (e.g. the Polish
OFF Festival, Croatia’s T-Mobile IN) and the rise of Asian popular music festi-
vals (e.g. Summer Sonic Festival in Japan) have resulted in a non-stop rat race
for superstars. Intensified global competition for fans, artists and sponsors has
saturated and concentrated the music festival market (Leenders et al. 2005).
Inflating production costs and artists’ often excessive financial demands only
emphasized the need for market consolidation, as the commercial risks to
booking top international acts were unjustifiable for local organizers.
Economic globalization processes encompassing both horizontal and
vertical integration strategies have thus also affected the live music and its
festival market. Over the years a worldwide network of concert promot-
ers wherein local agencies are horizontally integrated to provide a seamless
one-stop-shop for global touring has continued to expand. Additionally,
trends towards vertical integration (e.g. through 360° business models) have
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tightened connections between concert and festival promoters, record and
publishing companies, booking and management agencies, ticket distributors
and merchandise vendors (Bishop 2005). Eventually, this consolidation proc-
ess will lead to a music business controlled by a limited number of key actors
at all business levels, which will contribute to a system where access to the
concert and festival market increasingly relies on ties to the few dominant
firms in the industry. This evolution that has tied significant market power to
a few key global players may allow them to exercise more control over ticket
prices, booking policies and even threaten cultural diversity if local talent has
to make way for blockbusters.
The next section will demonstrate these tendencies by looking into how
Live Nation, the world’s key player in the globalized live music industry,
integrated both horizontally and vertically the Belgian popular music festi-
val market. It analyses Live Nation’s market structure, share and position, its
influence on booking policies, ticketing and the supply of local talent on the
Belgian popular music festival scene.
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Market structure
Live Nation is a big name in the live music and festival business. Its company
profile shows that it is the largest producer of live concerts in the world. With
over 21,000 shows by more than 2300 artists in 57 countries annually Live
Nation, listed on the New York Stock Exchange (LYV) and headquartered in
Los Angeles, sold over 47 million concert tickets in 2010. Its core business is
producing, marketing and selling live music with artists, as well as ticketing
and building the industry’s artist-to-fan vertically integrated concert platform.
Its new music division, Artist Nation, has signed superstars such as Madonna,
U2, Jay-Z and Shakira, and manages their record releases, merchandise, tours
and sponsorship. Not to mention that in 2010 Live Nation was promoting some
of the industry’s biggest tours including those by U2, Lady Gaga and Roger
Waters. The company has subsidiaries in 22 countries, and operates or controls
about 150 music venues worldwide. Additionally, the company produces the
largest network of music festivals with almost 30 festivals globally including
the Reading and Download Festival (see http://www.livenation.com).
As part of its acquisition politics this live music behemoth jumped aboard
a country in the heart of Europe as well: Belgium. Belgium may be a small
country but it is a leader in the world of live music festivals: more than
280 music festivals collectively attract about five million visitors each year.
Between 1999 and 2004, the total number of festival days almost quadrupled
(Colpaert and Lauwereysen 2006). Thanks to this growth Belgium holds an
excellent reputation and some festivals have received worldwide recognition.
The Rock Werchter festival (320,000 visitors), for example, won the Arthur
Award for ‘best music festival in the world’ at the International Live Music
Conference in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Apart from this leading rock music
festival, Belgium hosts diverse summer music festivals including the alternative
Pukkelpop and Dour, dance event Tomorrowland, metal meeting Graspop,
and large-scale pop festivals as Marktrock and Suikerrock.
Live Nation has integrated this Belgian festival scene and the live music
business in general both horizontally and vertically. The 2001 takeover acquired
the reigning competing Belgian local concert organizations, management and
booking agencies, and other subsidiaries (i.e. promoters Make It Happen,
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Minerva Entertainment, On the Rox, Saarman, Sound & Vision and Fiesta,
and the ticketing company Events Management and Consultancy) and
brought them under one roof. Through the former SFX, Live Nation also
bought most of the companies behind the famous major Belgian music
festival, Rock Werchter. The fusion between the former local concert organi-
zations and booking agencies that were competitors at the same produc-
tion and distribution level in the same relevant market eliminated the rivalry
between the merging parties and directly lessened competition (Evens 2005;
Huijgh 04/08/2006, 02/08/2006; Huijgh and Segers 2005).
Moreover, Live Nation’s business structure also reveals vertical integra-
tion tendencies as the company is simultaneously a booking agency, concert
promoter and festival organizer, and its business model is characterized by
interdependency between these divisions. This double gatekeeper role implies
that Live Nation’s impact in this festival market is significant. As a booking
agency, it supplies (inter)national artists to most main music festivals. In this
context, competing festival organizers complain that the company reserves the
most popular artists for its own stages. As all festivals need popular artists who
attract large crowds to ensure commercial success, their experience is that the
most desirable artists are scheduled at festivals that are (co-)organized by Live
Nation. Several interviewed festival organizers argue that ‘they [Live Nation]
have the means to make their competitors weaker or stronger by providing the
wrong or right artists’. Two years after the Live Nation buy-out, for instance,
one of the only remaining leading local competitors (Variety) that was not been
taken over was forced to cancel its summer Beach Rock festival (a pop music
festival known for its international crowd-drawers) and blamed Live Nation
for it: ‘It became impossible to compete with Clear Channel [now Live Nation ]
and get the big names on our program. Clear Channel did not want to book
groups if they played on our festival’. In order to boost the careers of the artists
they represent, Live Nation Belgium also often books rather unknown bands
at their major stages. This provokes frustration amongst the smaller festival
organizers as these promising bands are within their financial capabilities.
Apart from changing the festival market’s structure, the entrance of Live
Nation has barely changed its local festival organization booking policies.
Previously, Make It Happen and On The Rox controlled these markets and
were gatekeepers to the international artists. Whereas Make It Happen mainly
focused on pop music and mega events, On The Rox focused on rock music.
The merger of both companies has changed little according to some inter-
viewed festival organizers: ‘We still phone the same persons if we need artists,
and their booking policy and artist roster is still the same’. This booking policy,
however, is one wherein the supply of crowd-drawers is kept limited so as
to avoid overexposing specific artists in the Belgian festival market and thus
maximize consumers’ demands for it, which implies that only a few established
festivals have access to the ‘big’ names. This results in regional exclusivity, and
higher booking and commission fees. Interviewees from local festival organ-
izations have said that ‘Live Nation virtually controls the festival market by
deciding which artist performs at what stage while favouring its own’.
Market share and position
The previous discussion surrounding Live Nation also being a booking agency
that supplies artists to its major competitors in the festival market indi-
cates that its double gatekeeper role may result in conflicts of interest and
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1. Thefour-firm
concentrationratio
(C4)isthemost
commonvariable
usedtomeasurethe
marketstructureofan
industry.Theratiois
theshareofindustry
salesaccountedforby
thefourlargestfirmsin
themarket.
2. TheHHIusesafunction
ofalltheindividual
firm’smarketsharesto
measureconcentration
inagivenmarketand
equalsthesumof
thesquaredmarket
shares(expressedas
apercentage)ofeach
firmintheindustry.
Althoughitisthe
mostcommonlyused
functionforyears,it
hasreceivedattention
onlysincethe
DepartmentofJustice
startedusingitto
evaluatemergers(see
Perloffetal.2007).
3. Marketsinwhich
theHHIisbetween
1000and1800points
areconsidered
tobemoderately
concentrated.A
HHIhigherthan
1800indicatesa
concentratedmarket
(USDepartmentof
JusticeandtheFederal
TradeCommission
1997).
discriminatory practices. As a booking agency, Live Nation represents virtu-
ally all popular artists and is the market leader. Conflicts with Live Nation can
lead to situations where local festival organizers are deprived access to crowd-
drawing artists because their festivals may be competing with one Live Nation
is directly or indirectly supporting. Without access to Live Nation’s roster of
artists, festival organizers may find it difficult to form a compelling musical
line-up and be economically sustainable. All this suggests that Live Nation
holds a central position in the Belgian festival market, at which we will now
have a closer look.
Live Nation’s footprint on the Belgian festival market has been expanding
over the years. The company not only provides artists to these local festivals,
but is increasingly involved in the (co-)production and organization of the larg-
est music festivals including Rock Werchter, TW Classic, Werchter Boutique,
Pukkelpop, Graspop, Dour, Suikerrock, Les Ardentes and I Love Techno (see
http://www.livenation.be). Though a concentrated business model does not
necessarily equal market power, horizontal and vertical integration tendencies
are considered to be one of the most significant strategies used in the music
industry to obtain market dominance.
To measure the Belgian festival market’s concentration and Live Nation’s
position in it, several indicators (such as the density, four-firm ratio (C4),
Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) and market share, see Table 1) are exam-
ined whereby we build further upon secondary data (Schoutheet 2007) to
provide a firm overview of the matter. The research data is spread over a
period of nine years and is based on a random sample survey of the homo-
geneous and well-defined research population of 32 local music festivals.
The following three measurements were applied: (1) density; calculating the
number of competitors in a certain year, (2) four-firm ratio (C4) summing the
market shares of the top four organizations1 and (3) HHI presenting the distri-
bution of the top four’s market share and a compilation of the broader festival
market.2 These concentration measures have proven their validity for applica-
tion within the creative industries sector (e.g. Alexander 2002; O’Hagan and
Neligan 2001).
While the number of local festival booking agencies doubled between 2001
and 2009 (from 24 to 50), the figures for the four leading players including
Live Nation, remained fairly consistent. In the 2001–2009 period, the respec-
tive quadrumvirate swallowed up a minimum of 53% (2006) and a maximum
of 65% (2003) of the festival booking agency market. Over the same time span,
the HHI varied from a minimum of 1874 (2005) to a maximum of 3175 (2003).3
These high indexes are largely due to the most important player, Live Nation’s
approximately 50% market share, which declined between 2004 and 2007 but
remains sharply in contrast with the market shares of other local medium and
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Market share Live Nation (%) 47.97 51.14 53.96 41.11 46.47 42.97 43.57 47.12 50.83
HHI 2813 2957 3175 2031 1874 2105 2012 2783 3014
C4 (%) 60 64 65 55 58 53 54 57 62
Density 24 33 31 40 46 50 48 49 50
(Source: Schoutheet (2007), verified and completed with the authors research of primary data).
Table 1: Concentration of the Belgian festival market and the market position of Live Nation.
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smaller booking agencies. The market shares indicate that local music festi-
vals regularly book between 40 and 50% of their artists through Live Nation
Belgium. The European Court has stated that dominance can be presumed in
the absence of evidence to the contrary if an undertaking holds a market share
persistently above 50 per cent. If the percentage balances between 40 and
50 per cent, which until now has been the case for Live Nation Belgium, addi-
tional factors have to be taken into consideration to mark out an organization
as ‘individually dominant’ (Office of Fair Trading 2004; European Union 2004).
In this context, the quite remarkable growth of small festival booking agencies
on the one hand, and product differentiation on the other, make the idea of
‘monopolistic competition’ noteworthy (Schoutheet 2007).
Monopolistic competition refers to a market situation where a group of
firms sell closely related differentiated products (Perloff et al. 2007). While the
largest Belgian booking agency, Live Nation, is specialized in the supply of
international artists and Belgian crowd-drawers, small- and medium-scale
local booking agencies have gained unique experience in alternative pop and
rock artist niches. The variety of these small local agencies, characterized by
distinctive competences that cannot be easily duplicated by rivals and strate-
gies enhancing their exclusivity and individuality, are not a direct substitute
for Live Nation Belgium.
Instead of being competitors, about 60 per cent of local festival organiz-
ers bring in artists from several booking agencies according to the following
formula: artists, not the booking agencies, are the initial focus, with two head-
liners generally being booked via Live Nation and several others via more
specific agencies. In this manner, starting from a narrow market definition
of ‘booking agencies of international artists’, it is fair to say that Live Nation
Belgium is virtually the only provider, while any other broader market defini-
tion will counterbalance Live Nation’s monopoly position.
Ticket prices
However, the European Commission by virtue of Article 82 of the European
Union’s competition policy, which deals with abuses from dominant compa-
nies that exclude other competitors does not prohibit the existence of a
monopoly, but only the abuse of such a position, consisting of the unfair
treatment of consumers, other trading parties, or suppliers (Commission of
European Community 2007). Especially at the level of the consumer, Live
Nation’s alleged abuse of a dominant market position is criticized in terms of
driving up ticket prices both in America and Europe (see Krueger 2005).
In recent years prices for popular music concerts have exploded while
attendance has barely dropped. While American concert prices grew much
faster than the rate of inflation (8.9 per cent a year versus 2.3 per cent;
see Krueger 2005), in Europe prices for music festivals also seem to have
skyrocketed. The environment of monopolistic competition in which the
Belgian festival market is situated allows for price elasticity (Landsburg 1995).
For that reason, and without rendering a verdict on abuse, data on the
evolution of ticket prices at some of Live Nation’s major festivals, including
Rock Werchter, has been analysed in an international context.
The evolution in ticket prices for four of the largest of Live Nation’s
European summer rock festivals (Rock Werchter in Belgium, Pinkpop in the
Netherlands, Roskilde in Denmark and the Carling Weekend in Leeds and
Reading; United Kingdom), with each attracting around 100,000 daily visitors,
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were retrieved. Festival prices were adjusted for overall inflation, calculated
for the various concert dates (though economies of scale cannot be excluded).
To make the data as comparable as possible, a Laspeyres Price Index (LPI) for
festival prices was applied, which measures the annual rise in cost relative to
that in the reference year, 2000, known as the base period (Hill 2006).
The results show that ticket prices for popular music festivals have acceler-
ated upwards in recent years. The Dutch Pinkpop festival realized the strong-
est growth of any festival staged between 2000 and 2009. After holding its
prices relatively constant over four years, its 2007 prices increased sharply due
to past financial difficulties. With a LPI of 214.35, which means that prices
have increased by 114.35% since 2000, ticket prices have more than doubled.
Prices for the Carling Weekend, and to a lesser extent Roskilde, follow a more
continuous pattern while it is clear that ticket prices for Rock Werchter have
not grown as quickly as for other top European festivals.
Generally speaking, Werchter ticket prices have grown by about 70%
over the last ten years. This finding has been counterbalanced however with
a 40% increase over the past four years. It appears that Rock Werchter imple-
mented price adaptations in order to stay competitive in the festival landscape.
Whereas limited competition in the internal market originally tempered price
increases, the expanding international struggle for artists has been driving up
ticket prices in recent years.
When considering the weighted daily ticket price for the investigated
summer festivals, the results show that ticket prices in the Low Countries
(Belgium and the Netherlands) are the lowest in Europe. Together with
Pinkpop, the four-day Rock Werchter festival is by far the least expensive of the
top European music festivals considered in the study. Factoring in all aspects,
in 2009 with 56 bands playing compared to 40 at Pinkpop (three days) for
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Rock Werchter (Belgium) 106.40 115.32 106.11 109.49 116.53 129.43 156.84 159.35 167.88
Pinkpop (Netherland) 110.80 128.79 144.54 145.77 145.59 151.50 183.28 197.12 214.35
Roskilde (Denmark) 100.29 100.29 133.70 134.89 147.07 155.57 173.03 193.75 206.15
Carling Weekend
(United Kingdom)
99.69 112.68 118.18 130.18 154.46 166.39 178.02 191.23 212.99
Table 2: Laspeyres Price Index (base period 2000, exclusively inflation).
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Rock Werchter
(Belgium)
26.35 28.86 26.58 27.42 29.19 32.42 39.29 39.84 41.79
Pinkpop
(Netherlands)
23.74 27.60 30.97 31.24 31.10 32.46 39.27 42.24 45.93
Roskilde (Denmark) 28.47 28.47 37.95 38.29 41.75 44.16 49.12 55.00 58.52
Carling Weekend
(United Kingdom)
39.14 44.24 46.40 51.29 60.65 65.33 69.90 75.08 83.63
Table 3: Weighted daily ticket prices (in Euros).
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about 40 Euros a day, it can be argued that the Belgian Rock Werchter offers
good value for money. The results do not deny that Live Nation Belgium is
raising its prices, yet they demonstrate that despite the company’s dominant
position, Belgian festival tickets are still the cheapest among all the countries
investigated and therefore it is hard to speak in terms of abuse of dominant
position as the unfair treatment of consumers.
Local talent onstage
Changing market structures and local festival markets increasingly becoming
part of one global company can not only affect consumers through ticketing;
it can also potentially lead to Americanization of local supply, especially if the
global player is based in America. When local companies in Belgium were
bought out by Live Nation, more fuel was added to the debate of how market
mechanisms would influence homogenization of the products provided.
Questions have arisen as to whether cultural diversity would be threatened
and to what extent the corporate takeover of local companies by an American
behemoth would affect the supply of local talent.
Vertical and horizontal integration thus also resuscitate the old canard
of the cultural imperialism (or Americanization) thesis. This, in short, refers
to the inexorable character of cultural penetration and synchronization in
order to extrapolate capitalistic values from dominant cultures into more
peripheral ones. The thesis of Americanization directs such developments at
the level of the United States and implies that the production of local music
is forced to follow the conventions and formulae of American corporations,
which are considered responsible for the disappearance of local cultures
(e.g. Laing 1996). This thesis has been under fire from scholars who stress the
importance of local music within the globalization process in several ways (see
Gebesmair and Smudits 2001; Malm and Wallis 2003). It is within such a
framework that the following empirical results have to be understood, as from
our results and similar to our broader research into Live Nation Belgium’s
concert agenda, it seems that its major popular music festival, Rock Werchter,
has offered more stage to local talent since Live Nation took it over.
While the share of Belgian artists is increasing the data provide no
evidence of an increasing proportion of American artists in the programming
of Rock Werchter. Between 1997 and 2007, the total proportion of concerts
given by Belgian artists at the festival stage almost doubled: from 12 per cent
in 1997 to about 22 per cent in 2007. It is not only established Belgian artists
who are performing on these stages, as newer and younger talent is increas-
ingly getting the opportunity to perform within festival contexts as well.
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001* 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Belgian
artists
12 17 21 25 19 22 22 21 23 22 22 12 16 16
American
artists
35 44 33 30 32 34 34 36 35 31 32 43 37 35
* Before 2001: aggregation Make It Happen, On the Rox and Sound & Vision.
(Source: authors’ research of primary data and Evens and Huijgh (11/06/2008); Huijgh (02/08/2006); Huijgh and
Segers (2005)).
Table 4: Percentage of Belgian and American artists in Rock Werchter’s (RW) playlists.
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However, the share of local acts has decreased in the last three years. The
share of performances by American artists has remained almost the same.
Notwithstanding bridging the gap between the proportion of Belgian and
American artists onstage in the last decade, American artists remain the larg-
est group. Briefly, one can speak of an enduring Americanization of the supply,
but one that has moved at a slower pace since Live Nation took over (see also
Evens and Huijgh 11/06/2008; Huijgh 02/08/2006; Huijgh and Segers 2005).
Yet American artists have always dominated the Belgian popular music market
and local artists are increasingly singing English lyrics in order to get perform-
ance opportunities at foreign stages. Though this needs further research, the
export of local talent through worldwide global conglomerate networks could
also be seen as an important advantage rather than a threat coming from a
globalized music market.

Like many other industrial branches, the creative industries are increasingly
faced with challenges brought on by globalization. In many of them a few
leading conglomerates dominate and divide the international market. In music
as well, the dominance of the leading record label companies (‘Big Four’) still
exists, albeit that the Internet as a distribution and listening platform has truly
shaken the industry. As a survival strategy, music companies have tightened
links with more profitable sectors of the music industry and have strengthened
vertical integration. Record companies especially team up with the live music
and festival sector, which has gained importance as an established branch of
the creative industries in recent years.
This live music and festival industry, as part of the broader creative indus-
tries sector, traditionally a sector with local roots, has also been affected by
the cultural and economic globalization process. The most significant devel-
opment has been widespread international consolidation aimed at the
establishment of a worldwide promoters network wherein local agencies
are integrated. Moreover, vertical integration tendencies have tightened
connections between several industrial roles (recording, promotion, booking,
ticketing, merchandising) and have facilitated the emergence of global music
conglomerates that have used their dominant positions to climb aboard local
markets. This is exemplified by the rise of worldwide music promoters such as
Live Nation and AEG. Such globalization processes may profoundly impact
the structure of local music markets and may cause considerable challenges for
local festival organizers. Festivals need a compelling line-up to attract visitors
and are therefore dependent on booking agencies for the supply of (expensive)
crowd-drawers. They are also increasingly managed as multi-million dollar
companies and need to make profits that can be used as working capital for
bridging the time to the next summer festival.
Set against the backdrop of this enduring globalization of the festival
industry, this article has focused on the impact of the world’s leading global
live music promoter, Live Nation, on the local festival market in Belgium.
Through horizontal and vertical integration processes, Live Nation changed
the structure of the Belgian festival market and turned the previous rivalry
between the fusing parties into a concentrated business model that relies
heavily on a double gatekeeper role. The entrance of Live Nation into the
Belgian festival market has led to a more concentrated industry both from
a vertical and horizontal viewpoint, but our analysis also demonstrates that
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festival organizers have experienced little change with regard to the booking
policy and market behaviour of the leading player.
With a market share of between 40 and 50 per cent, Live Nation also
appears to be the main, but not exclusive, provider of artists for local music
festivals. In a Belgian popular music festival landscape characterized by
monopolistic competition, a high market share does not necessarily equal
abuse of market power, especially not at the consumer level. This is illustrated
by the fact that ticket prices for Rock Werchter, repeatedly heralded as the
best music festival in the world, have increased at a considerably slower rate
than similar European festivals and are still among the cheapest. It is strik-
ing that while Live Nation Belgium occupies a quasi-monopoly position in
the festival market, the local festival business is flourishing and ticket prices
are the lowest. Additionally, and though in contrast with fears of American
hegemony, our analysis demonstrates that Live Nation has stimulated local
talent at Rock Werchter although American artists remain by far the most
imported group on Belgian festival stages.
Despite these global influences festival markets seem to have somehow
remained a locally based industry run by locals. This conclusion is related
to the underlying (re)production, distribution and consumption logics that
differentiate this ‘peripheral’ industry from traditional creative industries
such as the music recording industry. Based on a thorough knowledge and
understanding of the local market conditions these specificities may stress the
need for local involvement and may be somewhat different from core creative
industries. So while globalization of the local festival scene has certainly been
a big deal in terms of market power, it has not necessarily been the worst
possible outcome in terms of turning the live music and festival market into
one melting pot either; especially within Belgium.
As Live Nation Belgium has celebrated its decennial, it was timely to
explore its impact on the local festival market and look to the future. Looking
into the future however means stressing the fact that Belgium is not alone,
especially with Live Nation having cut a swath across Europe, establishing
itself from north to south and east to west and celebrating a decade of its
presence in several other countries. These findings must thus be understood
not as predetermined facts but rather as an invitation for scholars to open
future debate on this crucial but understudied topic in countries where this
global conglomerate has also been having a manifest impact on the festival
market.

Alexander, P. (2002), ‘Market structure of the domestic music recording
industry, 1890–1998’, Historical Methods, 35: 3, pp. 129–32.
Bårdsen, S. R. (2010), ‘The not so festive finances of music festivals’, paper
presented at 16th International Conference on Cultural Economics, 9–12 June,
Copenhagen, Denmark.
Baumol, W. (1996), ‘Children of the performing arts, the economic dilemma’,
Journal of Cultural Economics, 20: 3, pp. 183–206.
Baumol, W. and Bowen, W. (1966), Performing Arts: The Economic Dilemma,
New York: Twentieth Century Fund.
Bishop, J. (2005), ‘Building international empires of sound: Concentrations
of power and property in the “Global” music market’, Popular Music and
Society, 28: 4, pp. 443–71.
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SUGGESTED CITATION
Huijgh, E. and Evens, T. (2012), ‘No big deal!? Live Nation’s impact on the
Belgian festival market’, Creative Industries Journal 5: 1+2, pp. 87–103,
doi: 10.1386/cij.5.1-2.87_1
CONTrIbUTOr DETAIlS
Ellen Huijgh is a visiting scholar at Carleton University in Canada, and
researcher associated with the Political Science Department of the University
of Antwerp in Belgium and the Netherlands Institute of International Relations
in the Hague. She is currently conducting research into the public diplomacy
of North American, European and non-western countries, including the role
of non-state actors, such as the creative industries, in it. She has been the
guest-editor of a special issue of the Hague Journal of Diplomacy (2012) on
this topic, and published in English and French academic journals and books.
She worked as a research fellow for the Flemish inter-university Centre for
International Policy, the inter-university Centre Re-creative Flanders and
the Communication Department of the Free University Brussels where she
investigated the EU’s competition policy and creative industries, Live Nation
Belgium, and Flanders’ cultural industries policy.
Contact: University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobstraat 2, BE-2000 Antwerpen,
Belgium.
E-mail: ehuijgh@clingendael.nl
Tom Evens is a senior researcher at the Research Group for Media & ICT
(iMinds-MICT), which is affiliated to Ghent University, Belgium. He specializes
in the economics and policies of media and creative industries. In previous
years, he studied the Belgian live music and festival market structure; and
investigated the mechanisms of ticket pricing in the live entertainment sector.
He has published widely on media business and policy issues in international
peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. He recently (2013) published the
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book Playing To Win: The Political Economy of Television Sports Rights (together
with Petros Iosifidis and Paul Smith).
Contact: Ghent University, iMinds-MICT, Korte Meer 7–9–11, 9000 Gent,
Belgium.
E-mail: tom.evens@ugent.be
Ellen Huijgh and Tom Evens has asserted their right under the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work in
the format that was submitted to Intellect Ltd.
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... Her interviews with start-up festival organizers found that they did not expect to make a profit in the first few years of operation, hence their initial losses were treated as an investment in the brand, in the hope that repeat attendance at future events would lead to economic sustainability. As a result, it is common for festivals to be supported by "personal savings, angel investors or other more profitable businesses run by the festival directors" (51), or for funding to be sought from sponsors, local authorities, and arts funding bodies (Anderton 2019a;Dee 2018;Huijgh & Evens 2012). My own longitudinal research of the British music festival market has shown that the sector demonstrates a high level of volatility, with the average lifespan of an outdoor festival being only three years (Anderton 2019a, 47). ...
... In the United Kingdom, the AIF has expressed particular concern about this because many high-profile artists are represented by Live Nation for their concert bookings, hence will be booked for events that are managed or controlled by Live Nation acting in its capacity as a festival promoter (a form of vertical integration that will be discussed in the next section). Similar concerns have been raised in other countries, including Belgium, where research by Huijgh and Evens (2012) showed that the most financially desirable international artists were typically booked for Live Nation events, and that the Beach Rock festival publicly blamed Live Nation for its closure, suggesting that it could not effectively compete for headliners (92). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
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