Rob van Wegen is the leading force behind ESNS-Sustainability: He has already gained distinctive experience for this job during his five years at Innofest, a cooperative lab and network enabling the implementation of progressive eco-friendly solutions among others for festivals. Having also worked for fifteen years at festivals, three years ago, he became the sustainability co-ordinator for ESNS. As part of this, last year he developed a plan and roadmap that supports festivals for the mission of transformation towards a greener future.

ESNS-Exchange asked Rob van Wegen about the related challenges that accompany the process of conversion into ecological-friendly music ventures and about the launch of “Green Touring Support for ESNS”, a special programme for ESNS artists, that supplies funding for eco-friendly travel.

Who else are you in contact with for the mission of ESNS Sustainability and are there any other organisations, companies or individuals you consider as forerunners?
There are front runners on different sides and we need them all. For example, Go Group (part of Yourope), A Greener Festival and Julie’s Bicycle on sharing information and helping people to become more sustainable.  Every country has its own leading festivals pushing for a more sustainable industry. Established artists for making a change in their existing way of touring and bringing the information to the audience during their concerts and the upcoming new artists that start off with all the knowledge, know and make it part of their story and speaking out. It is about pushing boundaries and learning along the way. We still have a lot of roads to travel and we know the way, but haven’t walked it yet, so we might encounter some problems, so everyone who takes a step is part of this movement, and we need to communicate because we need forerunners to help lead the way but we need everyone to join in and follow closely behind.

The number of artists on tours demanding vegetarian or even vegan food is rising. Still yet this can be considered as a first milestone, what else can and should artists do to improve their ecological footprint?
For most of the parties, the biggest impact is in travel. Flying being a big impact maker, and then time and money become a factor quickly. Think of it like this: it might be easy for your plans, but your environmental impact is high. If you add the cost and effort of proper CO2 removal to your flight price and think about the true price of travel plans, the sustainable options will win more times.

Another thing to think about, is what do you ask for at the venues?  And do you ask the places you go, what they do regarding sustainability? Just asking the question, makes them aware that they need to do something. You can ask for electric cars for transport, or ask if your hotel has a green key certification. And what can you do yourself? What do you really need on your tour? And check if the merch is made from ecologically organic materials.

And finally, speak up if you think an issue is important. And we know that there is so much to speak up about, but this can be one of them! And don’t let perfection become the enemy of the good: if you want to do good, but are not sure it’s the perfect way, state your story and ask for help and knowledge. You learn along the way, so don’t be scared of making small mistakes, they give you the chance to become better.

The awareness for sustainability measures seems to be there. But obviously, these also come with higher expenses. ESNS Sustainability considers this aspect and apparently you may have a solution in mind. Please explain what this is all about…
To help shift towards sustainable travel we initiated the Green Touring Support for ESNS artists who played in 2022, we cover the financial gap between their normal plans and their sustainable travel plans to encourage the transition:

With this we want to let artists experience the more sustainable options of travelling and tell the story so they can inspire others, if you make this change as soon as possible, the bigger the impact in the long run. We see artists change from plane to train or invest in new gear so they can travel light and compact and can switch from a van to train. Acts can request the difference between the regular tour costs and the green tour costs from ESNS, up to a maximum of 1,000 euros

Various other industries receive funding for the transformation to run their business more eco-friendly. Does the music sector need to improve its lobbying efforts in order to be treated equally compared to other and bigger industries?
First of all, the funding for none eco-friendly business needs to be re-evaluated. Money is always a factor, so help is needed to lower the threshold to make a positive change. There are many steps to take, so we need help to take them and money is one of the factors to stimulate this change. And when people are stimulated, businesses can follow and soon after, a snowball effect can happen.

Some of the forerunners that have been mentioned before are doing great work already, but they can’t do it all on their own. So, collaboration and pushing forward to action, also with lobbying, are necessary. Equality is always something that needs to be improved, and then I don’t mean to get the same treatment, but get the right treatment so everybody has the same chances, in ways of sustainability but in other areas like diversity and inclusion because this also has an influence on making the world a better place.

Nienaß could be described as being a progressive politician. However, like many full-time politicians, he has a professional background as a lawyer. This is certainly an advantage considering that the daily business of parliamentarians is basically the development and creation of laws.

In reference to the current political situation and with particular regard to the recent past, the mainly less subsidized part of the music sector has learned its political lessons. Having discovered how relevant and to a certain extent how helpful the political consideration for this part of the creative industries is.

Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned, that there are other parts of the cultural sector which have for a long time benefitted from the awareness and consideration of politicians and governments, something that popular culture and music can still only dream of. On the other hand, prior to the COVID pandemic, the pop culture sector was widely financially self-sufficient. In other words, the art form of pop culture and music, which is mainly aimed at a younger audience, is more used to paying for their cultural preferences themselves.

This is a little different however when you consider that other cultural sectors, such as classical music, theatre, museums and even film, both politically and financially wise,  have more fans than the pop music sector. Perhaps the answer is driven by the average age in politics and that, unlike other industries, younger people do not invest so much in lobbying.

ESNS-Exchange asked Niklas Nienaß his advice on how the European music sector can be considered as equally as the film sector; the political agenda of CCFG and his perceptions and the impact of external investments by Anglo-Saxon, Saudi Arabia and Asian investment firms within the business segments of music publishing and live music:

A CCFG delegation recently visited the Cannes Film Festival. More than 50 percent of the budget for Creative Europe is dedicated to the support of the film and audiovisual sector. What can the music sector learn from the film sector in order to obtain similar well-structured support schemes?

Niklas NIENASS in the EP in Brussels
Copyright European Union

First off, despite the parallels of the two sectors, one can’t really compare the AV one with the music sector in this regard. Music, different from movies, has a strong live component and is partly dependant on physical and group events. With regards to support schemes, the MEDIA sub-programme of Creative Europe is more than three decades old (founded in 1990) and MEDIA an established brand which helps the AV sector a lot. It could be interesting for the music sector to strive for a dedicated MUSIC sub-programme in the next Creative Europe from 2028 rather than staying part of the CULTURE sub-programme. But we have already achieved quite something for the music sector in the current Creative Europe programme, a stronger focus on music. There is also an increasingly good representation of the sector, which is very important in order to bring about change. And yet, there is still more potential for the European music sector to speak with an even more united voice.

The music sector, like other cultural branches, is still in turmoil. In fact it looks like the live music sector in particular is facing longer lasting problems in the near future. What kind of political considerations currently matters within CCFG that might be of benefit also for this part of the creative industries?

CCFG – Logo

The live music sector is one of those hit the hardest by the pandemic, for many reasons. The CCFG has taken several initiatives to improve the situation (improving several files by tabling amendments, e.g. RRF, Covid-19 impact; written questions to Commission, open letters e.g. on social protection schemes). However, one has to consider that the Commission or national Member States are in charge of re-shaping and supporting the cultural branches.  The CCFG seeks to impact EU legislation mostly with regards to long-term effects. And our doors are always open for representatives of the (live) music sector, events and panels to network and raise awareness.

Investment companies are currently enabling and financing major deals within the business segments of music publishing and live music. These are mostly Anglo-Saxon funds but to a lower extent as well, wealthy power players from the Arabic and Asian world who are significantly changing the landscape of ownership in the music sector. One of the consequences is the drain of financial gains out of the European music markets towards non-European based investors. Are you concerned about such developments and how is the CCFG tackling this issue?
Culture is way too important for our whole society to let investment companies play games with it. Financial interest should never be the sole or main interest and driving force behind the music business. This might be a naive approach, but that’s what I’m deeply convinced of and what we should all be fighting for. In the end and from a creative perspective, it seemingly doesn’t matter where the investment companies come from, but as a convinced pro-European I have to say that it should also be in our political interest as the EU to keep control over our cultural & creative industries. And to keep the rights of European cultural works in Europe. The impact of what with we can do with the CCFG in this specific field of investments is relatively limited, but in the context of our fight for a diverse European cultural ecosystem it is definitely a development that we’re concerned about and we’ll keep on observing it.

Follow CCFG on Twitter:

Follow Niklas Nienaß on Twitter:

As the war in Ukraine rages on and with the number of deaths rising and the scale of devastation growing, the demand for explanations increases exponentially. The TV magazine Tracks with “Tracks East” undertakes an attempt to investigate the cultural perspectives of this hostile and horrific crusade by the autocratic regime in the Kremlin against its neighbouring country.

The series of Tracks East consists of ten episodes, featuring media coverage from various journalists, activists and artists from Eastern Europe (mostly from Russia and Ukraine). The journalistic core is an in-depth evaluation of the specific cultural, political and social issues that have arisen from this war.

Tracks East has been broadcasting since June 7th and is available online in both German and French through the Arte channel on Youtube with subtitles in Ukrainian, English, Spanish, Italian and Polish. Additionally, a Russian language version will be streamed as part of the Russian Youtube channel of Deutsche Welle.

To start with it is recommended to watch one of the weekly episodes of „Fake News: Doschd x Tracks East“, a pretty outstanding and even humorous report in English by Masha Borzunova, a former journalist at the previously banned Russian TV station Doschd.

ESNS-Exchange asked Wolfgang Bergmann, Managing Director ARTE Deutschland GmbH and ARTE – Coordinator of ZDF, about this special edition of Tracks East:

Tracks is widely known as being a TV magazine dedicated to popular culture and music. The variety of eligible topics for Tracks East instead has been significantly expanded, taking in both political and society issues. However, in terms of media coverage the subject of “culture” ranks pretty low during times of war. With this in mind, what are your expectations for Tracks East when the current news situation is mostly driven by horrific news caused by the war in Ukraine?

Wolfgang Bergmann, Geschäftsführer ARTE Deutschland (ZDF)
Copyright ZDF – Arte

Culture is an integral part of life and it is life that is being ended, threatened dramatically and altered by war. With Tracks East we created a platform to witness this shift through the eyes of those at the very forefront of it: journalists and content creators from Eastern Europe and Russia; they determine which topics are relevant and how they are being discussed. No more Westplaining, more listening. What we learn from them is that culture as such, as well as the lives of creative individuals, are dramatically changing. We see filmmakers, DJs, and artists that have taken to arms to defend their country. Outside of the immediate war zones, artists from Ukraine, Russia and post-Soviet countries turn into activists against the war. Creatives in neighbouring countries to Russia and Ukraine are fighting the fight against propaganda and for their own identities, while for some, continuing their work is an act of resistance itself. 

The first edition of Tracks East is entitled “Truth between the frontlines.” In fact, on the battlefield of “truth”, we see a massive advantage by Russian propaganda forces that apparently in Russia at least, seems to reach very far.

Isn’t it rather disillusioning for a journalistic driven magazine to report on this issue, being aware that this edition will probably not receive the attention it deserves in Russia?
The cooperation with Deutsche Welle allows for the contents to be distributed via their Russian speaking channel on Youtube with a significant reach in Russia and into the Russian speaking communities outside of Russia. First and foremost though, our programme is made for our Arte audience and that is everybody in Germany and France and, through Arte Europe, Poland, Italy, the UK and Spain. Here are two examples for the distribution via Deutsche Welle:

The Truth about War: Who to Believe, or Where Does Propaganda Lead?
Правда о войне: кому верить, или К чему приводит пропаганда?

Protests against the war in Russia still possible? On resistance against all odds
Протесты против войны в России еще возможны? О сопротивлении несмотря ни на что

Besides the war by Russia against Ukraine there are currently many more ongoing brutal conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, the Republic of The Congo and Syria. How meaningful is the special edition of Tracks East as a driver for the general journalistic profile of a culture magazine such as Tracks?
The Russian invasion represents a decisive turning point for ideas, thoughts and visions for Europe which is at the editorial core of Arte. Tracks East is one of a variety of journalistic reactions to this shift; it is not the only one and the Ukrainian war is not the only conflict we closely follow in our various programmes.

Tracks East: Propaganda and Truth

More on Tracks is available on:

Text: Manfred Tari

ESNS Exchange results
The British minimalist rock group Yard Act seems to be a favourite amongst the bookers of European festivals. The four-piece has no less than eleven bookings by ESNS Exchange festivals to its name. Alyona Alyona, Priya Ragu, and Wet Leg are close runner-ups all with 8 shows at ESNS Exchange partner festivals. Here is a top 10 of the most booked acts and a top 10 of the most booked acts per country;


*results filtered by the most booked artist per country

Find a full overview of the results of ESNS Exchange 2022 at

About ESNS Exchange
ESNS Exchange, the European talent exchange programme, formerly known as ETEP was introduced in 2003 to make the ‘exchange’ of European artists across Europe possible on a greater scale than ever before. An initiative of ESNS, ESNS Exchange facilitates the bookings of European acts on festivals outside their home countries and generates extensive media exposure for these artists in cooperation with Euroradio, export offices and local media. This way, ESNS Exchange aims to give a boost to the international careers of European artists.

First results
With ESNS 2022 behind us, the first results are in. With 133 bookings by 77 artists from 20 countries, the programme is proving its worth for the live music sector. To give the acts that played at a digital ESNS edition due to COVID an extra push, the ESNS Exchange pool of this year represents artists from both ESNS 2021 and 2022. Here is a top 10 of the most booked acts and a top 10 of the most booked acts per country;

*Results filtered by the most booked artist per country

As yet, acts from the United Kingdom and Switzerland are not supported financially by ESNS Exchange. ESNS is negotiating this with the (export) offices that represent these countries. It will depend on the outcome of these negotiations whether acts are financially supported performing at the ESNS Exchange festivals in 2022.

Find a full overview of the first results of ESNS Exchange 2022 at

While this is good news for the ESNS Exchange programme, our thoughts are with the people in Ukraine. If you want to help out, let your voice be heard online or support Ukrainian artists like GO-A, Alina Pash and Alyona Alyona who are part of ESNS Exchange. Music journalists and the wider music communities of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have created this playlist filled with Ukrainian artists: Get to know how you can additionally help via Global Citizen.

ESNS donated money to MusicSavesUA, a project from All-Ukrainian Association of Music Events, including Atlas Festival, who need financial assistance urgently for the humanitarian needs of the civilians in Ukraine. We urge you to do the same:

2021 results
In a year where we still had to deal with a pandemic that had a firm grip on the music industry, many ESNS Exchange festivals had to be cancelled or postponed. To still succeed in its mission, to give emerging acts as much exposure as possible, the strategy of ESNS Exchange had to be adjusted. Like last year, next to booking the ESNS Exchange artists, the festivals were allowed to promote the acts on their platforms if their festival could not take place. Also, 2020 and 2021 acts were eligible to be booked or promoted through ESNS Exchange. This resulted in 79 promotions for 59 acts. These acts came from 22 different countries and were booked by 37 festivals from 20 countries. 100 acts from  29 countries played 141 shows at 39 different festivals in 21 countries. In total there were 134 different emerging artists from 31 countries supported by bookings or promotions from ESNS Exchange festivals.
Most booked acts
Although a lot of festivals weren’t able to take place the way they used to, still, a lot of acts were booked to play festivals or were promoted on platforms of ESNS Exchange festivals. The most popular acts of 2021 were;

    1. Altin Gün (nl) – 6 (2 shows, 4 promotions)
      Molchat Doma (by) – 6 (4 shows, 2 promotions)
    2. Los Bitchos (gb) – 5 (4 shows, 1 promotion)
      My Ugly Clementine (at) – 5 (1 show, 4 promotions)
    3. Alicia Edelweiss (at) – 4 (4 shows)
      Meskerem Mees (be) – 4 (3 shows, 1 promotion)
      Sinead O’Brien (ie) – 4 (3 shows, 1 promotion)
      Alyona Alyona (ua) – 4 (2 shows, 2 promotions)

About ESNS Exchange
The European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP), now ESNS Exchange, was introduced in 2003 to make the ‘exchange’ of European artists across Europe possible on a greater scale than ever before. An initiative of ESNS, ETEP facilitates the bookings of European acts on festivals outside their home countries and generates extensive media exposure for these artists in cooperation with Euroradio, export offices and local media. This way, ESNS Exchange aims to give a boost to the international careers of European artists.

So, perhaps now is a good moment to ask Ubenauf how he managed to keep the company running when the core business of satis&fy has been more or less suspended for such a long time?  
Nico Ubenauf: The first six months were really tough, after that it got much better. When the pandemic started, we secured our liquidity, pretty much like every company in the business. Then we made sure to inform our stakeholders on a regular basis and worked on securing government help and bank loans.

At the same time, we transformed our business to offer alternative services that would still generate revenue. We built over 24 digital studios across Europe and US, and we focused on innovative retail installations. That got us back to around 50 percent of our usual revenue.

Your company announced a significant investment in a new sound system, enabling satis&fy to serve live shows right up to arena and stadium levels.
Yes, we made a significant investment into additional sound systems because we believe in a strong rebound effect in 2022. We have numerous requests and bookings for the period starting in May 2022 and we want to make sure that we can deliver. After 2 years of touring-lockdown virtually everyone wants to get on tour as soon as possible. That will be very interesting.

You also run branches in the US. What can you tell us about the situation for events and concerts over there?
We see a huge difference from state to state. We run operations in NYC, Portland (Oregon) and Los Angeles. These states are slowly coming back, but more slowly than some of the southern states, for example Florida, Texas and Nevada.

Some of my colleagues are reporting strong business in the southern states with country music and festivals. We see our local business coming back but big corporate companies are still hesitant about the larger shows.

Looking forward to 2022, what are your expectations for your business in terms of tours and festivals?
I believe that festivals and national touring will start early. International touring will probably be the very last thing that will go “back to live”. I think we will see a strong rebound with national touring starting in April/May 2022. International touring hopefully late summer.

When speaking to promoters and agents, most of them now are confronted with fewer and slower ticket sales. Could it be the case that the recovery of the live music sector may take longer than other industries?
The slower ticket sales are worrying. I believe there are two reasons: the main one is that people have already seen their concerts being postponed twice. They want to wait until it is absolutely certain before they purchase a ticket again.

The second reason is that there will be a limited ticket budget for each individual and so many stars will go on tour. I think many people will have to select which show they want to go to. This also slows down current sales.

You also are one of the co-founders of Alarmstufe Rot, an initiative by various players from the German live entertainment economy, lobbying for an appropriate support in the political sphere. What are your findings and what are your recommendations as to how the live music sector should survive the ongoing crisis?
My findings are that the entire live events community needs to come together and lobby as one strong group. There are hundreds of small associations and not one of them has a strong voice in politics. This needs to change. And we have very similar needs when it comes to political lobbying. Therefore, clubs, concert promoters, DJs, technical suppliers, trade show companies, venue operators and all the other different trades need to come together. We are a huge industry if we combine our forces, but if we don’t, we remain invisible to politicians.

The international circulation of artists has been drastically interrupted by Covid-19, and we also noticed that the policy of a border-free Europe has been partially suspended. Does the live music sector need to improve its lobby efforts on a European level, as this situation might last even longer and needs more and better awareness by political and governmental bodies?
As stated before, we need to combine our forces in the live events industry. Not only on a national level but also internationally. The pandemic pushed all of us closer together and initiatives like #wemakeevents are great examples.

Currently we are totally misrepresented on a European level. We basically don’t exist. This is in sharp contrast to the effect artist appearances have in a society. Imagine if our industry was seen as an important factor for the stability of our society, and just like politicians are allowed to travel and gather, international artists would also be exempt from pandemic rules to perform in public. Crazy idea? Well, the truth is that right now we don’t even have anyone on a European level to discuss any crazy ideas with our political leaders.

Interview: Manfred Tari

Around eight years ago Parmley took over ILMC from Martin Hopewell, the founder of the event, for whom he previously worked as the editor in chief of IQ Magazine, while at the same time also contributing to the conference agenda of ILMC.

Still too young to be called an industry veteran, he is nevertheless a highly experienced player within the international live music circuit. His expertise goes even further; according to Guinness World Records, he holds the world record in the category ‘Most music festivals visited in one month’, for visiting 26 European festivals in 30 days. After the recently held IFF, we asked Parmley about his observation regarding the state of festivals and the situation of UK agencies in the post-Brexit era.

Two suspended festival seasons in a row. How has this affected the International Festival Forum and how was the overall mood among delegates regarding this situation?
Greg Parmley: We welcomed 600 delegates from 30 countries, which is a small reduction on 2019 but to be expected. The mood was sensational – by far the biggest takeaway for me actually. Given that ILMC 18months ago was the last time a lot of people saw each other, the mood was positive and upbeat – it was life affirming to see so many people come back together again.

Apparently the live music sector is still badly affected by the pandemic. From a UK perspective and in particular in consideration of the relevance of UK concert agencies for the European concert market, what are your expectations on the short and longterm consequences of this for UK artists in Europe? Covid will have far less of an impact on this than Brexit, which is posing new barriers for U.K. artists touring in Europe. There’s a lot of lobbying and work happening behind the scenes currently to iron out the most obvious issues like cabotage and work permits. It’ll be bumpy in the short term, but it’s in everyone’s interest to make touring as smooth as possible in the future.

Due to all the restrictions caused by the pandemic, some of those festival promoters that were able to put on events during the open-air season 2021 booked more domestic than international acts. Does this development may have an impact on the artist portfolio of UK agencies?
No, I don’t think so. In 2022 we’ll see a resumption of international touring, and with it the continued demand for great artists from different markets. The pandemic has certainly given a boost to some domestic artists, so that’s also a positive.

Festival tourism before the pandemic drove the growths of certain festivals in East Europe as well as those focused on specific genres. Travel restrictions caused problems for the availability of international artists, but more important for those kinds of events is the lack of festival goers from abroad. How long do you expect the recovery process for festival tourism will last?
From Going out in London at the moment, it’s clear that Covid is over – people are socialising more than ever and the genie is not going back into the bottle. As a global society we have to live with extra mitigations like face masks on transport, and vaccines, but life is returning at full force. By summer 2022 it’s almost unimaginable that festival fans won’t be traveling overseas to events as they did up until 2019. 

Nobody can deny that there have been other types of industries and businesses that received better support and tailor-made funding schemes by governments than the live music industry. Any kind of lessons live music trade organisations have or should have gained out of this?
Yes, we learnt that by speaking with one voice you can accomplish much more. And speaking up. Before Covid the live industry had never had to engage with the government. Now everyone sees the value in that.

At least in the UK it was recently seen that artists are addressing political decision takers regarding topics that matter for them. There was the open letter by UK-artists sent to Boris Johnson regarding unfair payment schemes of streaming revenues, as well as interviews by the likes of Elton John complaining about the difficulties for UK talents to play concerts and tours in Europe due to Brexit. As lobbying efforts by music trade organisations apparently didn’t deliver satisfying results, can we expect that artist-driven initiatives will achieve more and better recognition by politicians?
It makes a big difference when big name artists speak up. Elton has been a fantastic champion for UK artists on Brexit. Artists vocalising what they think politically is no longer uncool or unwanted.

Ticket sales and visitor figures for all type of events are still much lower than before the pandemic. Would you agree that there needs to be a proper campaign to restore confidence by consumers and are live music companies and trade bodies are even ready for such a mission yet?
Definitely. It’s vital that we restore consumer confidence in going back to live events. Especially given that they’re safe and well run and with all the appropriate measures in place.

Interview: Manfred Tari

Instead of now digging deep into a text-jungle going along with this headline, it might be more appropriate to ask a politician to explain what this initiative is all about.

Even more appropriate it appears to be that in the context of culture, MEP Alexis Georgoulis is a very rare kind of a politician. Before being elected as member of the European Parliament, Georgoulis enjoyed a successful career as a film actor and theatre director, so he knows pretty well the situation of artists and what it means to work within the culture sector.

Georgoulis is a member of the Greek party Syriza and since 2019 a member of the Left group in the European Parliament. Besides the credibility of Georgoulis as a member of the cultural community, it additionally needs to be mentioned that the EU-resolution ‘Call for minimum social standards for artists and cultural workers’ can be considered as a genuine political milestone. It covers a lot of topics which are also meaningful for the music sector.

Please explain the political meaning of the resolution ‘European Status of the Artist’ and its likely impact on the European Commission?
Alexis Georgoulis: This resolution acknowledges the precariousness of artists’ status even before Covid-19 pandemic, which is due to the non-standard nature of their working conditions, social security and income. It refers to the obstacles they face regarding cross border mobility, because of the multiple artists’ definitions and frameworks that coexist in the EU. Thus, it proposes the elaboration of a common European framework for working conditions, social security and health care in cultural and creative sectors and industries, so as to establish minimum standards. Moreover, it urges the Member States (MS) to financially support Creative and Cultural Sectors and at the same time to defend and respect artistic freedom associated with the fundamental right to freedom of expression. As you know culture is a national issue, so this text is not a binding one. Nevertheless, it brings this difficult issue on the table, it can boost the debate and push the Commission to organize an exchange of best practices among MS and to monitor the progress made.

Apparently you made a lot of contributions to the draft report of amendments in the ongoing document of this resolution. How would you describe the political process and proceedings with the politicians within the Culture Committee of the European Parliament for this resolution?
Evidently, I was very interested in the report that was discussed in the CULT Committee (Culture Committee) before the issue came in the Plenary. That is why as Shadow Rapporteur I submitted 63 amendments to improve it and finally 57 of my amendments were adopted, primarily those concerning social security and the creation of a minimum common European framework for the employment and insurance rights of artists and cultural workers. I confess that a spirit of consent dominated the CULT Committee. The amendments that didn’t gather sufficient support concerned mainly measures to promote gender equality, such as strengthening the presence of women in cultural decision-making positions as well as a common European code of conduct to ensure the safety of artists in both their schools and their work and to protect them from any form of harassment, violence and abuse of power in general. However, I’m bringing back this last issue with a new question to the Commission.

Are you pleased with the voting result from the European Parliament?
Yes, indeed, because the Resolution was adopted by a vast majority. The same happened a year ago in the case of the Resolution on the cultural recovery of Europe which was supported by all major groups and adopted by an overwhelming majority. It seems that there is an unanimity on culture issues in the European Parliament.

One of the topics refers to ‘Copyright income and streaming platforms.’ The distribution of payments from streaming revenues is widely described as very uneven. What kind of political options do you consider as being needed to enhance payment schemes between streaming platforms, content creators and suppliers?
The Cultural Creators Friendship Group (CCFG), a European Parliament cross-party group, in which I participate actively, has worked a lot on this issue. Artists should have a fair remuneration for their work, the same as all working people. The problem can be solved, if article 18 of the directive 790/2019 is implemented in all MS (Member States.) This directive should have been adopted in national legislations before July 2021. However, only a minority of MS have completed the legislative procedure. I have raised this problem with a letter and a question to the Commission. Eventually, all MS will incorporate article 18 in their legislation to avoid the fines, but it is crucial to do it as quickly as possible, since the pandemic has given a greater importance to the role to the platforms, while the numbers of live events have seriously decreased. Naturally, it is not enough to provide the right law; the implementation of the legislation must be closely monitored so that it is respected.

One of the amendments to the resolution from yourself says: “whereas public grants are considered the most vital and effective form of financial support for some of the CCS, but are often overcomplicated and too difficult to access for those who need them the most;” What kind of opportunities you as a politician have to improve bureaucratic burdens and is it even imaginable that administrative bodies are able to adopt more citizen-friendly policies?
Cultural organizations and institutions or large artist groups have the luxury of employing competent staff to deal with the complicated procedures in applying for public funding. However, the ones who need this financial support the most are those who cannot pay someone else to prepare the required documents and they themselves have no experience in such procedures. During the discussions with the Council and the Commission on the new Creative Europe, the European Parliament demanded emphatically that we declare in the text that the programme must be easily accessible and that the bureaucratic burden must decrease. Now we need to see the implementation of these paragraphs. What is important is that the administrative bodies that run the programme know that they will be assessed regarding the demand for user-friendly procedures. They cannot ignore this.

Earlier on in May 2020 a briefing entitled as ‘EU support for artists and the cultural and creative sector during the coronavirus crisis’ by the European Parliamentary Research Service were published. In just twelve pages this report only briefly covers the situation at this stage of the pandemic within the cultural sector. However, it also reveals that many meaningful aspects such as market concentration or the financial gap between the institutionalized culture sector and non-funded culture ventures have not been considered appropriately. Would you say such one-sided evaluations are based on the lack of knowledge or are such reports written due to political preferences?
With the elements the European Parliamentary Research Service had at its disposal, it would be difficult to produce something much more detailed and comprehensive. The collection of data regarding the Creative and Cultural Sectors is quite problematic. Myself I only realized it after the eruption of the pandemic, when there was an urgent need for concrete data in order to propose suitable measures to support artists and cultural workers. My assistants were searching for data and we found out that EUROSTAT could not provide them. It is then that we decided to create the ‘European Observatory for Culture’ on my website, where we publish studies and information useful for those who are interested in cultural matters.

I have insisted on several occasions that, in order to take the right decisions, policy makers ought to base them on a concrete and clear image of the reality of the field. The political aspect of this problem is that until now decision makers did not consider it necessary to ask EUROSTAT to collect detailed information on artists, productions etc., for example on the institutionalized and non-institutionalized cultural sectors. I have submitted a question to the Commission about the lack of data. Thanks to the pandemic the need to fill this void is more than evident, so I hope some initiative will be taken about this. A Greek proverb says “all bad things have a positive side”.

Support schemes and funding for popular music compared to those for classical music, theatre, film or other so called serious arts are still very rare. The Raad voor Cultuur (Council for Culture) in the Netherlands filed a recommendation to treat popular music in terms of funding equally to classical music in 2017. One of the arguments therefore has been that every part of society should equally benefit from the public support of culture according to their preferences. Do we need younger or more progressive politicians to change the current political mindset for better balanced cultural policies in Europe to serve the interests of all parts of society more evenly?
In my opinion the political mindset is not determined by age. There are young people with backward ideas and older people with fresh and progressive ones. What is important is to be open minded and to truly value the fundamental European principles in all domains, including culture. Thus, it is not democratic to support some kinds of art and not others financially, for example to support concerts of classical music and not of rock music. Because citizens are free to like whatever style of music they want and politicians should respect their choices by distributing funds in a fair way. While progressive way of thinking is the most important thing for balanced policies, age is also important for another reason. Young politicians tend to be more up to date regarding the evolution of technology, web platforms, etc., something rather important in order to understand some of the current problems and to search their solutions. 

In the article ‘Culture, creativity and coronavirus: time for EU action’ for the newsletter ‘Social Europe’ Elena Polivtseva, head of the lobbying organisation ‘International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts’, stated: “What has been lacking, however, is a focus on those who ‘make’ culture—the artists and cultural professionals.” You are yourself an actor, what are your observations according to the remark of Polivtseva in reference to the political landscape in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe?
I agree with her point of view. Although lately the EU texts recognize the importance of culture for both societal and personal well being as well as its contribution to the economy, this discourse is not consistently translated into concrete action. To recognize the contribution of culture means to recognize the contribution of the artists and cultural workers who create art, and, consequently, to sufficiently support them, especially during these difficult times. The Resolution which was voted by the European Parliament a year ago proposed that 2% of the budget for the national recovery plans should be attributed to the Creative and Cultural Sectors (CCS), since they were extremely heavily hit by the pandemic. It seems that the Commission did not encourage the MS in this direction. As far as the MS are concerned, the big differences regarding the support of CCS – which already existed across the EU – were magnified during the pandemic. The fact that artists used their creativity to find ways to continue to produce and offer art meant to some people that they don’t need substantial aid, since they are ‘resilient’, they are capable of adapting themselves and  surviving. However, the artists’ struggle for survival does not at all improve their ability to contribute to art nor to society.

Interview by Manfred Tari

Welcome to Episode 4 of the We Talk : Live Music podcast, brought to you by Once again your host, Paul Cheetham, is surrounded by guests of the very highest quality.

You might have already heard about showcase festivals and programs like ETEP (European Talent Exchange Program), but what do they do exactly and how do they help Artists, Festivals and Agents move forward?

In this episode we dig deeper into ETEP and talk to some of the people involved about their experiences and how they have benefited from the program…

Listen to the episode here!