Eurosonic Boom

Eurosonic-Noorderslag smashed its attendance record by pulling nearly 4,000 delegates to the Dutch city of Groningen Jan. 14-17.
Wins big at the European Festival Awards

For the first time the gathering ran a cashless payment system (as well as allowing cash), with the former offering a unique feature for anyone who’d had a drink too many. It was called “Where Was I Last Night?” By scanning their wristbands the following day, delegates could discover which of the 50 or so showcase festival venues they’d visited during the previous evening.

Eurosonic creative director Peter Smidt was keen to point out the impact the event is having away from Groningen, given that up to 20 radio stations from the European Broadcasting Union aired recorded or even live content from acts taking part in the European Talent Exchange Programme. “I think it’s great that someone can switch on a radio in say Portugal and think, ‘That sounds pretty cool’ and then listen to a little more of it,” he said.

He was speaking from the outside balcony of the Grand Theatre, across the road from a studio in radio station 3FM’s building, which was surrounded by a fleet of broadcasting trucks from various European countries. Birth of Joy and fellow countrymen Kensington appear to be leading the Dutch challenge at ETEP, trying to bolster success in The Netherlands with at least some sort of profile outside its borders.

Kensington appears well on the way to doing the job. The four-piece rock act from Utrecht has sold out the Amsterdam date of its imminent European tour. It’s also sold out two nights at the same city’s 17,000-capacity Ziggo Dome (Nov. 25-26) in less than 24 hours.

A poll of music and music industry magazines that Eurosonic conducted to find the media’s idea of which ETEP acts will be “the hottest new acts of 2015” suggested Bilderbuch (Austria), Die Nerven (Germany), IBEYI (France), Mapei (Sweden) and Klasmos (Iceland) are the ones to watch. Pollstar’s less robust poll of random European festival bookers says it’s also worth keeping an eye on UK acts such as The Slow Show and Years And Years.

The Irish acts attracting positive comment included All The Luck In The World, Gavin Jamie, and Soak. The festival bookers were also positive about Germany’s The Picturebooks and Kaleo from Iceland, which was Eurosonic’s spotlight country under the possibly black-humoured banner of “Iceland Erupts.”

This year’s ETEP showcase festival sold out, attracting more than 41,000 visitors across three days. Those who feel the ETEP winner is often an act that’s already represented by one of the major London-based agencies will have only narrowed down the field from 300 or so acts to about 60. 13 Artists, The Agency Group, ATC Live, Coda, Creative Artists Agency, Free Trade Booking, International Talent Booking, Primary Talent and X-Ray Touring are among the London agencies that appear to take ETEP very seriously.

In the Eurosonic conference’s agency panel, Marty Diamond – the East Coast president of U.S.-based Paradigm Agency – would say an act’s early life is now critical because the media has such a short attention span. Primary Talent managing director Peter Elliott said the result of that was that new acts could “fuck it up” before they’d barely got started. It was one of Eurosonic’s better attended panels, although the Festivals Panel that came a little later had very few empty seats in what was the largest of the panel venues. At some point or other, any music industry subject you could think of and many that you’d never think of came under discussion in at least one of the sessions at De Oosterpoort.

De Oosterpoort also hosted the European Festival Awards that kicked off Eurosonic-Noorderslag Jan. 14, and saw Hungary’s Sziget win Best Major Festival, the second time it’s taken the title. It had previously won in 2012.

Poland’s Heineken Open’er, another festival from the old Eastern bloc, is the only other festival to have twice taken the Best Major title (2010-2011).

This year the three top prizes based on a festival’s size all went to events in former Eastern bloc countries, with Best Medium-Sized Festival going to Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro, the 2-year-old event produced by Serbia’s Exit Festival, which last year was voted Europe’s Best Major Festival. This year’s Best Small Festival went to Poland’s Festival Tauron Nowa Muzyka. This year’s winners were decided by more than 1.2 million public votes – more than double the number that voted last year – and a panel of industry experts.

Other winners included Belgium’s I Love Techno (Best Indoor Festival), Spain’s Primavera Sound (Artists’ Favourite Festival), The Netherlands’ Down The Rabbit Hole (Best New Festival), and the UK’s Glastonbury Festival (Best Line-Up. Live Nation Belgium, which produces the country’s Rock Werchter, won Best Promoter, while the best team for health and safety was Mojo Concerts in The Netherlands.

Festival Republic chief Melvin Benn won the Lifetime Achievement Award and the award for Excellence And Passion went to Rikke Øxner, who recently stood down as international booker for Denmark’s Roskilde Festival. The artist prizes saw the Best Headliner gong go to the UK’s Arctic Monkeys, which also took Anthem Of The Year for “R U Mine,” while Belgium’s Stromae was voted Best Newcomer Act.