ESNS-Exchange had the pleasure to ask Celia Palau Lodge, part of the Management Board of this Showcase Festival, a few questions about this event. Palau Lodge sheds light on how music continues to be created and developed, despite the challenges or circumstances people face, and proudly shares: “PMX has played a key role in supporting Palestinian music culture. We have put Palestinian music on the global stage.”

Putting on a music conference in Palestine rather seems to be a peace mission instead of one that purely is driven by business motives, doesn’t it?
PMX is a charity organisation and doesn’t profit from any of its activities, however, it’s our mission to help create a sustainable local music ecosystem that can eventually drive local and international business.

We started the annual music conference/showcase festival in Ramallah in 2017 as a mission to showcase the music scene in Palestine, after realising that there was no such international event hosted in the occupied territories. We’ve successfully hosted four showcase editions in Ramallah, three events in Gaza throughout the pandemic, and have been expanding our reach to work on the local scene as a whole through PMO (Palestine Music Office). It’s important for PMX/PMO to create a profitable environment for local musicians and the industry. We want to see artists grow and be able to make a living out of their artistry.

The political situation in the Middle East is kind of a humanistic misery. The death toll is high, the social situation is a mess and fundamentalistic mindsets counteract progressive developments in this part of the world to make things better. So, where is the fun for PMX?
It is an extremely frustrating environment, but learning to live with the local reality is a huge reminder that these conditions should not be normalised. Music has always been a universal language. Through music we’ve built a community of artists and international delegates who are in very close contact, looking for opportunities and mentoring each other in a very supportive way. Seeing the progress of so many artists is what keeps us motivated. Since 2017 (and with a pandemic) we’ve successfully seen Palestinian artists sign seven record deals, 15 bands booked for international tours and festivals, four mentorship programs, 30 panels and workshops, over 150 international delegates have come to the West Bank and over 14,000 people have come to PMX. Bear in mind, it’s a relatively small scene and an apartheid state!

During the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent attacks on Gaza, PMX has also been involved in organising children’s events/concerts to help bring some normality after the attacks. For us it’s important that children create some positive memories that cannot be “bombed” or erased from their day to day. Throughout our three events, we had a total of 9,000 children and their families attend, 40 Palestinian artist showcases and 180 team members involved.

PMX has played a key role in supporting Palestinian music culture. We have put Palestinian music on the global stage. We even played a fundamental role in helping the city of Ramallah to become designated as one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Networks. It’s never easy and reality shifts day-to-day which is why we can only try to focus on the successes and take one step at a time.

PMX has been suspended since 2019. Besides the event itself, do you currently have other ongoing activities to support the music community in Palestine?
Our most recent PMX event took place more than three years ago, back in April 2019. The restrictions imposed universally by Covid-19 only boosted our eagerness and commitment to once again produce our international music event – which brings together Palestinian musicians and delegates from the world-wide music industry to engage, learn, connect, produce and be creative, together. We were heartbroken that once again, we weren’t able to provide both artists and music lovers with the opportunity to experience Palestinian musical talent and, to enjoy a sense of normality and acceptance and to have a taste of a somewhat normal Palestine in 2022. The instability brought upon us by the occupation in recent months, coupled with numerous cultural and music event cancellations following attacks or threats to artists and venues in the West Bank, put us in a very difficult situation, just one month before our anticipated Expo in 2022.

The list of challenges faced in the Palestinian music landscape and by Palestinian artists particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, is only expanding. This list contains not only a lack of resources, insufficient investments, isolation, marginalisation, absence of outreach and many more. In addition to that, recently we’ve been witnessing official authorities’ lack of ability to provide a safe environment for artists and their supporters. This is a new and worrying social phenomena in Palestine and it is not acceptable since freedom of expression is a fundamental right rooted in our history and in our social values.

Free expression is also a fundamental of music – and music is fundamental to PMX. We will not allow anyone – whether it is the occupation or other parties – to silence our freedom of expression.
With all that in mind, we are looking to expand our efforts into different activities to support the music community in Palestine. Some of these include events in main international cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, LA, Amman, Totnes and more. We’re also exploring different workshops which will focus on digital opportunities to scale their opportunities remotely. And finally, we’re organising a songwriting workshop in March 2023.

 

Please tell us more about the current settings of artists, shows and concerts and the setup of the music sector in Palestine.
There are many artists from all genres in Palestine and many more collectives and collaborations happening which is really exciting. Since 2017, the local festivals have multiplied and a few more venues have opened or refurbished.

We’re working with live agents to create an easier routing for artists interested in performing in the occupied territories as well as one in Europe for Palestinian artists who can perform outside the occupied territories.

We don’t really have a list of shows I can refer you to – added to the to do list!

Here is an older playlist – a good place to start: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRC9wEOD8p0fTYBdJPNJyL7uOgTns-ivE

Sama’ Abdulhadi Boiler room session in Palestine: https://youtu.be/x9VYKrtziSg

(Note by the editor: An amazing set, definitely an eye and ear opener for pop music in Palestine)  

Pop music is a global phenomenon, and pop culture can embody cultural and political meaning for people and societies – it even has the power to inspire change in mindsets. However, from Banksy to protest songs, pop culture prospers best in democratic societies. Should today’s power players of this genre become more active, when it comes to the support and solidarity with democratic movements?
This is an extremely current subject and I’m not sure that humanity/society is ready for that yet. I would even criticise our current democratic state and its lack of freedom of expression. I say this as cancel culture threats grow by the day, proving it harder for influencers to talk about any taboo or complicated subjects that need to be debated in an open-minded manner. I don’t believe that there should be so much duality, life is made of nuances and someone’s reality might be very different to someone else’s reality but still valid.

I think most people would agree that power players in this genre should take advantage of their position to support democratic movements but I can also understand why we need the Dolly Parton’s of this world to unite everyone beyond their differences. Nevertheless, I do believe that the upcoming generation is more aware of their social fingerprint and we can see lots of artists looking to speak about solidarity and democratic movements in different and clever ways.

Dua Lipa for instance has a weekly newsletter “Service 95” which exposes all sorts of cultural and social matters. Nicolas Jaar and co. have gathered over 900 signatures from artists around the world from FKA Twigs to Denzel Curry to support Palestine. Sault is another interesting collective of UK artists who remain anonymous and focus on both the joy and pain that comes with the Black experience through music only.

Upcoming generations, more than ever, need to identify with more than just a band they like. It’s becoming a much more holistic approach to identifying with someone/something. I guess we’ll see if Twitter does become that “common town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence” as Elon Musk underlines the danger that social media will splinter to the extremist sides generating divide in our society.

I think it must be a collective effort from the audience and the influencers to discuss difficult topics in a respectful way and be okay with all the nuances. People are so fast in having an opinion without assessing and taking into account the full context and the multiple realities that coexist.

I appreciate you bringing this topic up and inviting everyone to think about this. How do we all become more accountable and less radical with our opinions? It is as important for influencers to speak up as it is for the audience to create a supportive space to debate topics in a respectful way.

(Note by the editor: Celia Palau Lodge answered this question on a personal level and not on behalf of PMX)  

What is on the agenda of PMX 23 and when this event may will be able to return to the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
So far this is a rough agenda of things we can look forward concerning PMX in 2023:

January – London Event

March – Songwriting session

April/May – Multi-city events

June/July – Workshops

September – PMX

We’re working hard to host PMX23 in September next year!

Additionally, we’ve been working on PMO (Palestine Music Office) which will become an umbrella for all Palestinian music things. PMX would be an activity organised by PMO. Other activities will include workshops across the year, education, mentorships, grants and more.

For more information please check:

https://www.palestinemusicexpo.com/
https://www.instagram.com/palestinemusicexpo/
https://www.facebook.com/palestinemusicexpo/

Text: Manfred Tari

ESNS Exchange results
While British minimalist rock group Yard Act remains a favourite amongst the bookers of European festivals, Swiss R&B singer Priya Ragu managed to catch up. The two artists have been going back and forth for the top position on the ESNS Exchange artist chart but ultimately settle for a shared first place for now. Irish singer CMAT, who is also booked to play at ESNS 2023 this January and is nominated for an MME Award, takes second place while both Alyona Alyona and Enola Gay reside at #3.

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 esns-exchange.eu/results-2022/

When in 2020, the pandemic globally changed normal life, Atlas Festival went into a lockdown that persists until today. When festivals in most countries were able to take place this year, the Atlas Festival found itself in a situation making it impossible to even think about staging a music festival. 

It is the Russian invasion of Ukraine that caused atrocities and is leaving civilized nations and citizens speechless. Even ongoing, the regime in the Kremlin continues to act in a toxic and deadly manner that, like the pandemic, better be treated with intensive medical treatment. Unfortunately, no vaccine is available that is able to cure such kind of warlord behaviour. 

Vlad Yaremchuk

Talking to Vlad instead is a mind-opener. When he says it is a matter of perspective, the meaning of his words comes together between the lines with a serious message. The news situation in the media about the war in Ukraine is one thing. But it makes a difference when someone mentions in a phone call that sirens can be heard. 

With this in mind, ESNS-Exchange asked Vlad Yaremchuk what Ukraine needs most these days, about the efforts and engagement by the aid mission of Music Saves UA, and the current status of Atlas Festival itself.

 

 

What kind of support do the people in Ukraine currently need most?
There are three categories: military, money and information, and I believe all of these are intertwined. 

For some, it is a hard pill to swallow, but if not for our military, who are sacrificing their lives daily to protect us, we would not be here having this conversation right now. The weapons we are getting from other countries play a key role in what is happening in this war. Nothing will help us more than giving us the means to protect ourselves and drive the invaders away from our borders. If you understand that, make sure people next to you and make your government understand that too so that we keep getting weapons and tech needed to fight back. You can also donate to funds that help the military directly. For example, Come Back Alive, who are doing some incredible work. You might have heard that Ukrainians crowdfunded a purchase of a satellite recently. Other countries are crowdfunding Bayraktars. All of these cases are really inspiring and show our unity.

If you are not comfortable with donations to the military, you can donate to humanitarian causes. Within the music world, you have our project, Music Saves UA, where we raise money via music to provide humanitarian help on the ground. Another great project is Musicians Defend Ukraine which focuses on raising donations to help those musicians who chose to give up their work and art to defend the country. There are dozens of other incredible causes, and I would highly recommend donating to local grassroots funds and projects compared to huge international brands that usually are less efficient and much slower in their operations.

And then we have the informational front. Keep talking about Ukraine. Bring it up in your conversation with friends and colleagues, post about it, show that you are not afraid of the Kremlin’s oil and gas blackmailing, fight against disinformation and prevent it from spreading around you. You do not need to get your wallet out of your pocket for this, yet you can still make a real difference.

All the support we have been getting is incredible, and we are eternally grateful to everyone who finds the time and mental energy to help us. It is an exhausting marathon, and trust us when we say we are tired, but we have no choice but to keep going.

Atlas Festival – Humanitarian Headquarter

What kind of topics are currently on the agenda of Music Saves UA?
On the humanitarian front, we are still helping with the logistics for humanitarian supplies, delivering ~50 tons of humanitarian help to the hotspots throughout the last month. Now, we also started to focus more on evacuating civilians from the hotspots, helping around 5000 people to evacuate last month, mainly from the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. Since we established Music Saves UA, we helped deliver almost 450 tons of supplies and helped evacuate more than 11,000 people from hotspots. This summer, we also helped a refugee shelter Bakota Hub do some renovations and intend to focus more on shelters in the near future.

On the informational, cultural and fundraising side, we tried to get as many Ukrainian artists booked to summer festivals as possible to represent Ukraine, spread the message and raise funds. We’ve had incredible collaborations with Rock For People, Pohoda Festival, Sziget and others. We helped them book artists as well as travelled ourselves to make a Music Saves UA tent where we would show the reality of the war, talk to people, share our experiences, talk to the media, and collect donations. We are very grateful to those who welcomed us at their festivals, as we believe nothing works better than being able to talk to people directly and face-to-face.

Please describe the current situation of the Atlas Festival…
We tried to keep ourselves as busy as possible these seven months to help our country as much as we can in a multitude of ways. We have people fighting at the frontlines, volunteers delivering humanitarian help, and part of us are running operations at Music Saves UA. Many of us were working on the Save Ukraine and Embrace Ukraine international TV marathons that took place simultaneously in more than 50 cities and were live on TV and online in plenty of countries while raising millions of euros for humanitarian help. In July, during the week when Atlas Festival was supposed to happen, we had a four-hour fundraising live stream with dozens of celebrity guests to cheer people up and remind them that we are still there, fighting alongside everyone for our freedom. During the live stream, we raised money for 50 mobile solar stations that would help the defenders and civilians in hotspots charge all of their electronics.

You said Atlas Festival is trying to keep its team on board. How does this work, and how many people are you?
Helping Ukraine and keeping our team intact are our biggest priorities. As of now, we have around 40 people who work on the festival around the year. When the war started, we gave away most of the stuff we had in our warehouses by giving it to the military, but we could not afford to lose our team. We spent years looking for the right people and together we pulled through the toughest of situations like all kinds of crazy last-minute emergencies at the festivals and then the COVID pandemic while accumulating priceless experience. This invasion is another challenge that we have to tackle. We can rebuild everything, but it’s impossible to find another team like this. Once the war is over, we want to keep making the biggest festival in Ukraine and celebrate our victory. Until that day comes, however, we try our best to keep the team busy with useful work and keep looking for opportunities to raise money for Ukraine while also paying our staff.

The Russian attacks sustain, and it is impossible to run a festival safely in a country attacked by missile strikes and massive bomb shelling. Can you imagine promoting a special edition of the Atlas Festival somewhere abroad, elsewhere in Europe?
This is something we are considering right now and during my visits to music conferences this season, I will be looking for partners with whom we can collaborate on a project like that. It would be an interesting challenge and a great opportunity to exchange experiences with our foreign colleagues. We believe there is a lot we can learn from them, but also a lot we can teach them. That will also allow our team to focus on a larger project within our field of expertise. It is hard to tell when festivals like ours will be possible in Ukraine again, and we want to keep ourselves in good shape. We were discussing doing something abroad before COVID happened, and now it makes even more sense. We are also keen to co-promote regular events abroad as well, especially in the neighbouring countries. Of course, whatever we end up doing, will have a lot of Ukrainian DNA in it and will have a social and fundraising element to it, like everything we do these days.

For more information, please check;

Atlas Festival

Music Saves UA

https://togetherwithukraine.bandcamp.com/album/together-with-ukraine (One of the favourite songs of Vlad Yarmenchuk is ‘Halogenix – Odesa’, which is also featured on the charity album ‘Together with Ukraine’)

Text: Manfred Tari

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: https://esns.nl/esns-presents-green-touring-support/.

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: https://twitter.com/cultcreatorseu

Follow Niklas Nienaß on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nnienass

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:
https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/RC-014037/tracks/

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 https://esns-exchange.eu/results-2022/

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 esns-exchange.eu/results-2022

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: https://spoti.fi/3JRAAz1. 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: musicsavesua.com.

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