Christof Huber Q&A

Dec. 2-5 marks the birth of the European Festival Conference at the Gradonna Mountain Resort in Austria. It’s the brainchild of European festival association Yourope and its general secretary, Chrisof Huber, who talked to Pollstar about the event.

What sparked the idea of a European Festival Conference?

Over the past years we’ve been hosting our own workshops at many music conferences like Eurosonic Noorderslag or Reeperbahn Festival, thereby addressing our members’ need to talk about certain topics more thoroughly than is possible in a one-hour panel or meeting. … But even in those workshops and seminars we didn’t have enough time to cover all the other topics on the agenda, like technological innovation, the future of booking, streaming etc. Hence, together with the board of Yourope, we developed a concept that enabled us to address these topics too. We also carved out the points that would eventually separate our conference from others.

This will also become apparent in the conference’s program: less keynotes, top speakers and presentations with people in the front talking and people in the back listening. Instead: more roundtables and workshops where the participants actually interact with and talk to each other. That’s the value of this exchange.

Can you elaborate on a few topics on the agenda?

We will certainly cover certain topics in the area of health and safety, as well as sustainability, maybe not exclusively under those banners. One question may be how to influence the behaviour of the audience at festivals, be it through art, labelling, activities etc. The past years also lacked a proper discussion around marketing and sponsoring in Social Media but also TV, radio and streaming. This hasn’t been implemented properly in many places.

The technology is there, but no one speaks about how individual festivals deploy it. Also of great importance is the entire European aspect: harmonising laws across borders etc. It bothers many. A lot of people would like to have a thorough discussion about this, and would love to be able to directly speak to someone from the EU. We’re working on that. We could then also address issues like the social and economic differences within Europe.

Will the increasing competition on the festival market be addressed?

We are aware, of course, that this is a big issue, especially in Germany but also in Switzerland. What is happening in that space right now, quite frankly, is madness. Also of great concern is the development of artist fees or the lack of headliners. These issues, however, are more likely to be addressed in little talking shops or at the bar. After all, big corporations lead these developments. All we can do is issue a statement and demand respect for all market participants.