From German Discos To Stadiums: How Dieter Semmelmann Became A Powerhouse Promoter
By: Gideon Gottfried
Kai HeimbergDieter SemmelmannFounder and CEO of Semmel Concerts
From starting out at his parents’ local discotheque in Franconia, Germany, to selling close to four-and-a-half million tickets across Europe in 2018, what sounds like a promoter fairy tale is the real-life story of Semmel Concerts founder Dieter Semmelmann.
Last year, the company submitted an impressive 1,197 box office reports to Pollstar, showing a total of 4,473,744 tickets sold and $272,162,482 grossed. But Semmelmann’s rise didn’t happen overnight. Pollstar asked the man himself what it took to become one of Germany’s, and indeed Europe’s, most successful concert promoters.
Germans love cover bands, and Semmelmann’s family satisfied demand at their Franconia venue. “Even back then, live performances appealed more to me than recorded music,” Semmelmann remembered. “I always watched the audience, which celebrated enthusiastically. I’ve always found that exciting.”
Toni KretschmerRoland Kaiser, one of SemmelmannIn this picture, the iconic Schlager singer thanks the crowd at “Filmnächste am Elbufer” in Dresden, Germany
While working at his parents’ business, Semmelmann learned how to put together live shows, from simple jobs like sitting at the box office to higher-level tasks like booking bands. “Even when I started my own concert agency, I was still taking care of everything myself, from doing posters to printing tickets. Which is why to this day I appreciate the people doing the tedious jobs. I know this is not an easy business, and the jobs it creates aren’t either,” Semmelmann explained.
“I believe what has influenced me the most is that I got to know this business from the ground up. It enabled me to make better judgment calls than somebody who hasn’t had that experience,” he mused.
Semmel Concerts opened in 1991. In 1995, Semmelmann was among the local promoters involved in the The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge tour in Germany, his first taste of the stadium business. During those years, Semmel Concerts was the go-to local partner for major German promoters Marek Lieberberg and Peter Rieger, who let Semmel promote their international stars – including Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Tina Turner – in certain regions of the country as junior parter.
Semmel Concerts’ European breakthrough came when it promoted the German leg of bandleader James Last’s 1999 tour.
Robert FreibergerDieter SemmelmannOn stage at the Royal Albert Hall, where he joined James Last for his final UK shows in 2015.
In 2000, German live entertainment giant CTS Eventim acquired a majority stake of Semmel Concerts, which it still holds. Semmelmann utilized the synergy created by the partnership. “An aspiring promoter focusing on the north of Bavaria and East Germany wanted to widen its scope, and, on the other hand, had strong regional contacts that proved advantageous for the aspiring ticket provider Eventim,” he said.
And then came Helene Fischer. The superstar sold 1.3 million tickets across 87 dates between September 2017 and September 2018. Fischer’s 2018 highlights, according to Pollstar box office reports, include five consecutive shows at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, where she sold 57,428 tickets and grossed $4.91 million. Her stadium shows regularly grossed more than $3 million, including German dates at Frankfurt’s Commerzbank Arena ($3.14 million) and Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena ($3.60 million) on July 21 and 22, respectively. Her highest-grossing stadium show, a June 29 gig at Munich’s Olympic Stadium, sold 51,917 tickets for a gross of $4.16 million. Meanwhile, ticket prices stayed below $100.