VMW Running On Empty

Vilnius Music Week was on the sharp end of establishing itself on the European showcase-conference circuit when the third edition of the Lithuanian event attracted just 50 delegates Sept. 4-7.

Photo: Laurynas Slapšys
Ruud Berends from the European Talent Exchange Programme and Tapio Korjus from Rockadillo Records in Finland discuss the value of showcase festivals at Vilnius Music Week Sept. 3-7. 

What makes matters worse is that the annual gathering in the Lithuanian capital has no financial support from the local authority, which prompted organiser Lauras Luciunas to scrap stages in some city squares and move acts into Loftas, the local venue that hosts Loftas Festival, the only urban festival in The Baltics.

It’s unclear if the conference would survive into 2015. At press time it wasn’t possible to get comment from Luciunas. There are now about 50 of these showcase-conferences dotted around Europe, but Lucianas has also shunned the usual method they use to overcome the potential problem of their growing numbers diluting individual attendances – that’s done by ensuring the organisers of these events all show up at the others.

Most of these events will have a guest list that includes the organisers of similar showcase-conferences, neighboring countries’ music export offices, and a press gaggle of three or four dozen reporters and photographers.

“I think it’s not so important to invite so many people just for staying in Vilnius for a while and meeting each other, it’s much more important what they can give for our musicians,” he told Pollstar in the lead-up to the event. One of the VMW panels was called “Showcase festivals – a benefit for musicians or a fashion thing?” One reason for the low turnout is likely Berlin Music Week taking place over the same weekend.

VMW was at least afforded some recognition when the Lithuanian gathering was invited to join the Central and Eastern European Talent Exchange Programme. CEETEP, a European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP) for old eastern bloc countries, and one of the initiatives that Eurosonic Noorderslag creative director Peter Smidt used to secure $3 million of funding from the European Union, helps acts from the region get slots on festivals held in neighbouring countries. Serbia’s Exit Festival, Hungary’s Sziget Festival, the Czech Republic’s Rock for People, Slovakia’s Pohoda Festival and Poland’s Open’er are among the best-known major fests already taking part.

Each participating festival or showcase conference can nominate acts from their own country and also give slots to acts from other countries.