LONDON — BMG continues to grow its live music and event business in Germany by signing a two-year lease on Berlin’s historic 1,600-capacity Theater des Westens.
Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which runs until the end of 2024 and will see the 126-year-old venue host stage musicals written by BMG-published songwriters, as well as residences by German and international recording artists.
The lease agreement comes almost two years after BMG, the so-called ‘fourth major’ music company, first entered the live business by acquiring a majority stake in German live music promoter Undercover GmbH.
That was followed last fall with the purchase of a majority stake in the events company behind Germany’s Taubertal Festival. This year’s sold-out 25th anniversary edition took place Aug. 11-14 featuring performances by Biffy Clyro, Kontra K, AnnenMayKantereit and Kraftklub.
BMG’s live music and event business unit, which exists within BMG Germany, is also enjoying burgeoning success as a producer of original stage musicals.
Its first stage production, Ku’damm 56 – Das Musical, which was co-developed by BMG-signed songwriters Peter Plate and Ulf Leo Sommer, premiered at Berlin’s Theater des Westens in November 2021 and has sold over 200,000 tickets to date, says BMG. The German-language show has received seven nominations at the prestigious German Musical Theater Awards, held at Hamburg’s Schmidts Tivoli Oct. 10.
Following its domestic breakthrough, BMG is looking to gain a foothold in the American theatrical business. In January, the company debuted its first U.S. stage musical, Punk Rock Girl!, at the Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village, Long Island, NY. The musical has been developed in partnership with New York-based Lively McCabe Entertainment and features female-written or female-fronted songs from the BMG catalog, including Blondie, P!nk, Avril Lavigne, Pat Benatar and Sleater-Kinney.
The country music-themed musical May We All, co-produced by BMG, Lively McCabe and Florida Georgia Line, premiered June 7 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Upcoming musicals being developed by BMG and Lively McCabe include a new wave themed production and a holiday show, while the German language musical Romeo & Julia will premiere at Berlin’s Theater des Westens March 19.
In a statement, BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch called the historic Berlin venue, which has previously hosted events featuring Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker and is operated by the Netherlands-based live entertainment company Stage Entertainment, “arguably the greatest theater in the German capital.”
“As a Berlin-born company, and the only German-owned and managed global player in the music industry, we are proud to make this investment in the musical life of our hometown,” said Masuch about the two-year lease.
BMG says it will work with other entertainment businesses owned by parent company Bertelsmann, such as book publisher Penguin Random House or German commercial broadcaster RTL, to widen programming opportunities at the Theater des Westens beyond music acts and stage musicals.
“Bringing high-end artist residencies to Berlin is a first for Germany,” says BMG chief content officer Dominique Casimir. “We see a particular opportunity for established artists who want to present a high-end show in a beautiful venue rather than embarking on a regular tour.”