fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

One of a kinder: Roskilde at 50

It’s a fair bet to assume that, back in 1971, when Mogens Sandfær and Jesper Switzer Møller – two high-school students – decided to put on a festival, they had no idea how momentous an event it would eventually become. Sound Festival, as it was called, was a cultural success but a financial disaster – “10,000 people turned up, but less than half of them paid to get in,” remembers Leif Skov, the event’s former director and head of booking.

But the seed was sown and, slowly and organically, it grew in size and reputation. For 50 years now, music fans across the globe have flocked to Roskilde, its golden anniversary a fitting milestone for a festival that means so much to so many and has retained its unique character and vibe.

The event started out with a noble goal. “The idea was to bring people together,” says Skov, who notes that that remains the main ethos today. Inspired by Woodstock and the Isle of Wight, and based on their experience from a concert they had organised to support jailed Black civil rights activist Angela Davis, Sandfær and Møller were encouraged by a local Copenhagen agent, Karl Fischer, to do something that was unusual at that time – an outdoor event.

Twenty bands – mostly Danish but including US and UK acts like Stefan Grossman, Mick Softley, and The Grease Band – graced the single stage, with those fans who did pay coughing up just 30 Danish Kroner (approximately €4 euros, equivalent to €29 today) for the privilege.

That theme continued in the event’s early years – acts were mainly Danish and drawn from the world of folk, rock and pop. But behind the scenes, things changed. “In 1972, none of the 1971 organisers were involved,” says Skov. “Instead, it was organised jointly between American folk singer Tony Bush’s Kaunos Ltd, and the Roskilde Charity Society – about 16,000 people turned up. And from 1973 onwards, the Roskilde Charity Society became the main organiser under the name Roskilde Festival.”

The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones

By 1975, the festival had grown to three stages and a capacity of around 25,000. Bigger names began to appear on the bill, too – the likes of The Kinks, Canned Heat, Fairport Convention, Status Quo, and Procol Harum all played prior to 1978, with the festival’s booking committee looking to entice the most popular bands of the day. But that year also saw another important development, one that came to shape the festival’s image for years to come – they introduced the Canopy Stage, better known as the Orange Stage.

The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones. But a chance encounter with a photograph set Leif Skov on a hunt to track it down. “In 1977, I saw a photo of the orange canopy roof in Hyde Park, in NME – it had been used by Queen, I think. This was long before the fax, web, and mobile phones, so I wrote a letter to NME: ‘Who owns this stage?’ Early in 1978, Roskilde bought the roof from a company in liquidation, and since then it’s been the main stage and the logo for the festival.”

That year “started a new era for Roskilde” says Skov. Bob Marley and the Wailers and Elvis Costello entertained 36,500 fans, who had started to come from further afield – Sweden, Norway, and Germany among other countries. The festival also started to invite more NGOs and intensified its charity work; Skov started seeing Michael Eavis off-season to “exchange ideas and experiences.” In 1982, U2 headlined, with 49,000 in attendance; the following year, it was Simple Minds and Echo & The Bunnymen, with over 60,000 fans. Roskilde was starting to come of age.

“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition”

One of a Kind
Many things stand out about Roskilde and make it somewhat unique in the festival world. There is, of course, the charity aspect – it has been a non-profit since the very beginning, donating its profits in full to initiatives that benefit children and young people. “All proceeds are donated to humanitarian, cultural, and social charities,” notes Skov. “Roskilde today is still not primarily a music industry event.” But there is also the famed army of volunteers – the current iteration sees 30,000 contribute every year.

“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition,” says Malte Vuorela, Roskilde’s head of press. “It wasn’t until 1986 that the festival began employing a selected few as paid administrators. Today, we have around 30,000 volunteers – some are active all year, others only during the festival. They come from all over Denmark, but a large group – around 5,500 volunteers – are from the local Roskilde area.”

The volunteers don’t just make the festival happen, however. According to Henrik Bondo Nielsen, head of division, service & safety, they shape the festival’s unique vibe and ethos, making it very special indeed. “What is characteristic of our volunteers is that a very large group of them are also participants in the festival – it’s just another way to participate. We don’t make a sharp distinction between volunteers and participants, so it is the co-creation between people that is the core of Roskilde Festival.”

This means that a large part of what happens in the first four days of Roskilde Festival is participant-created. Nielsen goes on. “A notable difference from, for example, Glastonbury, is that when you arrive there, you pitch a tent in an area where basically nothing happens. All the fun happens inside the festival site. Instead, we have chosen to spread out the party. If you want to be part of the community-based camping area, called Dream City, you can start up 100 days before the start of the festival and help build up a city. We don’t curate – we just facilitate. I don’t know many other places that give so much freedom to the participants – that, I think, is quite unique.”

“In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996”

It’s a testament to the scheme’s effectiveness that many volunteers return year after year – and some, like Nielsen, end up working for the festival full-time. He started in 1980; Signe Lopdrup, the current CEO, first attended in 1985 as a regular fan. “I was fascinated by the organisation – the volunteering and the community,” she says. “And I was really impressed that you could create something that engaged so many people.”

Anders Wahrén first came as a 13-year-old fan in 1996; by 2001, he was volunteering as a stagehand at the Camping Stage and a few years later joined the booking team. He notes that in the 1990s, “It was very big and quite wild. In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996. My first concert at the Orange Stage was the Sex Pistols. They had reunited – but apparently not everyone thought that was such a good idea. Some felt that as old punk rockers they had sold out by going back together, so bottles were thrown towards the stage; the band had to leave and return three times!”

By the mid-nineties, Roskilde was firmly established as one of Europe’s biggest and best festivals. For the 25th anniversary, in 1995, the event had grown to nine stages and accommodated 95,000 fans – with tickets selling out even faster. And it was more international than ever. “Two out of three visitors were not Danish,” says Skov, and the headliners were iconic names drawn from rock, pop, and indie – Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Radiohead, Ray Charles, R.E.M., and Nirvana.

Live Nation’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions of Roskilde Festival. “I booked the headliners for the very first festivals – acts like The Kinks, Status Quo, Fairport Convention – when the audience was 8-10,000 people, and I just kept booking the headliners ever since,” he tells IQ.

In addition to the previously listed talent, Johansson has also helped Roskilde secure the likes of U2, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, The Clash, Bob Marley, Lou Reed, Metallica, Nirvana, Rammstein, Coldplay, Blur, Kendrick Lamar, Rage Against The Machine and many, many more.

LN’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions

Less is More
Despite the success, Roskilde’s management team worried that the event had grown too unwieldy and that the fan experience was suffering as a result. In order to protect what they had, they did what almost no festival would do – they reduced the numbers, first to 85,000 in 1996, then down to 75,000 the following year. “We wanted to give the audience a greater experience,” says Skov; they also refocused their humanitarian and environmental work.

For Nielsen, such a move encapsulates what makes Roskilde so special. “What captured me was building something big – like Lego bricks, only on a larger scale,” he says. “Many other places you have to fight to make changes, but Roskilde Festival has a driving force that says that we must innovate all the time because we cannot offer our guests a copy of previous years.”

This feeling is echoed by those who work with the festival in a professional capacity, some of whom have been involved since the very early years – loyalty here runs very deep. “Soundforce first got involved in 1982,” says Vagn Olsen, the company’s CEO. “We rent them every imaginable piece of musical gear, instrument, and backline, and we’ve now worked together for 40 years this year. Which is absolutely crazy when you think about it.”

“The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year”

“We have been lucky to work with almost the same people behind the scenes for around 28 years, so that makes a huge difference of where we are now. The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year. So even though you have many years of experience, you never know quite what to expect.”

It’s a similar story for Meyer Sound, who have been providing sound reinforcement systems for Roskilde for years – and, since 2018, all stages have been powered by Meyer Sound. “In 2017, the Roskilde leadership team realised the best sounding stages were those with Meyer Sound,” says John McMahon, Meyer Sound senior vice president. “This inspired the festival to seek a sound partnership that would elevate the artist and fan experience at all stages, with a festival 100% powered by us.”

McMahon also believes that the partnerships the festival team foster, and the idea of equal collaboration, is what makes their working relationships so strong. “The Meyer Sound and Roskilde Festival teams are truly collaborative. The area where this is most apparent is on the technical side, where our team is embedded within the festival team to deliver the festival.”

He also notes that their actual festival work is just one aspect of their relationship. “We have partnered with the Roskilde Festival leadership on many levels, from the education of the audio teams to university research and development projects related to the impact of weather on festival sound and other scientific research, as well as creating the ‘Orange Feeling’ with our collaborative team approach.”

“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events”

Safety-ing Numbers
While the festival went from strength to strength during the 1990s, tragedy struck in 2000. A crush developed during Pearl Jam’s headline set, with people falling close to the stage after a series of wave-like motions in the audience. Nine people died, with a further 26 injured – three of them seriously. It was a “total shock and a warning for youth culture in general,” remembers Skov; “a wake-up call for the entire industry,” adds Nielson.

“There had been other accidents elsewhere, but this one was so big it caused tremors all over Europe. People said that if it can happen at Roskilde Festival, it can happen anywhere.” The official investigation ruled it an accident and that there had been no criminal actions, but Roskilde took it as a spur to lead change – and to make every effort to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events. Now, Roskilde Festival is present in all important networks in the industry,” says Lopdrup. “Before the accident, safety was not something that was discussed across the industry. It had the effect that we in Roskilde decided that it was a theme we should engage in – a legacy, and one way to move forward was to take responsibility for it being put on the agenda,” adds Nielsen.

“This means that today we have a very close collaboration across Europe. We have created a network of festival safety managers who are in close contact, and we have organised more than 35 seminars across Europe. We also try to keep up with developments in youth culture, to create as safe events as possible.”

“One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades”

Since then, and with extra safety measures in place, the festival has continued to grow – Roskilde now welcomes 130,000 music fans every year and continues to draw the biggest names in music. Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Metallica, and Paul McCartney all headlined through the 2010s, and this year had a distinct pop flavour – Post Malone, Dua Lipa, and Tyler, the Creator sit atop the bill. It’s all part of what Skov says is a desire to “develop respectfully rather than grow – the world and its people need leadership based on values that you can feel but not buy.”

Celebrating Roskilde’s carefully curated evolution, Wahrén notes, “One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades. We’ve gone from being a festival where you could not experience hard rock, to having it as the primary thing and to having electronic music, to being able to present the biggest acts in pop and hip-hop, which we also embraced early on.”

As a personal highlight, he mentions Eminem, someone they chased for many, many years. “We tried for 17 years before we managed to book him, and it was his first and only concert in Denmark. At the same time, it was the show with the largest audience ever on Danish soil. We don’t know exactly how many people attended but probably over 90,000 – it has been interesting to see the change from hip-hop being an underground genre at the festival to the fact that it is now the most unifying.”

“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life”

Golden Year
And so to the 50th-anniversary celebrations, something that was postponed not once but twice due to Covid. Having such a special edition of the festival essentially “on hold” led to many challenges, but as ever, the Roskilde team rose to the occasion. 2022 will, they say, be the best yet.

“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life, says Lopdrup. “But it also means that there are some things we have been working on for a long time – and that has given us great strength, too. So we are making a new, crisp festival this year.”

“We chose not to try to keep the whole line-up from 2020,” adds Wahrén. “Instead, we look at it as a new festival and evaluated everything again. It is difficult to assess what the right balance is because, on the one hand, we have to live up to what people bought tickets for two years ago so that we can keep the value. But we must also create what is Roskilde – there have to be surprises and progression. We have not moved away from our core, even if it is not exactly the same names as in 2020.”

That means doing things differently and thinking outside the box. As part of the celebrations, the festival published several books, including one about graffiti, which has been an important part of the festival for more than 20 years. They are also, says Wahrén, “being far-sighted and taking new paths through art and music.” For example, they presented a 2,000-square-meter, colourful dance floor, created by the internationally renowned visual artist Katharina Grosse. And the acclaimed German artist Tino Sehgal has co-created their brand-new venue, Platform, featuring both concerts and boundary-pushing hybrid art.

With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde

With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde. “The core values of all involved in putting on this festival represent the spirit of how festivals first came about in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” says John McMahon. “The Roskilde Festival team remains true to those values 50 years later.”

That, more than anything, is what keeps everyone – the volunteers, the fans, the bands, and all who participate – coming back. “For many of our volunteers, creating Roskilde Festival is a lifestyle,” says Nielsen. “And we manage to deliver experiences that people did not expect,” adds Wahrén. “You know you’ll miss something if you’re not here. People also come to cultivate friendships and the communities that exist at the festival.”

“With a non-profit event like ours, the strength lies in the local grounding,” says Lopdrup. “That there are people who support us and fight for us. We are greeted by this because our organisation extends beyond itself. We want to take the lead, but we also want to make a difference for [people other] than ourselves. That’s the secret – the community of volunteers, participants who held on to their tickets through the pandemic, and partners and suppliers who support us all the way.”

One person delighted to still be involved in the historic event is Live Nation chief Johansson. “The people at Roskilde are inspiring to work with because it’s not about someone who wants to buy a new Ferrari – they give all the money to charity, and the artists love that aspect, too, as they get to hand cheques to their favourite causes,” he says. “It’s the mother of festivals in Europe, and it has been a fantastic ride to be involved with it for 50 years: a true privilege.”

“We can become a community for even more people…where everyone can feel at home”

The future certainly looks bright, for 2022 and beyond. And with some of the seismic changes currently affecting the wider world, Roskilde’s focus is changing, too – sustainability looms large on the agenda, as does diversity and inclusion. Says Wahrén: “We can become a community for even more people – not in terms of capacity but in terms of becoming a more diverse community where everyone can feel at home. Some of it starts in the line-up, something else starts in the relationship with the participants – but those two things must fit together.”

“We must continue to be a fantastic eight-day event,” adds Lopdrup. “But our ambition is to expand the community to be more vibrant and present throughout the year. We need to develop within sustainability, and we are well underway. It is essential for an organisation like ours – no one is perfect, and we can always get better, but we want to inspire a more sustainable way of at- tending festivals in the future.”

So here’s to the next 50 years, then, and an even bigger celebration in 2072 for the 100th edition? Why not? “If there is one thing we have learned during the pandemic, it is that gathering around art, food, music – all the sensory experiences – cannot be replaced by anything else,” says Lopdrup. “We believe that this is what Roskilde Festival can and must do. And I bet that there will still be a need to make a difference together in the future – that won’t change.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Festival chiefs preview the upcoming season

The cost of living crisis, an oversaturated market and rising costs threaten to create a “recipe for disaster” for the first full festival season since 2019, it has been claimed.

ILMC’s Festival Forum: New lands, new adventures panel heard divergent views from event bosses on prospects for this summer, with the public’s appetite for returning to music shows evident, but two years of lockdown and restrictions throwing up a litany of new problems.

UTA agent Beth Morton moderated the illuminating debate starring Eric van Eerdenburg of Mojo Concerts (NL), Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts (UK), Sophie Lobl of C3 Presents (US), Henrik Bondo Nielsen of Roskilde Festival (DK), Stephan Thanscheidt of FKP Scorpio (DE) and Reshad Hossenally of Festicket’s Event Genius ticketing and event technology platform.

Event Genius COO Hossenally said that, despite the anticipated rush for concert tickets after two lost years to Covid-19, other issues were cropping up.

“People don’t trust that everything is back to normal yet”

“There are a hell of a lot of shows and it’s almost a bit of a recipe for disaster because you’ve got costs going up, a lot of tickets being carried across and a huge amount of competition,” he said. “The other part is people are being told they don’t have any money in the press. I think you’ll see the buying pattern starting to become a lot later. People don’t trust that everything is back to normal yet.

“We ran a global survey and 75% of people said that they want to understand what the cancellation policies are. Before, that would have been an impulse buy – people didn’t even look at terms and conditions beforehand. The decision of buying a festival ticket now is a lot more considered. So as a festival promoter, I suspect it must be quite a scary road to see that we’re not selling as quickly.”

Roskilde head of safety and service Bondo Nielsen referenced complaints from some of his European contemporaries regarding fan behaviour since the restart, with the pandemic resulting in a lag in younger consumers attending their first festival.

“What I hear is that people talk about inexperienced audience and that they are not behaving well,” he said. “My view is that, as a festival organiser, it’s your job to manage the audience that you invite. So if they don’t behave well, you have to teach them.”

“Costs are going up at least 25% from 2019 prices”

Ellis, who heads up events such as Scotland’s Transmt, responded: “You’ve got gig veterans, and then you always get new people coming in – 16 to 17-year-olds coming along for the first time – and I think they get carried along and looked after by the older members of the audience a bit. It is a real community spirit that you get, no matter what the festival is. They’re all there for the same purpose: to enjoy music, and the shared experience of being at an event.”

Ellis considered increasing costs, exacerbated by supply chain and staffing issues, as the biggest challenge for festivals going forward.

“Certainly in the UK, costs are going up at least 25% from 2019 prices, which is really difficult,” he said. “And it’s the scarcity of kit as well, so stages, barriers – we’re having to beg, borrow and steal barriers from different arenas, because there are so many shows on. There are shows that have moved from 2020, and didn’t happen in ’21, all happening, plus the festivals, plus the outdoor business that would have taken place in ’22.

“Also, staff – lots of stewards left the industry during the pandemic. Toilets, again, lots of sporting events are taking certainly the high end toilets, maybe not the actual portaloos but the flushable toilets and trailers, so that’s a real challenge.”

“People have hung on to their tickets for a couple of years, you can’t go back to them and ask for more money”

The promoter added that simply hiking up ticket prices was not an option for this year.

“People have hung on to their tickets for a couple of years, you can’t go back to them and ask for more money,” he said. “And we’re going into a cost of living crisis globally, with people having concerns about how they’re going to pay their energy bills and everything else. So some of it will have to be passed on going forward, but it’s too late for this year.

“I think we all have to try our best to get costs down and look at innovative ways of delivering things as well. We need suppliers to give us a bit of a break really.

“The positive thing is there was a recent survey in America showing what people are looking forward to getting back to most, and concerts was top of the list, so that’s reassuring. Obviously we’re all worried about how they’re going to afford to do it, but at least they want to go to concerts.”

“There are so many artists, coming out of Covid, that haven’t done a hard ticket tour”

The conversation later switched to social media’s influence on programming and its correlation to ticket sales.

“There is so much that we have to take into account that’s not just ticket sales,” revealed C3 and Live Nation global festival talent buyer Lobl. “Obviously socials, obviously TikTok, but the show we’re booking kind of determines what we look at.”

She continued: “There are so many artists, coming out of Covid, that haven’t done a hard ticket tour. If you take someone like Doja Cat, who has been one of our biggest artists at all of our festivals, and probably had the biggest crowd at Austin City Limits and in South America, hasn’t done her own hard ticket run yet.

“It’s also a lot more global now, which makes it more fun. But it also makes it a lot harder to navigate. For us, the Latin market has been huge and there’s a lot more global booking of really sizeable bands.”

“We have also analysing tools for social media,” noted FKP head of festival booking Thanscheidt. “You also have to do look at where are the likes and plays are coming from because if they’re coming from another part of the world, it’s nice for the band, but maybe not for us putting on a festival or a show with them. Also, not every Tiktok hype translates to the festivals we book.

“In general, you don’t want to go away from the history of the festival. But you also want to keep it modern and fresh and cool at the same time. In the end, booking is a process. It is, of course, influenced by other things nowadays, but it’s still a mixture of very different facts coming together.

“It also really depends on the festival – because if you have an older audience, TikTok and all that does not play the biggest role and vice-versa, so you have to look at it very individually to make the right decisions. You have to know your market and  your audiences because sometimes it’s hard to explain, especially to agents, why this act is working and the other one is not.”

“It’s not an exact science and it never has been”

Van Eerdenberg, director of Netherlands’ Lowlands festival, shared his own booking philosophy.

“We had discussions in our programming team about this, and we ended up saying quality is not the thing we measure, but whether people are reacting and responding to it,” he said. “You have to work with what you see happening online. But it’s difficult to determine the value of an act, especially when agents are very convincing.”

Ellis pointed out that hard ticket sales were not always a barometer of an artist’s value to a festival because their audience might steer away from outdoor shows.

“It’s not an exact science and it never has been,” he added. “It’s always been a bit of gut feel, a bit of scarcity – if somebody’s not doing shows they’re more valuable to a festival than if they are doing shows because there’s a pent up demand to see them.

“Over the years at T in the Park, an act like Tom Jones went down an absolute storm. His audience wouldn’t have particularly come to a music festival, but… we had 50,000 people in front of the main stage, singing along to him, and none of them had ever seen him before. With that kind of booking, if you tried to look at the TikTok figures, it wouldn’t have synced. There was a gut feel that it would go down well, and it went down well, but sometimes we get those things wrong and nobody’s watching the act.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Unprecedented number of new fests to launch in ’22

FKP Scorpio is the latest promoter to add to an unprecedented number of new festivals launching this season.

The CTS Eventim-backed promoter today announced a trio of new festivals, set to take place in Sweden, Norway and Denmark during the second weekend in June.

Rosendal Garden Party (SE) will take place on the Djurgården island in Stockholm, with headliners The Strokes, Florence + The Machine, The National and Tyler, The Creator.

Loaded (NO) will see up to 7,000 people watch artists such as Wilco, Sharon Van Etten and Susan Sundfør at the Vulkan Openair Amphitheatre in Nedre Foss, Oslo.

Syd for Solen (DK), organised by FKP’s Danish subsidiary smash!bang!pow!, is slated to take place in Søndermarken Park, Copenhagen, with headliners Liam Gallagher, The National and Jungle.

The German powerhouse is also gearing up to launch a new open-air festival in Berlin called Tempelhof Sounds, in collaboration with Dreamhaus and Loft Concerts.

FKP isn’t the only live music behemoth set to expand its stable of events this year. Fellow German promoter Goodlive will finally launch its new Munich-based event Superbloom, after two pandemic-related postponements.

FKP Scorpio announced a trio of new festivals, set to take place in Sweden, Norway and Denmark

In the UK, AEG and Team Love are launching a new 30,000-capacity metropolitan festival, Forwards, in Bristol. Kilimanjaro is planning a new “indie and alternative sounds” festival in Norwich called Neck of the Woods. And Festival Republic is adding to its triple bill of August bank holiday festivals with Electric City.

Elsewhere in Europe, Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter have joined forces to launch Core, a new two-day festival in Brussels. While, Last Tour, the Spanish festival organiser and concert promoter behind Bilbao BBK Live, has announced not one but two new European fests – Cala Mijas in Spain and Kalorama in Portugal.

Meanwhile, the US festival calendar has gained a pair of reggaeton festivals with Goldenvoice’s California Vibrations, and Sueños Music Festival (Dreams Music Festival) from the producers behind Baja Beach Fest, Chicago’s Reventon Promotions, and Lollapalooza.

Alongside these brand new events, a raft of longstanding festivals are branching out to new markets. Primavera Sound, which already holds events in Barcelona and Porto, is shipping its brand to Los Angeles (US), Sao Paulo (BR), Santiago (CL) and Buenos Aires (AR) in 2022. While Sonar and Rolling Loud are each taking their tried-and-tested formulas to Portugal this year.

Elsewhere in the 2022 festival calendar, a crop of new indie events are putting a spin on the traditional greenfield affair. In It Together (UK) is encouraging festivalgoers to bring their grandparents for free, Velio Festival (UK) is reinventing the wheel with its cycling format, and Barley Arts’ Comfort (IT) is offering fans a more relaxing festival experience.

Meanwhile, some new festivals are ditching the greenfield blueprint altogether. 8 festival (LT) is scheduled to take place in a former 20th-century prison while Hammership will draw metal fans to the high seas.

The impending summer season will also see the launch of festivals serving underrepresented communities such as Flesh (UK), Let’s Get Free (US) and Strength of a Woman (US).

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Long hot summer: Festivals expand for 2022

Wireless is the latest festival to announce an expanded format, ahead of what looks to be a bumper 2022 festival season.

This year, Europe’s biggest celebration of contemporary Black music will take place at three of its former sites over two weekends in July.

The Festival Republic-promoted festival will kick off on 1–3 July at London’s Crystal Palace Park, where it took place in 2021 for the first time in history.

The following weekend (8–11 July), Wireless will simultaneously take place at its traditional home of Finsbury Park in London and Birmingham’s NEC –  where it last took place in 2014.

Festival Republic today announced blockbuster headliners including A$AP Rocky (UK exclusive), J. Cole (UK exclusive), Tyler, The Creator (London exclusive), Cardi B (UK exclusive), Nicki Minaj (EU exclusive), Dave and SZA (EU exclusive).

Wireless is the latest in a long line of festivals to expand after two relatively festival-free summers.

“Adding the fourth festival day as inclusive for all previously bought three-day tickets was our way of saying thank you”

Tomorrowland (Belgium), Primavera (Spain), Mad Cool (Spain), Standon Calling (UK), InMusic (Croatia) and Summer Breeze (Germany), Rock en Seine (France), Splendour (UK) and Wonderbus Columbus (US) are among the existing festivals that have been extended for 2022.

Festival organisers have cited a number of reasons for extending their usual format including meeting pent-up demand, recouping losses, celebrating anniversaries and rewarding fan loyalty.

InMusic, Croatia’s biggest open-air music festival, added a fourth day as an all-inclusive for fans who had held onto their three-day ticket.

“Adding the fourth festival day as inclusive for all previously bought three-day tickets was our way of saying thank you for all the love and support,” says Ivana Jelaca from InMusic.

“We were moved by the messages of support we received after the pandemic hit and we were trying to figure out the best way to thank everyone for their understanding and patience.

“We choose to focus on the audiences that have been supportive and active in the years prior to the pandemic, as the two-year loss of live music content has had a huge impact on the quality of their lives.”

“People are hungry for live music and in need of a carefree festival weekend among friends”

Jelaca says that the festival’s 15th anniversary, which is delayed two years due to pandemic-related cancellations, is also cause for an extended celebration.

Alex Härtel from Silverdust, which promotes Summer Breeze in Germany, says the promoter has similar reasons for extending the festival.

“The reason is our 25th anniversary! Summer Breeze has been around since 1997 and despite three cancellations (two due to covid) we want to celebrate 25 years of existence with our loyal fans and many friends and bands from all over the world,” says Härtel.

Moreover, Härtel says the festival is capitalising on pent-up demand for live music: “People are hungry for live music and in need of a carefree festival weekend among friends,” he adds.

While each of the organisers says that their extended edition will benefit vendors, hotel properties and other entities who typically profit from the event, the added day won’t make a dent in the losses the festivals have suffered from the pandemic.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021”

“If anything, an additional festival day generates greater expenses – programming and production-wise – and as an independent mid-sized festival with a limited capacity there are only so many tickets on sale,” explains InMusic’s Jenca.

Silverdust’s Härtel echoes that sentiment, adding: “The extended programme on the first day wouldn’t justify a big enough increase in ticket price to recoup what two years of covid did to the festival. We are doing this to create something special for the fans, the crew and everyone involved with Summer Breeze.”

It isn’t just increased demand festivals will have to meet this year but also increased expectations said AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King.

“The emergence from multiple lockdowns created a unique demand that is unlikely to repeat in the same way,” he explains.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021. We will see an increasing upturn in expectation from fans as the year plays out and they have been to more and more shows and there will be a need for the industry to up its game to keep fans attending and buying more tickets in the later part of the year.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Schueremans on Rock Werchter’s record sell-out

Rock Werchter founder Herman Schueremans says that the festival’s record sell-out is a sign of things to come, as he gears up for his busiest festival summer in years.

The organisers yesterday (9 February) announced that the 2022 edition of Belgium’s biggest festival is now completely sold out – and far earlier than expected.

“We normally sell out in April or May or early June… this time we are sold on 9 February,” Schueremans tells IQ.

This year’s Rock Werchter shifted 67,000 combi-tickets and four lots of 21,000 one-day tickets, some of which were sold at the price advertised in 2020 and some at an increased rate.

“After it became clear in the autumn that costs were going to increase, we increased Rock Werchter tickets from 1 December 2021. However, we informed our fans mid-November that we had to do that due to increased production costs, so they had 2 weeks to buy at the 2020 price.”

With increased ticket prices and pent-up demand across the board, Schueremans is aware that audiences expect more from festivals this year but says that “delivering a top bill and top service is part of our DNA”.

“Our 2022 bill is again a strong one with an eclectic mix of strong headliners, midsize acts (the headliners of the future) and new acts in all genres,” he maintains.

“Delivering a top bill and top service is part of our DNA”

Imagine Dragons, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and Metallica are among the acts billed to perform at the marquee event, scheduled for 30 June to 3 July in Festivalpark, Werchter.

Rock Werchter isn’t the only festival selling well according to Schueremans, who is also the CEO of Live Nation Belgium. The promoter has also reported “excellent” ticket sales for its other Festivalpark events too.

Werchter Boutique (19 June) with Gorillaz and Stromae has sold 43,000 tickets, while TW Classic (25 June) with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Placebo and The Smile has sold 40,000 tickets. Ticket prices for both events stayed the same.

Elsewhere in LN Belgium’s stable of events, Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel was expanded from 50,000 capacity to 52,000 after most tickets sold out in early November.

Capitalising further on the pent-up demand, Rock Werchter recently announced a new two-day festival in Brussels, in partnership with fellow Belgian festival behemoth Tomorrowland.

According to Schueremans, Core won’t be the only new event on their festival calendar this year: “Lots of Werchter fans are unserved. We will serve them and we will soon come up with a big surprise for them at the Werchter Park site. Will announce the headliner and part of the bill soon.”

See the full line-up for Rock Werchter 2022 below.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Festival Republic, Louder plan new London festival

Festival Republic and Louder have announced a new festival, slated to take place in London during the August bank holiday.

The inaugural edition of Electricity City will take place on Clapham Common, in southwest London, on Sunday 28 August.

Chase & Status, Headie One, Hybrid Minds and JME Presents are among the acts set to play the one-day event.

The festival has also secured a number of exclusive sets including Sub Focus B2B Wilkinson (UK festival exclusive), Skream UKG set (London festival exclusive) and Chase & Status (London exclusive).

Last year, Festival Republic launched three new one-day festivals on the August bank holiday at Clapham Common

Last year, Live Nation-backed Festival Republic and Louder launched three new one-day festivals on the August bank holiday at Clapham Common – Yam Carnival, Return II Dance and ALT + LDN. Lambeth Council, which presides over the Common, reportedly accumulated £300,000 from the festivals.

This year, Yam Carnival will return to its Saturday slot for a second edition, while Electric City will replace Return II Dance. ALT + LDN is billed to return in 2022 though no further details have been announced.

Festival Republic’s stable of festivals also includes Reading, Leeds, Latitude, Wireless, Wilderness and Download – all of which took place last year, in the UK.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter launch new fest

Belgium festival behemoths Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter have joined forces to launch a new two-day festival in Brussels.

Core festival will debut between 27–28 May this year in Osseghem Park, a picturesque nature area in the Belgian capital.

The organisers say the boutique festival will feature “a very eclectic” line-up (yet to be announced) that will “break the boundaries between quality indie, hip hop, electronica, hyper pop and alternative dance”.

The four-stage event will aim to attract 25,000 visitors per day including domestic and international festivalgoers.

Core‘s lineup will be revealed soon and the presale for tickets (which start at €67 for one-day admission) will start on 23 February.

“Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter have been working together on several smaller events i.e. the Garden of Madness shows by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike at the Antwerp Sportpaleis, the KNTXT event in Ghent, Swedish House Mafia at the Antwerp Sportpaleis,” Rock Werchter’s Yo Van Saet tells IQ.

“Our ideas are mostly complementary, the ambition of both our teams are high and like-minded. And so there was this new idea, becoming now a brand-new event. We are uniting to create this original and refreshing festival in one of Brussels’ most beautiful green parks. Expertise and knowledge are shared. Our teams are working together closely on this new festival, with great passion. It’s new, it’s fresh. It’s nothing like Rock Werchter, nor Tomorrowland.”

“Two of the most important players in the world of music, are coming to Brussels with this new concept”

Philippe Close, mayor of the city of Brussels, says: “We are very proud that Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter, two of the most important players in the world of music, are coming to Brussels with this new concept. A total experience of music, art and nature. Brussels celebrates and thus enables the event, cultural and hotel industry to breathe again.”

Rock Werchter (cap. 88,000), promoted by Herman Schueremans and Live Nation Belgium, is the country’s largest festival.

The marquee event is due to return between 30 June and 3 July this year for the first time since 2019.

Tomorrowland (70,000), meanwhile, will return to Boom from 22 July to 24 July and from 29 July to 31 July.

In addition to the flagship festival, Tomorrowland is also busy preparing for two weekends of Tomorrowland Winter in the Alpe d’Huez ski area between 19–26 March 2022.

The brand has had to cancel six festival weekends due to the pandemic, including four in Belgium (Tomorrowland 2020 and 2021) and two in France (Tomorrowland Winter 2020 and 2021).

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Portugal to host Rolling Loud’s European debut

US hip-hop festival Rolling Loud will finally make its European debut when it lands in Portugal this summer.

Headlined by J. Cole, A$AP Rocky and Future, the Live Nation-backed event will take place from 6-8 July on Praia Da Rocha Beach, Portimão, in the Algarve.

Other artists on the bill include AJ Tracey, Central Cee, D-Block Europe, Skepta, Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Jack Harlow and Lil Baby. Tickets go on sale on Friday (28 January). Acts will appear across two stages.

Rolling Loud has previously expanded from its flagship Miami festival to launch in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York, as well as Sydney, Australia

Rolling Loud Portugal was originally set for the summer of 2020, before being called off due to the pandemic. Founded in 2015 by Tariq Cherif and Matt Zingler, the brand has previously expanded from its flagship Miami festival to launch in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York, as well as Sydney, Australia. A proposed Hong Kong spin-off was cancelled in 2019.

Organisers introduced an 18+ age policy for its 2021 California leg in an apparent response to the Astroworld tragedy. Kid Cudi, J. Cole and Future headlined the 55,000-capacity festival at Nos Event Center, San Benardino, from 10-12 December last year.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

AEG’s Jim King: ‘Fans will expect more in 2022’

AEG Presents CEO of European Festivals Jim King says the live business will need to “up its game” in 2022 to meet fans’ raised expectations.

Though heartened by the success of the festivals that managed to go ahead in late summer ’21 following the Covid washout of the previous summer, the leading exec advises the bar will be set higher for the coming season.

“We must be careful,” he tells IQ. “The emergence from multiple lockdowns created a unique demand that is unlikely to repeat in the same way.

“Fans will expect more in 2022 than they accepted in 2021. We will see an increasing upturn in expectation from fans as the year plays out and they have been to more and more shows and there will be a need for the industry to up its game to keep fans attending and buying more tickets in the later part of the year.”

“For some artists and events, 2022 has a risk of being a hangover from the pandemic rather than the strong return the industry needs”

Highlighting the potential problems for tours and festivals over the next 12 months, King points to the number of headline tours rescheduled from 2020/21 into 2022 – an issue set to be further exacerbated by the ongoing disruption to the circuit in Q1 ’22.

“Many of the sales cycles sit on top of each other and in many cases, also sit on top of the festivals that the artist is also appearing on,” he says. “Ultimately, tour and festival announcements need to be carefully coordinated, but if an artist normally sells 5,000 tickets in a market per cycle, then packaging 10,000 or more tickets around a festival play all in the same market in one year is going to be a challenge, and some artists and events will suffer.

“At some point there is likely to be fatigue between fans and certain artists, resulting in some events experiencing lower sales and/or higher non-attendance. If not managed, then for some artists and events, 2022 has a risk of being a hangover from the pandemic rather than the strong return the industry needs.”

AEG’s flagship UK concert series, BST Hyde Park, was cancelled for the second year in succession in 2021, but will return with a bumper line-up this summer. The London-based festival is to take place across two weeks from 24 June to 10 July, with concerts from Elton John (24 June), Eagles (26 June), Duran Duran (10 July), Pearl Jam (8–9 July) and, in a huge coup, Adele (1–2 July).

“With the volume of shows in play, fans will not respond favourably if their expectations are not being met”

The promoter’s All Points East staple was able to take place in London’s Victoria Park last August and its 2022 edition is set over two weekends from 19-20 and 25-28 August with headliners Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers, Tame Impala, The National and Disclosure.

AEG’s French festival, Rock en Seine (ReS), meanwhile, has swelled to a four-day format and will be headlined by Stromae, Tame Impala and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds from 25–28 August in Domaine National de Saint-Cloud.

King has previously explained the company paused its pre-pandemic plans for new events in favour of focusing on rejuvenating established festivals. But as the industry gears up for its first proper summer season since 2019, he retains high hopes of a strong return.

“Overall, I am positive for the summer,” concludes King. “AEG has a fantastic series of festivals on sale with amazing headliners, but the ball is in our court to deliver great fan experiences, and with the volume of shows in play, fans will not respond favourably if their expectations are not being met.”

Read the full interview with King in IQ 107, out now.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

NZ’s new traffic-light system causes first disruptions

The fate of New Zealand’s upcoming festival season is to be determined by a new traffic-light system, which came into effect last night.

Under the new system, each region in the country has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community, as well as a set of corresponding restrictions.

In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with 1-metre social distancing.

In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality.

Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.

“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love”

Auckland is among a number of regions in the North Island that have been assigned ‘red’. Wellington, Waikato and all of the South Island are among the regions moving to orange. No region starts at green.

The traffic-light system is bad news for Live Nation-owned festival Rhythm and Vines, which was scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve in Gisborne – currently ‘red’ on the system.

Organisers yesterday announced that, for the first time in the festival’s 19-year history, the event will be rescheduled to 15 April until 17 April 2022.

In a statement, the festival organisers said: “Rhythm and Vines’ mission has [been] and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved, and [we] believe this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003.

Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai falls under a ‘red’ light

“Rhythm and Vines would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year’s festival including all staff, contractors, artists and suppliers who will have been affected by this decision.

“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love and we encourage everyone to #vaxforlive.”

Elsewhere, New Year’s Eve drum and bass festival Northern Bass refuses to pull the plug yet, even though the event site in Mangawhai has been assigned ‘red’.

The festival organisers say they are crossing their fingers for an orange light status after the next update from the government on 13 December.

“We won’t cancel [yet] – there’s no reason to cancel,” event organiser Gareth Popham told Stuff. “We’ve sold 11,500 tickets and currently have 10,000 kids on a waiting list wanting tickets.”

The sold-out event is set to be headlined by British DJ Andy C and electronic music duo Chase & Status.

Meanwhile, Auckland-born Lorde has postponed her Solar Power Tour until 2023, citing uncertainty around Covid and international touring.

Auckland’s Outerfields festival, originally scheduled for March 6th 2021, has been beset by Covid delays twice and is now tabled for 3 December 2022.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.