Lack of concert venues means shrinking sector
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Smaller audience numbers due to a lack of large venues and a lack of alcohol sales will ultimately breed less sponsorship support and increased ticket prices, according to sources in the sector. Hürriyet photo
Istanbul has long suffered from a paucity of proper concert venues capable of hosting large numbers of spectators, but the sector is expected to become even tighter with the disappearance of two important open-air event spaces.
Last month, santralistanbul at Istanbul Bilgi University announced that it was stopping sales of alcoholic beverages on its premises, while Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena along the Bosphorus announced last week that its concert area would soon be replaced by a luxury hotel.
Both venues are booked for upcoming prominent concerts, but the alcohol ban at santralistanbul convinced the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), a leading entertainment agency in Turkey, to move its Stevie Wonder and Feist concerts to Küçükçiftlik Park, Istanbul’s only remaining open-air and “non-dry” concert venue.
The lack of alcohol licenses at venues like Türk Telekom Arena, which is often unavailable as it is the home ground of Galatasaray football club, or Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theater make such venues a second-rate choice for concert promoters as revenues from alcohol sales are indispensible in a sector that operates within limited profit margins.
Parkorman, another open-air venue which has been closed for two years since it was purchased by the Bilgili Group, made a brief comeback this summer with a few small-scale concerts and Tuborg Gold Fest. Hezarfen Airport, which is home to the Rock’n Coke festival, has the same license problem, and it is extremely likely that the upcoming Rock’n Coke will be dry, like the Efes Pilsen One Love Festival, if it does not reconsider its venue options.
But finding a new venue is not so easy when the only option is Küçükçiftlik Park, which has a smaller size compared to football stadiums and university campuses. The concert promotion agency Pozitif, which organizes both the Rock’n Coke and Efes Pilsen One Love Festival, could not change the venue for its upcoming Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, which is to take place at santralistanbul on Sept. 8, because no other venue has enough capacity for the desired number of concertgoers.
Conservative pressure forces alcohol ban
santralistanbul’s woes began after the conservative anti-alcohol Turkish Green Crescent campaigned to the Istanbul Governor’s Office to cancel the Efes Pilsen One Love Festival on July 14 and 15 due to alcohol sales.
The tension rose when conservative locals living in Eyüp, the conservative district in which the venue is located, insisted on banning alcohol from the event. Faced with the mounting pressure, santralistanbul banned alcohol sales but only informed organizers 30 minutes before the doors opened.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later told daily Taraf that he personally called the venue owners and advised them to ban the sales of alcohol.
The Turkish Green Crescent also attempted to halt alcohol sales at the Tuborg Gold Festival at Parkorman in early July, but was reportedly prevented from entering the premises.
What is happening at the Turkcell Kuruçeşme Arena is altogether a different story. Hürriyet Daily News previously reported in its business section that Astaş Holding, which has already brought the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to Turkey’s western seaside town of Bodrum, plans to partner with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group to build a hotel on the 15,000-square-meter lot, which will have 200 meters of waterfront view. The holding is also conducting feasibility studies for another luxury 100- to 150-room hotel in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet neighborhood.
Paradoxically, amid the contraction in the number of concert venues, Istanbul’s music scene is booming with a growing influx of foreign bands. While the shrinking number of venues bodes well for Küçükçiftlik’s immediate future, smaller audience numbers due to a lack of large venues and a lack of alcohol sales will ultimately breed less sponsorship support and increased ticket prices, according to sources in the sector. Increased ticket prices could result in reduced audience demand, undermining an otherwise booming sector.