ETEP.nl approached Niklas Nienaß, who can be considered one of those. At only 28, he is one of the youngest in the European Parliament, and as a member of the Green Party. Among other, things, he is a member of the Culture Committee at the European Parliament and one of the initiators, along with a group of 20 like-minded politicians, of the “Cultural Creators Friendship Group.”*

There are rumours, and some evidence, that he even enjoyed attending a music festival at least once , which is quite exceptional for most politicians. Additionally Nienaß represents a valuable opportunity to ask a political player about his view on the lack of lobbying for live music in Brussels, the awareness about pop music in political bodies and organisations, and the current status of the mission of “Music Moves  Europe”*** , created by the European Commission.

“The Cultural Creators Friendship Group (CCFG) is a cross-partisan coalition in the European Parliament (EP)”, what are the aims of this group and why in particular did you decide to use the term “cross-partisan”?
Niklas Nienaß: I initiated the CCFG more than a year ago in order to create a forum for like-minded Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who want to work on improving the situation of the cultural ecosystem, with a specific focus on those who actually create cultural works – songwriters, musicians, producers and all other kind of authors and performers as well as cultural workers. From the beginning, my idea had been to bring together MEPs from different backgrounds in terms of nationality, parliamentary committees, and of course different political groups – hence the term “cross-partisan”. I am really happy that our CCFG has more than 20 members from all six democratic political groups. It is important to note, though, that the CCFG is not an official body of the European Parliament, but rather an informal coalition of individual MEPs. What we do during our meetings and public conferences (at the moment only virtually) is to discuss current and upcoming EU legislation of relevance to the Cultural and Creative Sectors (CCS), exchange ideas with associations representing the CCS, and to make common public statements.

In the list of objectives as part of the agenda of CCFG, the second topic is “Improving relevant legal frameworks and industry practices.” Being aware of governmental institutions, how you would describe the impact of such a group in reference to policy making in general?
The CCFG is not formally involved in any decision-making processes, so as a group we can just raise awareness about certain issues and serve as an informal forum. But of course our members are – as individual MEPs – involved in many legislative processes. For example, we are currently negotiating the next Creative Europe programme with the Council and the Commission in the inter-institutional negotiation called “trilogue”. As the European Parliament, we have been fighting hard for many things important to the CCS, for instance a bigger budget. Three negotiators from the Parliament’s side – including the main rapporteur Massimiliano Smeriglio from the Socialists and myself – are members of the CCFG, which certainly helped during the negotiations. One should not underestimate how much politics is about personal trust between politicians, and being committed to fighting for authors’ and performers’ interests unites my colleagues and me. Finally, we should not forget that the CCFG is still a relatively new group and needs some time to establish itself. So in a way we’re still sowing the seeds, and will see in the upcoming years how much impact on policy making we can really have.

The creative sector is often highlighted as being economically relevant. However, the added value of culture and in of particular popular music towards our society is politically underrated, more or less ‘below the radar” of the vast majority in political bodies and organisations? Would you say this is a generational issue, or a simply due to a lack of awareness by politicians?
I think it is both. On the one hand, the understanding of what culture is certainly differs between generations and different backgrounds. Myself, I love going to rock music festivals because of their special atmosphere, reading books the old-school way, but also playing computer games. In that respect I have probably quite a different approach to culture and what culture means from many other people from other generations and backgrounds. It’s only natural that your personal approach shapes your understanding of something, and in the case of politicians this has an influence on legislation and therefore for example on how funding opportunities are made. But even more importantly, many politicians are simply not aware of the fact that culture – apart from fulfilling its very important role of being the emotional backbone of our society and at the core of our identity – is also of huge economic relevance. The CCS account for 7.8 million jobs and roughly 4% of our European GDP, hence contributing a lot to the EU’s economy.

Brussels is a hotspot for lobbyists and bureaucrats. Which music lobby organisations are the ones who frequently approach and interact with the members of CCFG?
The demand for something like the CCFG actually came from representatives of the CCS. After my election as MEP in July 2019, I was approached by a group of 12 European umbrella organisations representing authors’ and performers’ associations, led by AEPO-ARTIS and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA), who expressed their wish for MEPs to come together across political groups to support the interests of creators. This eventually led to the creation of the CCFG. And as the CCFG, we have been in touch with some of these associations with regards to specific projects or events. Just this week, the CCFG supported an online roundtable on music streaming, organised by the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA) and co-hosted by my CCFG colleague Alexis Georgoulis and myself. As for what the CCFG members do as individual MEPs, I cannot speak for my colleagues. Myself and my team are principally open to talk to and meet any organisation, but we also reach out to individuals from the CCS – or they contact us. I believe it is important to get as many different insights as possible, especially as a young and recently elected politician. And of course, we publish all meetings on the Parliament’s website. Everything is transparent.

Well, to be fair, the names you mentioned might represent only the tip of the ‘music’ iceberg. Especially organisations and associations from the live music sector and those who hare part of the distinctive DNA for popular music are missing. Doesn’t this lead once again to the issues of pop-culture igetting lost or being neglected within the cultural mindset of politicians, despite the fact that pop music in fact is very meaningful especially for young Europeans?
Of course, I am in contact also with representatives from the live music sector. However, it is true that, in terms of lobbying, the live music sector could be more visible than it usually is. Apart from exceptional times such as the current Covid-19 crisis period, physical presence in Brussels and opportunities to meet in person cannot be underestimated in the fight for political interests. But I wouldn’t say that because of this, pop-culture is being neglected – the reasons for this are related to a general lack of awareness among politicians rather than due to lack of lobbying and presence in Brussels. The problem here is also that the European music sector is quite complex and fragmented – be it the sub-sectors such as music education, recording industry, live music, or the diversity of languages and traditions, and increasingly so with digitisation. Hence, it is difficult for anyone – including policy makers – to get a good overview on the fast evolving reality of the music sector. But hopefully the situation will change soon: mentalities are changing, decision-makers are becoming more aware of the need to support the music sector more. One indicator for this is the fact that the Commission is considering the creation of a European Music Observatory that would gather and analyse data on trends in the music sector, and thereby enable decision-makers to take informed decision.

In reference to their mission of “Music Moves Europe”, the European Commission recently published a study of the market trends and gaps in funding needs for the music sector* it says: “However, music does not benefit from a dedicated funding programme, whereas other sectors benefit from tailor-made support (e.g. the audio-visual sector with the MEDIA sub-programme under Creative Europe). While a similar programme is not realistic for the 2021-2027 period, a more targeted set of measures could contribute to addressing this funding gap.” What are the political reasons behind the fact that the launch of a tailor-made funding programme for music hasn’t been considered in the budget period 2021-2027? Is it a lack of lobbying-efforts by the sector or lack of interest within politics?
It’s true that the audiovisual sector has had a tailored programme with the well-known MEDIA programme. In 2014, MEDIA became a sub-programme (“strand”) within the new Creative Europe initiative, with two other strands being “CULTURE” and “Cross Sectorial”. Since then, the Commission, as well as the Parliament have reflected upon the possibility of installing a similar action for music within the CULTURE strand. It started with the proposal for music as a pilot project, then a preparatory action, which we in the Parliament proposed and defended, and this became “Music Moves Europe”. The question remains today of how best to integrate it within the CULTURE strand when so little money is available, and other domains are yet to be developed. In this context, in the recent Creative Europe negotiations, some of my colleagues in the Parliament and I have been fighting hard to bring more visibility to music in the CULTURE strand of the programme and to secure a stronger focus on music, even if not using the wording “Music Moves Europe” anymore in the legislative proposition. Also not to be forgotten, the programme is the result of a compromise between the legislators – the Parliament and the Council – and it is up to the European Commission to implement the programme. MEDIA is the result of a long term approach by legislators, so now it is up to us to make a new, strong CULTURE strand a reality in the next rounds of negotiations, with an even stronger lobby towards the Council to deploy and secure adequate financing for the music sector. After all, music plays an important role in both the European Cultural and Creative Sectors, reaching the widest audience and employing more people than the AV sector.

What are your conclusions regarding the results of the Creators’ Roundtable on Streaming on December 1st?
Streaming is one of the biggest issues of the music sector and a threat to a fair and diverse ecosystem. That is why I was really glad to co-host the event and support it with the CCFG. I think it was a very interesting event, and the presentations and discussions made me aware of many problems related to music streaming. Let’s just take the different payment models – I already knew of concepts such as the user-centric payment system (UCPS), but to see the actual differences in concrete numbers, to see what it means for the individual songwriter or musicians, was quite shocking. One of my personal political focusses is on fighting for a diverse and sustainable cultural ecosystem, and streaming is definitely one of the aspects I will have an even closer look at in the future. Especially in times where live music is not possible, creators are suffering even more when there are no alternative sources of a fair income.

Interview: Manfred Tari

* http://www.culturalcreators.eu/

** http://invitation.culturalcreators.eu/

How do you cope with the decision to postpone MAMA 2020?
Fernando Ladeiro-Marques: The cancellation of MaMA 2020 was a difficult decision to make. We fought to the end so that the event could take place because the whole sector, silenced since March, needed to get together, to take stock of the consequences of this pandemic and to have a vision for the future of our sector. Professionals needed to get together and this feeling was confirmed by the large number of accreditations we were selling despite this context and uncertainty.

For several months now, based on the measures that were announced by the government, we have been adapting. We have dedicated this edition exclusively to professionals, depriving ourselves of the presence of the public and the revenues that go with it. We have reduced the number of people present in each space in order to comply with health requirements.

We made a “sanitary kit” consisting of a mask and gel that was to be given to each person present at the MaMA. We set up entry and exit checks in each room to ensure that the number of authorized people was not exceeded. We have condemned one seat out of two in each room…

With all these measures, however, we were able to offer 140 debates, lectures, and workshops (almost the usual number) as well as 84 concerts (instead of 160). Despite these restrictions, the 2020 edition remained an important event.

Then, in mid-September, new government measures were taken, for example, closing bars at 10pm. All concerts had to be rescheduled because some venues, in which bars occupy a large place, are considered as bars and not as concert venues. But, once again, we have adapted our arrangements to meet these measures and to be able to maintain the MaMA event.

Finally, other measures, each time more restrictive, were announced on Monday 5 October, one week before the MaMA event. These new measures (total closure of bars, prohibition of gatherings such as congresses) made it impossible to hold the event and we had to announce the cancellation of the MaMA event the next day, Tuesday 6 October.

It was a very hard decision. A week before the event, as you can imagine, a large part of our expenses had been incurred.

This is a very important economic loss, it’s also a shock for the whole team who have been fighting for months to make the event happen. But unfortunately, there was no alternative, no other option.

We were considering the possibility of offering some online conferences, but we cannot do a digital MaMA. In the first place; it’s not what our event is about. Our goal is to bring people together, to encourage meetings and collaborations. That is the added value of an event like MaMA.

Can young artists still gain awareness and reach their fans?
Among all the consequences of this crisis, some can be positive. The total absence of concerts as we like to experience them and the frustration it implies for the audience can bring the audience and the artists closer together. The internet can be a fantastic tool for rapprochement and dialogue.

For several years now, many artists have had direct contact with their audience via social networks. The current context can encourage the development of this type of direct relationship by offering the public new services.

What is the economic impact on the music sector?
The impact is terrible on the entire music industry and, in particular, the live music industry. We probably can’t oversee the effects just yet.

All the indicators are alarming, the recovery seems far ahead of us and many companies in our sector are likely to disappear around the world. This means there’s another danger looming; centralization and monopoly. This phenomenon (which did not wait for this crisis to distinguish itself) could take advantage of the pandemic and the economic crisis that follows to buy out the weakest and extend its monopolies.

The Corona crisis apparently is a long term game-changer.
What do you think this means?
We want to remain optimistic despite the current situation and the direct impact on MaMA.

Of course, today we are still in the dark, we have no visibility on the future, but we want to believe that things will evolve and that we will be able to meet again as early as next year.

As far as MaMA is concerned, we are fortunate to be in France, where culture is considered an important asset and where the government, but also our various partners, consider that it should be supported.

But, in the medium and long term, we can’t look into the future. It’s obvious that everyone is trying to imagine other ways of working, other ways.

This was, moreover, the priority objective of MaMA. We had brought together the entire industry, French and international, to take an overview of this pandemic in the music sector on the one hand, and on the other hand, to envisage future prospects.

What does this all mean for artist development in general?
It seems to me that, unfortunately, this crisis will have a major impact on the development of young artists. Production companies have been deeply affected by this pandemic and many of them are in a very fragile situation.

They will therefore focus on the already known artists who will guarantee them commercial success and they will rely much less on new talent for whom it is necessary to invest to hope for eventual success

What are the likely consequences for MaMA 2021?
For MaMA 2021, we are reassured for the time being. We have the full support of the vast majority of our partners. Nevertheless, the great vagueness that currently reigns in our sector does not offer us any guarantee. Of course, our partners support us but we don’t yet know to what extent they could be impacted on their side. If they were seriously affected, this could have consequences for MaMa.

Interview: Manfred Tari

The death of the US citizen George Floyd killed by a police officer on Tuesday, May 26, in Minneapolis triggered both peaceful and violent protests around the globe. Video footage showing how the “Gentle Giant”  died while handcuffed, when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes, went viral, leading to an international outcry, questioning brutal wrongdoing by police forces against black people.

The impact of the disturbing and traumatic pictures has been wide ranging and massive, as the incident itself is yet another example of so many similar tragic occurrences, where black people are brutalised and even killed by white people. Even in this period of a dramatic and deadly pandemic, the totally unwarranted and unnecessary death of George Floyd is generating outrage all over the world.

As was revealed afterwards, George Floyd has a history as a music artist. As “Big Floyd”, he was two meters tall, and was a member of the legendary Houston hip-hop innovator DJ Screw’s crew, ” according to reports in startribune.com (*1). But ultimately it was the filmed brutality of Floyd’s killing that has now led to a powerful response by the international music community, condemning and protesting against this execrable act of violence.

One of the most remarkable things is how popular female artists in particular instantly reacted and to the murder of George Floyd: Beyonce, Billie Eillish, Brittney Spears, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift, are just a few of the names who offered their solidarity and were unafraid to express their anger. Then there was also punk band “Vandalize”, who played a concert (*2) on a pickup truck at a demonstration in Los Angeles.  

By way of a consolidation of the anger and outrage, ”Blackout Tuesday” became a global campaign (*3) , featuring major music companies such as BMG, Live Nation, Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, as well as IMPALA, the trade organisation representing independent music companies.

But long before all this, back in the sixties when pop music and popular culture allied themselves with the civil rights movement, it was most usually hate crimes such as the murder of the activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in 1964 in Neshoba County, Mississippi and the shooting of Martin Luther King (1965) that contributed,  alongside the Vietnam War, to what later on led to the so called “Summer of Love” (*4) in 1967.

Due to the Corona-pandemic, 2020 will be the Summer of Silence for performing artists and the live music sector. From a historical perspective, Blackout Tuesday will be regarded as a meaningful part of 2020, and as proof of how pop culture and its protagonists – from the early days of the civil rights movement in the US, to Rock Against Racism (1976), Free Nelson Mandela (1984)  – Black Lives Matters is a necessary step towards contributing to the development of a liberal and democratic society.

George Floyd will be remembered as an activist in the long and bloody fight for freedom, but also hopefully as an artist who unfortunately gained popularity post mortem…

MENT x ETEP Session - A Debut for MENT, ETEP & Molchat Doma

Streaming in times of shut downs in Europe prospers. For the time being, the streaming of concerts is as close as we can get to the joy of seeing live music for music fans in quarantaine. 

In a joint effort ETEP-festival MENT backed by Multipraktik Film now delivers a 10 minutes set of Molchat Dolma, featuring the songs: Звёзды (Zvezdy), Судно (Sudno) & Волны (Volny).

The first MENT x ETEP Session has been recorded in the Computer Museum of Ljubljana on February 7, one day after Molchat Dolma delivered a proper concert at Gala Hala as part of MENT Festival.

Molchat Dolma internationally is gaining fans and recognition, playing sold out shows across Europe and they were even supposed to go on tour this spring in North America, including shows in Mexico City, major cities in the US and Canada.

Molchat Dolma has been founded in 2017 in Minsk, Belarus. Their current album “Этажи” (“Etazhi”) has been put out as a reissue by the US Label Scared Bones as well as their debut album “S Krysh Nashikh Domov.”

MENT described their music as a “dark blend of danceable post-punk, new wave and synth-pop pays tribute to the pioneers of the genre, whilst placing them among those ranks as well.”

More information on the band is available on https://molchatdoma.com/

Squid and Black Country, New Road heading this year’s first ETEP Charts

94 confirmed festival bookings for 2020 already

ESNS took place less than a month ago, but the ESNS talent exchange programme ETEP is already proving its worth. The exchange programme that focuses on offering European acts international opportunities has already resulted in 94 confirmed festival slots for 58 acts originating from 23 countries at 45 festivals. 

Interview with Codruta Vulcu

Vulcu is the founder and director of the ARTmania Festival in Sibiu in Romania, a location that indicates the geographical reach of ETEP. The festival is held in the centre of Sibiu and celebrates its 15th edition in 2020. Vulcu and her team even manage to add a music conference for professionals to the event, a worthwhile convention which allows other Europeans to discover and explore how the music sector works in this part of Europe. In return Vulcu attends several of those events in Europe, that she considers helpful for her activities at Artmania. Attending ESNS

has enabled her to undertake a profound analysis of ETEP and the situation for the live music sector in Eastern and Western Europe.    

Interview with Andraž Kajzer

Last weekend the MENT festival took place in Slovenia. The first ETEP festival of the year offered a selection of no less than 11 ETEP acts, originating from 10 different European countries: Molchat Doma (by), Anger (at), Balkan Taksim (ro), Black Country, New Road (gb), Bratři (cz), Buč Kesidi (rs), Eugenia Post Meridiem (it), Evija Vebere (lv), Fvlcrvm (sk), My Ugly Clementine (at) and The Qualitons (hu). Manfred Tari spoke to MENT’s Andraž Kajzer about the event’s involvement in ETEP and the promotion of Eastern-European music. 

Q&A with Codruta Vulcu

Internationally the work description for festival and concert promoters remains generally similar. Booking artists, investing creativity and economical confidence, while simultaneously taking care of promotion and production. But, if this fails to be exciting enough, perhaps you could try replacing artists with a Pope? As there are usually fewer popes than artists, even though certain artists may consider themselves some sort of spiritual leaders, putting a Pope on stage would appear a very rare occassion for the vast majority of concert promoters.

However, Codruta Vulcu does in fact belong to the very exclusive minority within the global community of concert promoters, who has in fact put a Pope on stage. To be precise she did this on June 2nd in Blaj in Romania in front of some 100.000 people. Taking into consideration the fact that the Vatican appears to be somewhat behind the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality, the staging of this event says a lot about her qualification and abilities. 

In terms of her secular and other professional activities, Vulcu is the founder and director of the ARTmania Festival in Sibiu in Romania, a location that indicates the geographical reach of ETEP. The festival is held in the centre of Sibiu and celebrates its 15th edition in 2020. Vulcu and her team even manage to add a music conference for professionals to the event, a worthwhile convention which allows other Europeans to discover and explore how the music sector works in this part of Europe. In return Vulcu attends several of those events in Europe, that she considers helpful for her activities at Artmania. Attending ESNS has enabled her to undertake a profound analysis of ETEP and the situation for the live music sector in Eastern and Western Europe.

Text: Manfred Tari

ETEP.nl: What are your personal observations of ESNS and in particular ETEP-artists for your festival ARTmania?

Codruta Vulcu: ESNS feels like the start of the New Year, for the entire European Music Industry.
This gets you get back into the concert and event mood again, and gets you get inspired by seeing new and super quality acts and inspires you to share new trends & developments with your international colleagues.

The conference also acts as the meeting point for some important associations within the industry, such as the health and safety departments, where you wrap up the conclusions of the previous year and start working on ideas & methods to improve the sector.

In regard to the artists, I start following the ETEP acts as soon as they are announced via the Eurosonic platform. It’s a great selection of premium acts, from different music genres, which we can already see will be the headliners of the future. During the event I go and also check how their live performance is, in order to decide about the final booking.

Also observing how the audience reacts to these acts, alongside the response of the professional community, gives me a clue to the potential of a particular musician or band.

ETEP.nl: When taking ETEP under scrutiny, which of the programme’s benefits comes into your mind first?

Codruta Vulcu: I think it’s very important, to have a good working exchange scheme in Europe for the musical repertoire. Europe was always about diversity and creativity and I strongly believe through this cultural exchange we learn more about each other. Also, we bring high added value to each other’s way of experiencing reality.

On a more practical level, for the festival organizer, the ETEP program already offers a great selection of acts from all the other European countries. It would be very hard to follow the new and upcoming acts from every country without this program.

Also, the attached financial scheme, helps you choose acts strictly based on the quality of the act and on the way you consider it best fits in your own festival line-up, despite the act maybe being unknown in your own territory. I think this helps the festival, but also the artists. Performing at several European festivals, which usually have both local and international campaigns, the artists manage to become known on a pan European level much faster.

ETEP.nl: What would be your recommendations for how ETEP could even be improved in the future?

Codruta Vulcu: For a festival organizer a wishful thinking would be to include or develop a similar program for the promotion of European festivals in other European countries.

I believe not only artists but also festivals, which are individual artistic products, generate a huge youth movement, within the continent. And this movement of youth to discover new festivals, to have new experiences, in new European countries helps us learn more about European cultural diversity, understand each other more, and, in the end, enhance the feeling of one big European family.

ETEP.nl: A few years ago there was an extra edition of ETEP named CEETEP, focusing on the needs of artists and festivals in Central Europe. Is there still a need for something like CEETEP that perhaps meet the needs of artists and festivals better than just ETEP in its current format?

Codruta Vulcu: Coming from the eastern part of Europe, I would strongly recommend something similar to CEETEP to be reignited. The market develops at a fast pace and supporting the local artists and the exchange of these artists within the regional festivals is vital for maintaining the diversity of the regional musical scene.

And maybe the young acts from this region need support more than any others in launching their music within the region and further towards Western Europe.

ETEP.nl: Please explain the market situation of festivals in Eastern Europe. Have you identified particular differences compared to festivals in Western Europe?

Codruta Vulcu: The festival market in Eastern Europe is booming for the moment, having several events recognised at an international level. From major festivals to boutique ones, from field events to city festivals, the region provides quality products for every taste. Most are usually organised with a lot of consideration to detail plus having the flavour of Eastern hospitality.

But I have realised a major difference, during the talks with my industry friends. In comparison to Western European festivals, those in Eastern Europe depend strongly on the marketing and sponsorship money of big companies. Without them, the festival scene would look completely different. And here is where I think the biggest challenge will be for us, in the future; how to make the festival scene sustainable when this supply of funds becomes redirected or cut because of potential financial recession periods or crises.

ETEP.nl: What kind of artists and bands are of interest for your event? Would you take on also newcomers and if so, what are your artistic preferences?

Codruta Vulcu: Despite only being in the ETEP programme with ARTmania festival, which is a rock and metal event, I am also listening and attending the shows of other musical genres. During the conference we scout for acts for several events we either organize, coproduce or only book.

And yes, I am checking the newcomers as they bring the fresh sound & vibe to any event. Not to mention that some of them will be the headliners of the future so we try to promote them on our market.

ETEP.nl: Do you promote ARTmania abroad in other countries and in case yes, in which countries?

Codruta Vulcu: We have not done that so far, but in 2020 we start promoting the event in Germany, Austria and the Nordic countries. Taking place in Sibiu, in a beautiful medieval town in the center of Transylvania, coming to the festival is not only about listening to your favourite acts, but also visiting some amazing city sites & surroundings.

ETEP.nl: Which festivals and music conferences do you intend to visit in 2020?

Codruta Vulcu: A must see for me this year are: Mad Cool festival in Spain, Iceland Airwaves in Iceland, Sea Star Festival in Croatia, NOS Alive in Portugal and Nova Rock in Austria.

As for conferences and showcase festivals these events are always a must: ESNS, ILMC, Reeperbahn Festival and International Festival Forum.

Q&A with Andraž Kajzer

When being asked by musicexport.at, why Ljubljana needs a music conference, Andraž Kajzer answered: “Our goal from the very beginning was to educate and inform the domestic scene and to connect with other scenes in Europe.” Adding: “A conference with a festival seemed like a great starting platform to.”

With its first edition in 2015, MENT meanwhile evolved and became an established hotspot for bands and music professionals in Slovenia and its neighbouring countries. MENT 2020, which took place on February 5 -7, hosted evening concerts by more than 70 artists  in 15 locations, also featuring  art projects and exhibitions. Not to forget a daytime conference programme with 40 topics, all English spoken, covering those subjects and issues that matter for the professional delegates.    

Andraž Kajzer is the artistic director of MENT, his c.v. is multilayered, indicating the working experience of somebody who must have a distinct passion for music and the music business. Kajzer previously worked as a sound engineer, a music journalist, radio programmer, concert agent, film producer, ran a record label and worked as a music producer.

Somewhere on the Internet it is also mentioned that he once served beer. In total a solid and holistic employment history, that goes even further than a 360 degree business model experience.

And now there is even something else very notable that speaks for the competences of Andraž Kajzer and MENT Festival. Amongst the first ETEP Artist selection results for ETEP 2020 it was revealed that MENT (for the moment) took the lead in terms of the number of bookings.  This suggests a good question to start with, whilst additionally asking Kajzer about the booking philosophy of MENT and audience preferences.

Text: Interview Manfred Tari, backed by Andras Berta
Photo: Andraž Kajzer at the official opening of MENT 2020 at Kino Siska – Photo Credit Ales Rosa

ETEP.nl: With 11 bookings MENT is scoring high in the brand new ETEP 2020 festival chart. What are your comments on your current selection of ETEP artists?

Andraž Kajzer: As we’re the first ETEP festival after Eurosonic we’re in a different position to others. Our booking process happens before Eurosonic and we don’t know which acts we’ll share on the line-up but I’m happy that such an amount of great artists have the chance to evolve their careers. The 11 mentioned artists are strong and I hope they will be able to make the most of the ETEP opportunities with their music. 

ETEP.nl: What is the artistic philosophy of MENT festival?

Andraž Kajzer: We’re focused on the local, regional acts and artists based in Europe as we want the festival to be as useful as possible for the artists and the professionals coming over. We think there’s a lot of amazing artists in Eastern Europe as well as in other European countries though the American and UK markets still prevail, so we want to highlight artists coming from countries less known for being strong in the European music market as we think they have a lot to offer. We take a lot of time researching the acts we invite and we try to find artists that we think present something special, different, move borders and are able to offer a great live experience to the audience. 

ETEP.nl: MENT also features a conference programme. Are the preferences by professional delegates for your conference programme different than for instance for those professionals attending Eurosonic?

Andraž Kajzer: A lot of professionals regularly attending MENT say they’re coming back because of the laid back atmosphere at the conference where you can easily meet anyone attending and because of the music programme that offers a strong live experience of acts you don’t necessarily see at other events. Of course bands that play MENT perform at other festivals as well but maybe there’s more focus on them at MENT as we’re a small festival. I think a lot of professionals coming over have a preference for meeting professionals from the region as well. 

ETEP.nl: When taking a look on the line up of artists for MENT it is quite obvious that the number of acts from the UK is limited compare to other showcase festivals. Instead MENT much rather features more artists from various other European countries. Is there a bigger demand for these artists in your country than perhaps in bigger European countries?

Andraž Kajzer: I wouldn’t say so. I think the most wanted acts for the general public are still from the more known music territories and from the region of course. The artists from strong music markets prevail, they’re better equipped, a lot of labels, music magazines etc. that are known worldwide are based in UK and we’re on a mission to highlight the fact that there’s a lot going on in other countries as well. This doesn’t mean we ignore the UK acts, we had 5 at the festival but we take time to explore further. 

ETEP.nl: In many of the bigger European countries, concert and festival promoters mostly take on only artists that have record releases out or at least to a certain extent a meaningful media coverage. Would you say this is different in Slovenia and its neighbouring countries?

Andraž Kajzer: No, I’d say most of the Slovenian promoters and festivals work with established acts as well but MENT serves as a platform where acts that don’t necessarily have a label or media coverage can be exposed. 

ETEP.nl: How do you promote MENT abroad and what does this means in terms of the

numbers of foreign visitors coming to MENT?

Andraž Kajzer: We promote MENT abroad on 2 levels. We visit a lot of other festivals during the year and promote MENT to professionals but we see there’s more and more audience coming to MENT for the line-up itself. We work with some foreign media, especially in the ex-yu region and we invite media outlets we think can make an impact on the bands we host. There’s also a strong word of mouth as we see that a lot of professionals are already aware of the event as they’ve heard good stuff from people already attending. And they see results as well. 

ETEP.nl: A couple of years ago there was an extra edition of ETEP named CEETEP, focusing on the needs of artists and festivals in Central Europe. Is there still a need of something like CEETEP that perhaps meet the needs of artists and festivals better than just ETEP in its current format?

Andraž Kajzer: I’m not sure. I’d say there’s a lot of great music in the CEE region and people just have to discover it. This kind of platform can help but money shouldn’t be the only reason promoters are interested in bands from a certain region. 

ETEP.nl: Which festivals and music conferences do you intend to visit in 2020?  

Andraž Kajzer: I already confirmed the Sharpe festival in Bratislava, which I really like because of the size and enthusiasm of the team. I’m thinking of visiting Pohoda (Slovakia) and Kontakt (Serbia) again. I definitely want to go to Tam-Tam festival in Hvar again in the summer. Pop-Kultur in Berlin has strong curating as well. Our team visits Waves Vienna every year and I’m interested to see their expansion into film. Le Guess Who and Womex are on my bucket list and I think this might be the year for both. I also want to visit some events in Ukraine, I hear great things about Bol Festival in Moscow and I want to explore more of the smaller ex-yu festivals like Indirekt. 

ETEP Artists booked by Ment: Molchat Doma (by), Anger (at), Balkan Taksim (ro), Black Country, New Road (gb), Bratři (cz), Buč Kesidi (rs), Eugenia Post Meridiem (it), Evija Vebere (lv), Fvlcrvm (sk), My Ugly Clementine (at), The Qualitons (hu).

ETEP 2019: 391 shows by 164 acts

ESNS’ Talent Exchange Programme to offer even more international opportunities

With this years’ last ETEP festivals; Les Trans and Taxirat, kicking off on this week, the ETEP year has come to an end. Time to review the year whilst looking towards the future. Next year, ETEP will offer opportunities for European artists in even more countries, adding two new export offices: Music Export Denmark and Music Latvia. Additionally, ETEP aims to have 11 non-European ETEP festivals in 2020. The first has just been confirmed: Playtime festival in Mongolia!

ETEP 2019: 391 shows by 164 acts in 36 countries

2019 offered ETEP shows by acts from 28 different countries. Acts from Great Britain (31 acts, 96 shows), The Netherlands (22 acts, 49 shows), Ireland (11 acts, 39 shows), Belgium (14 acts, 37 shows) and France (14 acts, 32 shows) were booked for the most ETEP festivals.

New partners, offering even more opportunities

Two new partners will join ETEP in 2020. export offices Music Export Denmark and Music Latvia will be supporting our quest to help the international careers of European artists. The support of these export offices helps ETEP in the education and promotion of the acts participating in the programme. Export offices from: Austria, Belgium, Catalonia, Czechia, Estonia, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland alongside Yourope and the PRS Foundation are already supporting ETEP.

The ETEP festival Chart

ETEP would not be possible without all the partners involved. The festivals play a great role in offering these emerging acts an opportunity to present themselves to an audience of international music lovers. We have started adding festivals from outside of Europe in order to grant the artists further opportunities to expand their careers outside their home countries, aiming to have 11 non-European festival participants in 2020.

Q&A with Eric van Eerdenburg

Eric van Eerdenburg, also known as Mr. Lowlands, is a prototype festival director. He brings to the job a vast amount of experience and a familiarity with the challenges that are part of the handling of a large scale music event. At the same time he maintains an awareness of both the ups and the downs experienced by artists and audiences. Over decades Lowlands has contributed to the modern DNA of music festivals and paved the way for other,

younger festivals. Besides the key element of putting bands and artists on open air stages, festivals have developed into distinctive live entertainment format, enriched with an increasing number of elements over and above just live music. Eric van Eerdenburg shared some of his insights with ETEP.nl, outlining his concerns and commenting on a variety of issues including cultural, economic and social components.

Q&A with Eric van Eerdenburg

Eric van Eerdenburg, also known as Mr. Lowlands, is a archetype festival director. He brings to the job a vast amount of experience and a familiarity with the challenges that are part of the handling of a large scale music event. At the same time he maintains an awareness of both the ups and the downs experienced by both artists and audiences.

Over decades Lowlands has contributed to the modern DNA of music festivals and paved the way for other, younger festivals. Besides the key element of putting bands and artists on open air stages, festivals have developed into distinctive live entertainment format, enriched with an increasing number of elements over and above just live music. Eric van Eerdenburg shared some of his insights with ETEP.nl, outlining his concerns and commenting on a variety of issues including cultural, economic and social components.

Text: Manfred Tari

ETEP.nl:  Please explain what the research project ‘Lowlands Saves Lives’ is all about?

Eric van Eerdenburg: We run a programme called Lowlands Science. Universities get the opportunity to use Lowlands as a laboratory for their scientific research. Universities love to carry out research in a festival environment: You can collect a lot of data in a relatively short time. And people behave more naturally in real life than in a scientifically arranged situation.  In this specific research two different methods of learning reanimation were tested for effectiveness.  One with the use of an instruction app, the other more traditionally set up in a class room.

ETEP.nl:  Lowlands was hit by bad weather this year. Even though sales of 60.000 tickets were reported upfront, later media reports mentioned a figure of 55.000 festivalgoers. How do you prepare your event for weather incidents?

Eric van Eerdenburg: We only had bad showers during the day on Saturday. It was not as bad as the press wanted everyone to believe. There was a slightly higher amount of tickets exchanged on Ticket Swap. But all tickets were re-purchased and there were 60.000 people in for the full 3 days.

We prepare for possible problems by thinking long term. We invested a lot of money in keeping the site as dry as possible when bad weather occurs. Good drainage, good asphalt roads for people to walk on. We want to keep the site as comfortable as possible for our audience. When things get worse  then all safety measures are taken against lightning striking a tent or object. We know exactly at which wind speed our buildings must be taken down or when people should leave the site. There are different scenarios we prepare for when a storm strikes us really badly.

ETEP.nl:  In the last twenty years European festivals experienced growth in visitor figures. What are your assumptions for the general situation in the near future?

Eric van Eerdenburg: The biggest threat is the constant rise in ticket prices. The agents keep pushing for more money for their acts. Competition between festivals in the world market has leads to this rise in artist fees. Young fans that are students or job starters just cannot afford to buy a ticket in the near future. Going to a show or festival is going to be more and more an elitist thing I fear. The business side of music runs likes a hyper-capitalistic system. The agencies keep pushing for more… and there is no sign that it will stop in the near future. And there is no escape. As a promoter you have to go along with ‘the way things are’ or duck out.

ETEP.nl:  ‘Live After…’ is a joint initiative by some prominent festivals and concert and club venues, bridging the gap between them in the Netherlands. For the mission ‘Live After Lowlands’ there are concerts scheduled for more than 50 artists, even of current (Black Midi) and former (Hozier, My Baby) ETEP artists that actually played on this year’s edition of Lowlands. How have festivals recently evolved as talent incubators?

Eric van Eerdenburg: It’s a conscious strategy of our bookers to use the festivals we run in helping an artist career grow. It’s a project between club and headline shows and festivals, aiming to get an act to relate to more fans. Lowlands is not just about the main stage; it’s also about the smallest stage. You have to help build acts from the start. And it’s beautiful to see acts grow over the years. Tame Impala started at the smallest stage and within ten years they have become an important headliner at Lowlands. Another example is how De Staat took the Prodigy’s spot after the tragic death of Keith Flint. We decided to give the headline spot tot De Staat and raised their production budget so they could present themselves as a competitive headliner. It worked. They blew the roof off!

ETEP.nl:  Lowlands is also a participant in ETEP, this year taking on five ETEP-Artists. When thinking of Europe, how do you see Europe as relevant for your event?

Eric van Eerdenburg: ‘Alle menschen sind brüder’ on festivals. There is no other place where the European principle comes to life such as on a festival site. It’s a gathering of likeminded people united through culture. Diverse culture. There is a lot of traveling between the countries to visit festivals. There are acts from all over the world playing in many different countries.  Where the business side of things is really tough, the social side of festivals is still very close to the hippy attitudes when it all started back in the sixties.

ETEP.nl:  Do you promote Lowlands abroad and is the number of non-Dutch-festival goers growing?

Eric van Eerdenburg: We do promote internationally. We tend to sell out fast to our loyal fan base.  When we sell out fast the number of tickets available to foreigners is minimal and the numbers shrink.

ETEP.nl:  Popular music in terms of funding or support compared to classical music or cultural heritage is still not that high on the political agenda in most European countries. Would you say pop culture should receive more consideration and awareness from politicians and policies? 

Eric van Eerdenburg: Absolutely! Festivals are a very effective way to reach out to a broad range of people. And it should be done in a simple and effective way. My idea is that we should be able to give a discount of €15 to all student cards holders and for every ticket sold to a student cardholder we should get €30 from the EU offices. This way you get in a young audience. And with the money what was subsidised we can run cultural programmes on our festivals that are hard to stage commercially.

ETEP.nl:  The UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared at Glastonbury, the US-Rap Artist Cardi B teamed up with the US-politician Bernie Sanders and Kanye West had some sort of liaison with Donald Trump, while The 1975 even recorded a song with Greta Thunberg. Do you have any sort of recommendation in terms of democratic engagement by pop culture activists for political issues or politicians?

Eric van Eerdenburg: We have staged quite a few politicians at Lowlands. The prime minister Mark Rutte this year, in the past Frans Timmermans, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Jesse Klaver, Kajsa Ollongren and many others. We also staged an election debate for the national elections. We provide platforms to OXFAM, Amnesty International and a big foundation supporting refugees. We have 12 refugees working and learning in our site crew, we have food trucks of former refugees. Together with Rabobank we run the Brasserie 2050, the restaurant that serves the food of the future. We do our best to operate as sustainable as possible. We run a science programme together with our National broadcaster VPRO and magazine New Scientist that also bring social sciences to the stage. I feel Lowlands is an activist in a subtle way. A platform for awareness, debate and for a fair democratic practice. We have no political side. We have a certain attitude…we try to act as we talk. And inspire our visitors to do so too.

 

ETEP Artists at Lowlands were: Fontaines D.C., girl in red, Black Midi, Flohio, Sea Girls

ETEP 2019: European Talent Achieving International Success

Five ETEP acts nominated for a Music Moves Europe Talent Award

During Reeperbahn, the nominees for the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards 2020 were announced, and we are delighted to report that five of this year’s ETEP acts are among the nominees. We would like to congratulate 5K HD (at), Anna Leone (se), Flohio (gb), Fontaines D.C. (ie) and girl in red (no) on their continued success. And the good news continues former ETEP acts Naaz (nl) and AU/RA (de), also being nominated. It’s exciting and rewarding to see the international careers of these acts continue to grow, and the fact that they will also be recognised by the European Commission confirms the abundance of world class musical talent in Europe.

Q&A with Bjørn Pfarr

‘Lord of the Bands’, and master mind of 592 concerts by 412 artists in 51 venues at Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival. Bjørn Pfarr, along with colleagues Arianne Mohr, Ciara George-Lynch and Max Domma, coordinates and curates one of the biggest European festivals. The most recent edition took place on September 18-21, attracting 50.000 festival goers and 5.900 professionals from 52 countries. Reeperbahn also booked 24 ETEP-artists, ranking second on the ETEP Festival Chart.

ETEP asked Pfarr about current booking preferences for Reeperbahn Festival as well as the nature of the European music community’s changing market conditions, which actually appeared to speed up this year.

New results:

With only 8 more ETEP festivals to go, 384 shows by 162 acts have been confirmed so far, and changes continue to appear in the ETEP Artist and ETEP by Country Charts. Penelope Isles re-enters the ETEP artist chart in 10th position due to a cancellation by Octavian, while Whispering Sons is the newcomer in the ETEP by Country chart coming in at number seven, replacing Belgian colleagues Blu Samu.