White Lies Says Thanks To ETEP

2009 European Talent Exchange Programme winner White Lies is saying thanks by playing a free “one-off” show as part of next year’s Eurosonic-Noorderslag.

It will be Jan. 14 – three days before the release of the band’s new album – in a near 2,000-capacity heated marquee on the city’s Grote Markt, the main square that’s within easy walking distance of the other two-dozen or so ETEP venues.

The London-based band collected a record-breaking 15 festival slots from its appearance at ETEP, which is annually hosted by Eurosonic-Noorderslag. Slots included shows at most of Europe’s major festivals.

“There’s no question it helped because it was a chance to put the act in front of most of the major European festival bookers,” said agent Paul Bolton from London-based X-Ray Touring.

He went on to use the shows as a platform for booking the act a 50-date tour of European festivals – including support slots with Coldplay – that took in Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland.

Apart from being a timely present for the Eurosonic-Noorderslag weekend, which celebrates its 25th anniversary Jan. 12-15, the show effectively launches the European live campaign for Ritual, the band’s second album. The debut went to No.1 in the UK chart.

What makes the Groningen gig an extra special preview is the Dutch album launch show isn’t until Feb. 24 at the 5,000-capacity Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, which shifted over half the tickets within a day of going on sale. The launch tour itself doesn’t start until Feb. 4 at Cambridge Junction in the UK.

Bolton and Ron Euser of Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts, the biggest promoter in The Netherlands, have been working with Eurosonic to stage what was effectively a secret gig, in the sense that it couldn’t be announced until the showcase festival had sold out.

It went on sale Nov. 27 and all 15,000 tickets were gone within 20 minutes. The White Lies show was immediately announced on the Eurosonic-Noorderslag website.

“We didn’t want people to buy a Eurosonic ticket to see White Lies, because it’s a pre-tour show that’s more for the people who’ve helped the band in the past, particularly the ETEP festivals that booked it. These festival people will already be going because they support the event every year,” Bolton told Pollstar.

“We’re playing shows in smaller venues than the band usually plays at around the time each country is putting the album out.”
He and the band will likely be hoping the financial downside of doing the free show in Groningen, or the cost of the band’s present to ETEP and Eurosonic, will later be offset by the fact the event attracts nearly 200 journalists and broadcast units from 24 European radio stations.

This year’s Eurosonic also hosted the inaugural European Festival Awards at Groningen’s Grand Theatre, which is on a corner of the square where White Lies will play. The awards are run by Virtual Festivals Europe and Yourope, the European festivals’ organisation.

There’s been a 20 percent rise in the number of nominees for the next festival awards and – as this year’s debut event was close to being sold-out – it’s moving to the larger Stadsschouwburg, which is the sister building to De Oosterpoort, where the annual Eurosonic conference is staged. It will be Jan. 12.

This year’s European Festival Awards ceremony – which recognised events that took place in 2009 – was dominated by Live Nation Belgium and Rock Werchter chief Herman Schueremans, who took three awards for either himself or his festival.

It’s hard to figure if Schueremans, whose festival is nominated for Pollstar’s Best International Festival Award, can possibly do as well this time around.

Werchter is short-listed for the fans’ vote for best lineup, which it won this year, and it’s also up for best European festival.
Schueremans also holds the best promoter award and Werchter has the “artists’ favourite festival” award, but both are decided by a panel of industry experts including artists, booking agents, managers, promoters and journalists. It’s only guesswork as to whether they’re on any shortlists or even whether such shortlists exist.

In the best festival category, Werchter’s up against Poland’s Heineken Open’er Festival, which is the reigning champion. The others on the list are Ireland’s Oxegen Festival, Germany’s Hurricane and Wacken Open Air festivals, Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, Serbia’s Exit Festival, Hungary’s Sziget Festival, and the Turkish edition of the traveling Sonisphere Festival.

It’s also up against Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival, which Schueremans produces in cahoots with longtime partner Chokri Mahassine.

One of the most popular winners – 25th anniversary year or not – could be Eurosonic-Noorderslag itself, which is in the running for best indoor festival.

The conference agenda appears to include a fair cross-section of industry issues and the schedule’s programmed to ensure panels don’t drag on for over an hour.

The subjects under discussion include the future of record labels and festivals – but surely not whether the latter actually have one or not – the various green and health and safety issues affecting the outdoor market, agents, managers, and the increasingly cash-strapped eastern European market.

There will also be the annual lighter panels where well-known live music industry figures recall their anecdotes “off the record,” and others act out their regular roles as either manager, agent, or promoters to give the audience an amusing – although sometimes worrying – insight into how they work closely together to plan a tour.

Eurosonic-Noorderslag also hosts the European Border Breakers Awards, a European Commission gong that’s given to artists or groups that have been successful reaching audiences outside their own country with their first internationally-released album.

This year’s conference was a sellout, attracting 2,800 delegates, and for 2011 the capacity has been upped to 3,000.