Lithuania’s Export Drive

Eurosonic-Noorderslag festival director Peter Smidt will be in Lithuania August 25th to help national acts and the local live music business discuss how they can export their product better.

He’ll appear on a panel alongside Juha Koivisto from Finland’s Provinssirock Festival, Sami Peura from the same country’s Sam Agency (Finland) and Jan Reijnders, the former Agency Group booker who quit his native Holland to set up Eastern Talent Group in Estonia.

It’s part of a new seminar-turned-festival called Be2gether, the brainchild of Music Export Lithuania, which is being held in the restored Norviliškes Castle, near the border with Belarus and about 80 kilometres away from the capital city of Vilnius.

It has a lineup featuring international acts including Bloodhound Gang, Morcheeba, The Young Knives, Zion Train and Datarock, but the main focus will be on local Lithuanian talent and how it can get itself heard throughout the rest of Europe.

Smidt and his fellow panelists’ main problem seems to be helping the local talent overcome what appears to be a distinct lack of confidence, as even the Music Export Web site carries a piece that begins, "One might be forgiven for thinking of Lithuania as a musical wasteland."

Apart from the fact international acts do visit The Baltics on a fairly regular basis, and last year Makroconcert promoted an Elton John show at the Vilnuis Vingis Park that broke a national ticket-selling record by shifting 10,000 within hours of the box office opening, the country’s musical heritage doesn’t stretch much further than winning the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest and the fact the capital city has a monument to Frank Zappa.

Lithuanian electronic music band Fusedmarc did manage to get a slot at this year’s Sziget Festival in Hungary (August 8-14).

Five decades of Soviet occupation, one government-controlled record label, and obligatory patriotic Soviet songs in every notable artist’s live repertoire until perestroika mean the Lithuanian music business has only existed for about 17 years.

"What should be done on both national and regional levels to change the situation for the better?" will be the main topic under discussion, and Smidt is an obvious choice to help things along.

The annual Eurosonic-Noorderslag seminar gave birth to the European Talent Exchange Programme, which is dedicated to stimulating the circulation of artists throughout the continent by giving them the chance to get shows on 53 of its major festivals. Smidt also picked Russian act Leningrad – another act from the former Soviet bloc – as his personal highlight from this year’s gathering in Groningen, Holland.

Be2gether Festival will be held at the restored Norviliškes Castle, a building that formerly served as a Russian barracks and a girls’ boarding school, August 24-26.