ESNS Online Edition Exceeds Expectations (Video)

Joya Mooi during he Noorderslag performance.
Ben Houdijk
– Joya Mooi during he Noorderslag performance.
The Amsterdam-based singer and songwriter won ESNS’s new Kickstart award.

For the first time in its 35-year history, ESNS was forced to take place as an online-only event. Almost 4,000 people from 124 different countries bought a €50 ticket for the full program, Jan 13-16. 
The first digital-only ESNS played to its strengths, hosting day-time talks and panels on the current hot topics moving the industry, followed by artists showcases in the evening. 
More than 3,800 delegates, music fans and artists had registered for the conference, which was themed “The Road to Recovery.”
Dutch artist Sophie Straat didn't require a live audience to give everything during her ESNS 2021 performance.
Bart Heemskerk
– Dutch artist Sophie Straat didn’t require a live audience to give everything during her ESNS 2021 performance.
The show was recorded in the Oosterport, usually the festival hub of ESNS.

274 industry professionals discussed the reopening of the live music sector across 66 panels. Conference attendees made ample use of the ESNS’s digital networking platform, scheduling more than 10,000 one-on-one meetings in total. 

The most viewed panels included “Successful Covid Festival Formats,” “Streaming is here to stay!” and “Platform Workshops with Bandcamp & Spotify,” as well as keynote interviews with Dua Lipa’s manager Wendy Ong, Warner Music’s chief innovation officer Scott Cohen, and UTA’s global head of touring Neil Warnock.
The panels can be accessed on demand by those registered for the conference until the end of January.
ESNS’s digital showcase platform, which was built in collaboration with the festival’s long-standing media partner NPO 3FM, hosted exclusive live sets from 189 acts from 36 European countries.  
34 of those countries were in lockdown, when the artists pre-recorded their sets. Without the collaboration of the European Broadcasting Union (also an ESNS media partner), the countries’ local export offices, venues and festivals, this feat wouldn’t have been possible. 
In Italy, for instance, the music export office organized a venue in Milan, where artists were able to record. In Belgium, the youth radio station Pure FM assisted in similar ways, two of the country’s well-known venues, the Botanique and AB, agreed to open their doors for the purpose.
“We could not organize this festival without these kinds of examples, without partners who are willing to be and stay positive, look into opportunities, and take it from there. I’m very grateful, really,” ESNS creative director Robert Meijerink told Pollstar right before the event.

The concert streams were accessible for free, the total viewership wasn’t available at press time. All concerts are available to watch on 
The COVID measures imposed by the Dutch government were followed at all times.
Bart Heemskerk
– The COVID measures imposed by the Dutch government were followed at all times.

Many of the Dutch acts were able to record their performances at some of the much-loved venues in Groningen, where the physical event usually takes place. According to organizers, this makes ESNS “the first cultural event in the Netherlands with all crew, artists and suppliers tested for COVID-19.”

Other key program points were also carried over into the virtual world, including the Music Move Europe Talent Awards. The Jan. 15 ceremony was hosted by Melanie C.
The eight winners are Inhaler from Ireland, Julia Bardo from Italy, Lous and the Yakuza from Belgium, Melenas from Spain, Rimon from the Netherlands, Sassy 009 from Norway, Vildá from Finland and Alyona Alyona from Urkaine, with the latter also winning the Public Choice Award 2021. 
The Music Move Europe Talent Awards, highlighting emerging talent from Europe, are co-financed by the EU’s Creative Europe program, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the province and municipality of Groningen.
ESNS also presented a new prize for up-and-coming Dutch talent in collaboration with Buma Cultuur and Dutch Music Export, dubbed ESNS Kickstart. This year’s winners are Froukje, Joya Mooi and Yssi SB, who each received a cheque over €5,000.
The platforms hosting the conference as well as the showcases ran smoothly, whenever Pollstar joined one of the sessions. The presentation and menu navigation set a standard for events forced to move online due to COVID restrictions.
This experience chimes with what other attendees of ESNS 2021 told Meijerink, who said he was “overwhelmed by the positive feedback, with many saying a new standard has been set, which is amazing.
“The digital edition has exceeded our wildest expectations,” he said, before thanking partners including NPO 3FM and members of EBU. 
And Meijerink concluded, “we really hope we can organize a physical edition in 2022 and be together once again, but we will also expand our online ventures next year.”