Eurosonic Close To Sellout

Eurosonic-Noorderslag creative director Peter Smidt says this year’s Dutch conference is selling out quickly and he expects the remaining tickets to be gone in a matter of days.

“We always sell out in advance but this year it looks if it will be much further in advance,” he told Pollstar, confirming there will be 2,800 panelists and delegates in Groningen Jan. 14-16.

This year there’s the added attraction of the first Virtual Festivals European Awards, which are staged in the city’s Grand Theatre on the eve of the conference.

In fact there are award shows every night, with the European Commission-sponsored Border Breakers happening the next night (Jan. 14). Then come the Interactive Awards – for European acts who use the Internet in an original way – and De Popprijs, one of the most coveted awards in the Dutch contemporary music business.

The evening entertainment also includes 200 or so showcase performances from acts wanting to get festival slots via the European Talent Exchange Programme.

Earlier in the year, Smidt and ETEP organiser Ruud Berends made a new bid for EU support, which could result in it setting up a similar scheme for the former Eastern Bloc countries.

It’s not known how much money ETEP is asking for, but Pollstar understands it would be enough for the scheme to increase the number of participating festivals from 60 to 100. Berends has said he can’t expand it on the current budget.

The funding request also covers a cash pool for the European Tour Support Scheme, which has become more important now that acts can no longer rely on record companies to pick up the shortfall.

Although EU culture commissioner Maroš Šefÿoviÿ, a former Slovak ambassador to the European Union, may put in an appearance on the opening day of the conference, Smidt says there’s little point in lobbying him over the funding.

The decision on whether ETEP gets the cash will be made by a panel of experts and will be announced in the spring. It’s not possible to lobby the experts because their names – and therefore their fields of expertise – aren’t made public.

Eurosonic should at least be able to put “By Royal Appointment” on its logo as Princess Máxima, who is married to the heir to the Dutch throne, is expected at some time during the weekend.

The keynote speakers include Steve Knopper, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine and author of “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.” He’ll explain how the record companies screwed up when it came to coming to grips with new technology.

Given that music and soccer can both invoke similar passions in their fans, another interesting choice for speaker is Peter Kentie, marketing director for top Dutch team PSV Eindhoven. In a session called “What can we learn from football?” he’ll talk about how PSV uses new media and how the methods may be useful to artists, festivals and venues.

The conference programme, which has 250 international speakers and more than 100 panels, also includes discussions on the latest digital technology, how to reduce the amount of rubbish produced at festivals, and the changing roles of agents.

Half the events in Virtual Festivals’ two dozen nominations for the Best European Festival award were from the UK or Ireland, but it still would have taken a brave punter to bet that the winner would come from that region.

Now that the longlist has been whittled down to a shortlist of 10, nine are from mainland Europe.

Glastonbury was the only one of a dozen Brit festivals to make it through as Download, Hard Rock Calling, Isle Of Wight, T In The Park, Global Gathering, Sonisphere, both legs of the V Festivals, and Ireland’s two-time Virtual Best European Festival winner Oxegen were among those to fall by the wayside. With so many UK and Irish festivals in the frame, maybe the British fan vote was split across them.

The next fan vote runs until Dec. 30. Glastonbury is up against Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop (Belgium), Exit Festival (Serbia), Heineken Open’er Festival (Poland), Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Les Vieilles Charrues (France), Nature One (Germany), Pinkpop (The Netherlands) and Sziget (Hungary).

Apart from Best Major Festival, fans also have until the end of the month to vote in the best Medium Sized, Small and New Festival categories.

“The sheer volume of participation and diversity of finalists underlines both the strength and vibrancy of the marketplace as well as the appetite for a platform like this to deliver due recognition,” said Virtual Festivals co-founder Steve Jenner, commenting on the fact that more than 30,000 European festival fans have voted to shape the shortlists.

Fans can also vote in four additional categories, Best European Festival Lineup, Best Artist Newcomer, Best Headline Artist and Anthem Of The Year, although the shortlists for those were drawn up by what’s being described as “an assembled panel of esteemed industry representatives.”

The same esteemed industry representatives will thrash out who should win the Clean’N’Green Award, which is sponsored by Yourope in cahoots with Virtual. The European festivals’ organisation is also co-producing the awards with Vitual.

The experts, mainly agents, promoters and music trade journalists, and probably the sort of people Smidt would prefer to have sorting out European cultural funding, will also decide which is the Artists Favourite Festival, the Promoter Of The Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award.