Q’s With Robert Meijerink: The Most Important Ingredients Of Eurosonic Noorderslag

Robert Meijerink
– Robert Meijerink
ESNS Head of Program & Booking

Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) in the Dutch city of Groningen has long established a reputation for kickstarting the careers of musicians. Its European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP) includes more than 100 European festivals, that commit to booking artists performing at ESNS onto their upcoming summer lineups. Agnes Obel, Ben Howard, Calvin Harris, James Blake, and The xx are just a few acts that have profited from this cross-border initiative in the past.

Jan. 15-18, hundreds of festival bookers will once again descend on the streets of Groningen and head from club to club in order to find acts that will complement their 2020 festival bills. They book what they like on the spot, so on the last day of ESNS, hundreds of shows for the upcoming summer season will have already been confirmed. Pollstar spoke with Robert Meijerink, head of program and booker at ESNS.
Pollstar: How would you sum up your booking philosophy?
Robert Meijerink: There must be something special about an artist. One of the most important things is, of course, the live show. The majority of acts are still at early stages in their careers, and all the professionals’ ears and eyes are aware of it. The live show will make them decide at Eurosonic or shortly after, whether they want to work with the artist or not. It’s very important that an artist who plays Eurosonic is ready to go, that the live show impresses people. There’s a lot of media attention, too, and it’s all there because we stand behind the artists. Artists are playing the event to get a return on their investment, and that is very important for us.
Why should U.S. delegates make the journey to Groningen in January?
If you’re really looking for networking opportunities and want to stay on top of things when it comes to European live music, then Eurosonic is the event, both the conference with its panels, keynotes and meet-and-greets as well as the festival. 
Eurosonic Noorderslag is one of the longest-running showcase festivals in the world. How do you stay relevant?
We try to stay relevant by touching base with our partners. ETEP involves many festivals in Europe, and we kindly ask for input from the bookers of those festivals, who share their knowledge of local acts. The European Broadcasting Union is another partner. We work closely with 33 radio stations across Europe, and also touch base with them.
As someone who sees more live bands than most other people in Europe: is there a lack of potential headliners?
It really depends on which scale you’re talking about. … If you are a cool, boutique festival and maybe attract 25,000 to 35,000 people, which is already a lot, then it might be a bit easier to book an artist that isn’t considered a headliner high on the bill. It’s been happening for the past three, four, five years. In the Netherlands we have two festivals in the scale of 25,000 to 35,000 people. They work with big acts, but sometimes they book smaller acts. One of these festivals had Anderson .Paak last year and called him the future headliner, which he obviously is. Every visitor at the festival liked the idea, because they were the first ones to see Anderson .Paak closing the festival without him being considered a real headliner.
Do you feel January is still a good time in the year to facilitate a booking platform for this industry?
For now, we feel we’re still in the right period for the majority of our delegates, who are not fully booked and still have slots left. They keep an eye on the program of Eurosonic, maybe they already highlight artists on the program, and it’s just a matter of putting the deal in front of the agent after the show in Groningen. There are also festivals present, like Coachella which happens in April, and their program is already done when Eurosonic happens, so they keep an eye out on artists for the year after. It’s the same for Primavera [Sound].