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IFF 2022: Roskilde, 50 years young

Roskilde’s Anders Wahren and Christina Bilde opened up on the past, present and future of the Danish institution in a keynote session at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London.

Wahren, who has been a booker of Denmark’s biggest festival since 2003 and programme director since 2014, and deputy director – communications, partnerships & philanthropy Bilde sat down with ILMC head Greg Parmley to discuss the event, which celebrated its half-century this year.

Roskilde Festival recently announced a revamp of its booking team and an increased focus on volunteering in the wake of its recent 50th anniversary edition, with Wahren retaining overall responsibility for music, art and activism, but being succeeded as head of booking by Thomas Jepsen.

The festival is hosting a special 50th birthday celebration in the Glasshouse of IFF’s host hotel, the Holiday Inn in Camden from 9-11pm tonight.

First, here are some of the highlights of the hour-long Roskilde: 50 Years Young interview, starting with the first edition Wahren attended as a fan…

“The first show I saw on the Orange Stage was Sex Pistols. And maybe it’s too much to call it a show…”

Watching the Sex Pistols in 1996…

Anders Wahren: “It was 90,000 people in a field mostly wearing black boots and T-shirts, and it was an era of grunge, rock and metal. The first show I saw on the Orange Stage was Sex Pistols. And maybe it’s too much to call it a show because they tried to play but were hit by bottles and cups. They tried to come back and play three times, but in the end they had to give up. So that was my introduction to what it was like to be at the Orange Stage. Luckily, it was first and final [like] that. But there was still this community feeling. Not with the people throwing shit of course, but everybody else in the crowd. I was 13 at the time, I was going with some friends. But I also had friends from school who had been going since they were small kids going with their parents.”

The ever-evolving Roskilde line-up…

AW: “It’s reflecting audience taste and also what’s happening in the music world and in the world as such. We wouldn’t still have a young audience if we booked the same acts that were there in the 70s or 80s, there needs to be evolvement over time. Of course, some of the people who started coming when I did, complain: ‘Why are you not booking so many rock bands anymore?’ And we have got that for 20 years now because we don’t just book rock bands, we book a lot of other stuff as well. It’s very important that we keep the line-up fresh to attract new audiences and keep the festival moving. I think that’s a very good reason why we’re still here and having the 50th anniversary.”

“A challenge that we share with a lot of other events is how to get back the generation that haven’t been able to go to festivals during the pandemic”

Christina Bilde: “The average age [of the audience] has been 24 for the last 15 years. But this year, we had an average age of 27. I think some of the explanation is that the tickets were sold in 2019/2020 and the audience kept their tickets, so they rolled over. And of course, having a break of three years, the audience also grew older. We also think it being the 50th festival made some older people want to come. But that gives us a challenge, of course, because we want to get the younger participants back again. A challenge that we share with a lot of other events is how to get back the generation that haven’t been able to go to festivals during the pandemic.”

“The Roskilde poker face is something that all agents experience at one point or another”

The Roskilde ‘poker face’…

Jules de Lattre (UTA agent): “The Roskilde poker face is something that all agents experience at one point or another. We’re talking to the programming team and you could be pitching the next Daft Punk and doing so with passion, emotion, and throwing everything at it. What you will get back is not a sliver of visible interest or emotion, which is really quite unsettling the first time it happens for some of the younger agents and coordinators. We always have to reassure them after and say, ‘This is just the Roskilde poker face and actually you will probably get an offer for the act you least expect to have on the festival.’ I think that that points to – and I’m saying this seriously now – the impeccable A&R over the years at Roskilde.”

AW: “We should play more poker! Volunteers are a big part of the Roskilde organisation. We also have them in the midst of our booking team and that’s important because they are not entwined in the music business as such, so they just listen to a lot of music, go to a lot of shows, keep up with the current scenes and inform us. So there’s a lot going on behind the scenes and the poker face that we try to put up. Also, we’re not the sole decision makers and are not able to make the offer right away because we always want to discuss internally and make up our group mind. So it has never been my taste that dictates what a good Roskilde line-up is, it’s a combination of many people.”

“Roskilde has been quite good at listening and picking up trends from our audience over the years”

CB: “Roskilde has been quite good at listening and picking up trends from our audience over the years , even before the trends were visible in other areas of society. Listening to the young audience and being brave enough to move with them is part of the experience as well.”

Returning after Covid…

AW: “It felt good. I was a little worried that some things might have changed and maybe the audience only wanted to [see] the big headliners. How would we know? Three years off is a lot, so it was good to reconnect with the audience. Of course, it was a tough year: there were more cancellations than ever and there was a strike warning from Scandinavian Airlines. The pilots were going on strike the first day of the festival and they postponed it a week. But still, it was a lot of stress.”

The future…

AW: “The honest answer is we don’t know. It’s hard to say now that it’s going to be in this direction or that direction because it will probably change a few times, so we’ll see. We’ll keep evolving and will hopefully keep up with wherever the most interesting things are happening in art and music, we’ll go there and take the audience with us.”

Click here to read IQ‘s recent feature commemorating Roskilde’s half-century.

 


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Roskilde Festival revamps booking team

Roskilde Festival has announced a revamp of its booking team and an increased focus on volunteering in the wake of its recent 50th anniversary edition.

Anders Wahrén, who has been a booker of Denmark’s biggest festival since 2003 and programme director since 2014, will retain overall responsibility for music, art and activism, but will no longer book the event going forward and is succeeded by new head of booking Thomas Jepsen

“It is absolutely essential that we continue to push the limits and develop Roskilde Festival in new directions,” says Wahren. “That is why we are now changing how we put together our music programme. Partly in the distribution of roles in the booking team, but we are also in the process of rethinking how we can involve volunteers even more in programming in the future.”

Jepsen has been associated with the booking team since 2009 – the first years as a volunteer and from 2014 as a booker.

“I would like to build on the work we are already doing, where our focus is especially on young people’s communities,” says Jepsen. “We want to continue to pique people’s curiosity and give them something more than what they necessarily have on their wish list.

“At the same time, we must ensure diversity in the music programme. In recent years, there has been a necessary, increased focus on the gender distribution on the festival line-ups, we will also in the future pay even more attention to the representation of minorities in our programming.”

“We have a goal of reaching all corners of the musical trends, and the risk of hitting blind spots is minimised if we expand the group”

With Roskilde’s foundations based on voluntary engagement, the new organisation is focusing on involving even more volunteers in the booking team and on developing new ways in which they can engage.

“We have a goal of reaching all corners of the musical trends, and the risk of hitting blind spots is minimised if we expand the group,” adds Wahren. “Therefore, we are now investigating other ways to volunteer. It could, for example, be as a scout, where you go to concerts and report back to us. It could also be on a more organisational level. We are developing that.”

Wahren will be joined by deputy director – communications, partnerships & philanthropy Christina Bilde and head of sustainability Sanne Stephansen at this year’s International Festival Forum in London for the keynote conversation Roskilde Festival: 50 Years Young from noon on Wednesday 28 September.

The festival will then host a special 50th birthday celebration in the Glasshouse of IFF’s host hotel, the Holiday Inn in Camden from 9-11pm later that day.

Click here to read IQ‘s feature commemorating Roskilde’s half-century.

 


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Roskilde 50: ‘It was amazing to be back’

Roskilde programme director Anders Wahrén tells IQ it felt “amazing to be back” following the conclusion of the festival’s belated 50th anniversary edition.

Held from 25 June to 2 July, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Tyler, the Creator and The Strokes headlined the first Roskilde since 2019, with the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, St Vincent, Haim, The Smile, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and Biffy Clyro also featuring on the bill.

“It was amazing to be back doing what we love to do,” Wahrén tells IQ. “The highlights were many, but seeing how our audience always lifts the artists up, supporting the headliners as well as the lesser known acts, was probably the overall highlight.

“Seeing young headliners as Dua Lipa, Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone, Haim and Megan Thee Stallion take on our main stage bodes well for the future.”

“We had a lot of new people in the organisation”

One of the largest and best-loved festivals in Europe, for 2022, organisers released 5,000 extra tickets exclusively for fans aged under 25 to help secure a new generation, thus growing the festival’s capacity to 85,000 people per day.

However, with a three-year gap since the last festival, the Danish institution’s return proved a triumph despite having to content with a series of Covid-related challenges.

“Like everyone else, we have had to lay off staff during the pandemic which means we had a lot of new people in the organisation,” says Wahrén. “Combined with a shortage of staff from our suppliers and a lack of volunteers in some parts of the organisation made it a tough year. But everyone did an amazing job, and it is always jaw-dropping to see how much responsibility our volunteers take on site, helping and lifting each other up.”

“Hopefully, we will get back to where we were in terms of engaging volunteers”

Rebuilding volunteer numbers, which totalled around 30,000 pre-pandemic, is considered a priority.

“Hopefully, we will get back to where we were in terms of engaging volunteers,” notes Wahrén. “This work starts early and normally builds on top of the success of one festival towards the planning of the next one. Festivals are important as an inspiration, and I hope we can inspire change in terms of diversity, sustainability and solidarity in the years to come.”

In closing, Wahrén suggests that although the public’s appetite to attend concerts in Denmark has not waned, the market was yet to return to normal.

“They are keen, but you can definitely still sense that there is a backlog on private arrangements such as birthdays, weddings, etc, and rolled over shows, making some ticket sales hard,” he says. “But once they are there – and with our festival being sold out well in advance, they were – they enjoy it more than ever. I could sense the urgency of having real, physical live shows back and the smiles were wider than ever.”

The next issue of IQ will include a special anniversary feature on 50 years of Roskilde festival. 

 


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Festival leaders talk uncertain future in latest IQ Focus session

Representatives from some of Europe’s best-loved festivals took part in the second of IQ’s virtual panel sessions yesterday (14 May), reflecting on the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on this important seasonal sector of the industry.

Available to watch back now here, as well as on Facebook and Youtube, the session saw AEG Presents’ Jim King, FKP Scorpio’s Stephan Thanscheidt, Bloodstock Open Air’s Rachael Greenfield, Roskilde Festival’s Anders Wahren and Montreux Jazz festival’s Mathieu Jaton offer their opinions on the biggest challenges facing the festival industry post Covid-19 and the steps the sector must take for recovery.

Although Thanscheidt stated FKP was “planning on having a normal season in 2021”, others did not share his optimism.

For King, the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis will continue to harm the sector until a vaccine is created. “I am severely doubtful that anything is going to take place this year and I’m somewhat doubtful about Q1 next year,” said AEG’s CEO of European Festivals.

The festival supply chain is of particular concern to King, given the number of independent festivals that face collapse due to the current situation.

“These community festivals provide income for freelancers and suppliers of all sizes,” said King, citing a recent Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) report which warns that 92% of its members could be bankrupted by refund requests.

“I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too”

“If those festivals are impacted, the supply chain will be dramatically affected as well. This has a massive ripple out to the wider industry,” said King. “The impact will be seismic, and that’s an understatement.”

The panel agree that fan confidence had taken “a battering”, and that the coronavirus crisis will lead to fans having less money to spend. As a result, “there’s going to be a correction across costs generally” to account, argued King.

“Artists are going to get paid less because staff and suppliers are going to get paid less – everyone’s going to have to take a big bite of this to protect our relationship with the fan.

“Some [artists] won’t tour if they have to take a cut. But I think overall the average price for an artist will come down, and I think you’ll see that on touring too.”

Beyond the pressure on costs and artist fees, guests referenced the incompatibility of festivals with any form of social distancing measures.

“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work,” said Greenfield, who cancelled the 2020 edition of Bloodstock earlier this month. “To be able to have a good time you can’t separate people – that’s not what a festival is about.”

“A festival is all about bringing people together. To institute any form of social distancing… I fail to see how that could work”

Wahren, head of programming at Roskilde Festival, which was forced to cancel this year due to the Danish government’s summer-long events ban, agreed that “it’s all or nothing”.

“I can’t see us running a festival wearing masks or standing one metre apart.”

For Wahren, alternative forms of live events such as drive-in concerts, although fun, are mere stopgap solutions and “not what we are in this business for”.

Session host and ILMC head Greg Parmley asked each guests for a positive lesson that the last two months had taught them. Unanimously, all spoke of an overwhelming sense of audience loyalty towards their events.

Full festival tickets for Roskilde 2021 sold out in a matter of hours earlier this week, with 85% of ticketholders holding onto their tickets for next year. Thanscheidt cited similar numbers for FKP’s twin festivals, Hurricane and Southside, with 75 to 80% of fans expected to retain their tickets for 2021, and Greenfield put refund requests for Bloodstock at just 8%.

“We also managed to roll over 95% of bands for next year, which surprisingly wasn’t at all difficult,” added the Bloodstock director.

In Germany, parliament is set to pass new laws regarding the refund system in the next few days, said Thanscheidt. The German government is among those to protect corona-hit event organisers by allowing them to offer credit vouchers instead of cash refunds.

“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so”

And beyond the fans themselves, panellists highlighted the solidarity shown throughout the industry, with many pulling together to support others in need.

However, a more unified approach to tackling the crisis is needed. According to Thanscheidt, “it’s time to team up and start lobbying on a pan-European level.”

For Jaton, the unification should go further still. “The first steps right now are to save the industry in individual countries, but we are an interdependent industry – we are very dependent on the US, so if there is a problem in the US, that’s half our festival gone [talent wise].”

King agreed, saying that, as an industry, “we have still not set out what our key objectives are”.

“Everyone’s thinking very differently about when we recover. We’ve got to put in a longer term plan over multiple cycles and we need to align on how we can collectively come out of this.

“There is a great opportunity for us to reshape the industry, we’ve just got to get to the point to allow ourselves to do so.”

The next IQ Focus session, The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, takes place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 p.m. BST/4.30 p.m. CET, with speakers John Langford (AEG Europe), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).

Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.


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Eminem to play first Danish show at Roskilde 2018

The European leg of Eminem’s comeback Revival tour, announced today, will include a stop at Roskilde Festival – the American rap superstar’s first-ever show in Denmark.

Eminem will headline Roskilde on Wednesday 4 July – the US’s Independence Day – with other European shows including Norway’s Oslo Sommertime Festival, Switzerland’s Frauenfeld Open Air, arena dates in Stockholm, Milan, Hanover and the Netherlands and two nights at London’s Twickenham Stadium (80,000-seat) on 14 and 15 July.

“Eminem is one of the biggest artists of his generation, and we are absolutely thrilled to finally get him to Denmark,” says Anders Wahrén, Roskilde’s head of programming. “We have wanted him at Roskilde Festival for so many years, and I must admit I almost shed a tear of joy when I got the confirmation.

“Eminem’s importance can’t be overstated. More than anyone else, he has brought hip hop to new audiences. His Reading show last year served as proof that he can conquer a festival crowd, and we can’t wait to see him on our iconic Orange stage.”

Eminem (pictured) joins around 175 acts playing Roskilde Festival 2018, including headliners Bruno Mars, Gorillaz and David Byrne.

 


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