Money Well Spent

Don’t worry about the Eurozone’s currency crisis or its mountain of debt. Rock ’n’ roll – and a little more public money – is coming to the rescue.

Ann Branch, the European Commission’s director general for education and culture, told the opening day of Eurosonic-Noorderslag that the $3 million funding handed out to the annual gathering is money well spent. And, there could be more where that came from.

The European parliament is discussing what it intends to do with the $2.28 billion fund it’s set aside for culture between 2014 and 2020. Branch urged delegates to lobby their governments to make sure popular music gets a decent slice of it.

Apparently, Branch and many of her fellow commissioners believe pop and rock music are areas where funding is likely to show a return, particularly if used to guarantee bank loans for small- and medium-sized enterprises that are struggling to get them.

IMPALA, the Brussels-based indie music companies’ association, has been badgering the European Commission about this for months, but – as with all things European – getting final approval depends on getting a consensus from individual member states.

The previous evening, Branch had been at De Oosterpoort in Groningen, where Eurosonic-Noorderslag is held, to hand out the European Border Breakers Awards.

Her department co-sponsors the awards, which are given to developing acts that shift units outside of their own territories.

This year’s winners included Austrian dance act Elektro Guzzi, Selah Sue (Belgium), Agnes Obel (Denmark), James Vincent McMorrow (Ireland), Boy (Germany), Swedish House Mafia and the UK’s Anna Calvi.

The awards show was broadcast live via YouTube and will be screened on TV and online throughout Europe in the coming year.

In November and December, European music fans were invited to vote for their favourite EBBA award-winner through traditional and online media. Selah Sue came out top.

When it comes to getting EU member states to agree on a common cultural policy, the glitch is that some countries – often in the former Eastern bloc – don’t feel they’re getting a enough bang for their bucks and would rather the money was spent in the domestic marketplace.

A 120-page report written by former Music & Media editor-in-chief Emmanuel Legrand, now a London-based freelance media consultant, shows that acts performing in French, Italian or Spanish – let alone Swedish, Polish or Finnish – struggle to sell outside of their own territories.

The report, which was funded by the European Music Office and Eurosonic Noorderslag, indicates that the acts that do best on a pan-European basis are the ones that manage to build an overseas platform by playing live.

The EC appears to have latched onto this and most of the $3 million that’s gone to Eurosonic will be spent on the European Talent Exchange Programme, which helps acts get festival slots outside of their own territories.

Four of this year’s EBBA winners – Anna Calvi, Selah Sue, Agnes Obel and James Vincent McMorrow – were among the main beneficiaries from last year’s ETEP.

Now there will be a Central European Talent Exchange Programme – basically an ETEP for the Eastern Bloc countries – which is intended to make it easier for acts from such places as Serbia, Hungary and Estonia to get festival slots in the neighbouring territories.

It may also help persuade the governments from some of these countries to take a more sympathetic view of a pan-European cultural policy.

This year, ETEP attracted 293 acts from 26 European countries and the showcase festival sold all its 30,000 or so tickets within 10 minutes.

The last of the 3,150 passes for the three-day conference schedule were gone by 10 a.m. on the first day.
Legrand’s research appears to be backed up by the list of acts that so far appear to be creating the biggest vibes from this year’s ETEP.

About one-third of the dozen or so attracting the most interest from the festivals are from the UK, but the presence of Ewert And The Two Dragons from Estonia, Team Me (Norway), Fuel Fadango (Spain), IceAge (Denmark), Elektro Guzzi (Austria) and Boy (Germany) show the ETEP door is open to all.

Elektro Guzzi and Boy already have their EBBAs. Ewert And The Two Dragons, which started to build its pan-European profile with its appearance at Tallinn Music Week, may well develop further with the help of some shows at major festivals.

The act that does best at ETEP – White Lies and Anna Calvi in the last two years – is regularly from the UK. The Brits making a stir this time around include The Computers, Emile Sande, Spector, and Jamie N Commons.

The three-day conference, a snapshot of the current issues vexing the live music business, dealt with the accidents – largely weather-related – that blighted last summer’s outdoor season.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the U.S., said there’s nothing more certain than death and taxes, and a panel dealing with touring America did at least offer some good advice on how acts can deal with the latter.

Dick Molenaar from Dutch tax advisers All Arts, one of Europe’s leading experts on global tax issues, guided delegates through the details.

Other panel topics included the beneficial impact that festivals have on the local economy and the main challenges facing European venues.

There were also discussions on such perennial issues as discounting tickets, creating greener festivals and the future prospects of Europe’s emerging markets.

Apart from the EBBA Awards, the conference and showcase festival also hosted the European Festival Awards.

Hungary’s Sziget was voted Best European Festival.

Eurosonic-Noorderslag was at Groningen, The Netherlands, Jan. 11-14.