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ARTMania’s Codruța Vulcu honoured in Romania

Codruța Vulcu, owner and CEO of ARTmania Festival, visited the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest on National Culture Day to receive Romania’s Order of Cultural Merit.

She was awarded the prestigious medal on 15 January by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in recognition of her services to the arts.

Vulcu is the director and founder of ARTmania Festival in Sibiu, the East European Music Conference and Showcase Festival, BlajaLive Festival and Romanian Music Export, as well as vice-president of the Romanian Association of Promoters of Concerts and Cultural Events (Aroc). In 2019 she also organised the official ceremonies for Pope Francis on the Field of Liberty in Blaj, Romania.

“This distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career”

“I am honoured to receive this special distinction, unique in the life of a professional,” she says. “It is an acknowledgement that belongs to all those who believed in me and taught me; a distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career in the music sector.

“Developing and launching international projects like ARTmania or BlajaLive, establishing a musical export bureau, and successfully organising the ceremonies during the official visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, are the results of not just one individual but of an entire team.”

ARTmania, Romania’s longest-running rock festival, won best small festival at the European Festival Awards in 2019, while Vulcu won the award for excellence and passion last year in a personal capacity. The 2021 edition of the festival takes place from 23 to 25 July.


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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees

The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.

Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.

The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.

“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”

Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.

The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.

“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”

“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”

The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.

In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.

“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.

ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”

Lehmkuhl, who runs German festivals including Melt, Splash, Superbloom and With Full Force, added that a lot depends on how long the shutdown continues for.

“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.

“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”

“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”

Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”

As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”

In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”

Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”

Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.

“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.

“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”

Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.

The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.

“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.

The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”

Vulcu added that support packages offered by governments in western European countries such as Germany and the UK may put newer markets at a disadvantage, as they are less likely to receive support.

Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.

Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”

Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.

“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”

Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.

Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.

For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.

The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.

“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”

The next IQ Focus session State of Independence: Promoters will take place on Thursday 16 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET. To set a reminder head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s session back below, or on YouTube or Facebook now.

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IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’

After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.

The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.

Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?

How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?

IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.

All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.

To set a reminder about the IQ Focus Festival Forum: The Next Stage session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.


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European metal festivals form new alliance

Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance, which is hosting a virtual event in August to raise money for the independent festival sector.

Unveiled today (17 June), the European Metal Festival Alliance (Emfa) is a joint venture between Alcatraz in Belgium, Romania’s ARTmania, Bloodstock in the UK, Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault, Dynamo and Into The Grave in the Netherlands, Spain’s Leyendas Del Rock and Resurrection, Slovenia’s Metal Days, Midgardsblot in Norway, France’s Motocultor and German events Party.San and Summer Breeze.

The alliance is putting on a streaming event from 7 to 9 August with exclusive live performances from artists chosen by each festival, as well as a selection of interviews.

Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance

Viewers will be asked for €6.66 for a ‘full festival pass’ to raise funds for the independent festival sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. The pass will give fans access to three days of performances from over 35 acts, as well as a discount on a Emfa ‘Rebooting for 2021’ t-shirt.

Throughout the summer, the newly launched Emfa website will host a range of footage from its founding festivals, including many sets that have not been previously broadcast.

The line-up and schedule for the streaming event will be announced in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale on 10 July here.

Bloodstock director Rachael Greenfield was among festival heads to take part in the IQ Focus panel Festival Forum: Here Come 21 last month. Set a reminder for this week’s panel, IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis, on Facebook or YouTube.


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Romania’s Saga postpones as lockdown lifting nears

The inaugural edition of Insomniac- and Alda-promoted Saga festival has been postponed to September, as the Romanian government prepares to begin a staggered easing of lockdown restrictions in mid-May.

Organisers of Saga, which was originally set to debut from 5 to 7 June in Bucharest’s Izvor park, state the postponement is “the best option for Saga festival with the health and wellbeing of visitors a main priority”.

Although the line-up for the rescheduled event on 11 to 13 September “may be slightly different due to artist scheduling”, organisers assure fans the billing “will be up to [the] standards” of dance music giants Insomniac (Electric Daisy Carnival) and Alda (Amsterdam Music Festival, New Horizons).

Saga joins fellow Bucharest festival Europafest, a multi-venue jazz, blues, pop and classical music event, to change its 2020 dates in view of the coronavirus crisis. Scheduled for May, organisers say they are now planning for Europafest to take place in the second half of July, with dates depending on the evolution of the situation in Romania and at European level.

Other major festivals in Romania, including electronic music events Untold and Neversea and European Festival Awards 2019 winners Electric Castle, Jazz in the Park and ARTmania, have yet to announce changes to their 2020 editions. The government expected to give more details on the future of public events when it begins to ease its stringent lockdown laws – which have seen citizens collectively fined up to €78 million for flouting restrictions –  on 15 May.

“Large-scale events are unlikely to take place given the announced and forecasted restrictions”

Although Emil Boc, mayor of the city of Cluj-Napoca where Untold, Electric Castle and Jazz in the Park take place, has said that large-scale events are “unlikely to take place given the announced and forecasted restrictions”, he notes that “difference and diverse ways of organising these events can be found”.

Festival organisers in Romania have also found diverse and different ways of helping the fight against coronavirus in recent weeks.

Promoters in Cluj-Napoca are selling “solidarity tickets” as part of the A Single Cluj (Un Singur Cluj) campaign, which brings together event organisers and others in the region to synchronise relief efforts and pool resources. By purchasing a solidarity ticket, fans can make direct donations to hospitals and other public institutions. “Ticket” prices range from RON 10 to RON 5,000 (€1,034).

Money raised by the campaign has gone towards buying surgical masks for help workers and supplying food to frontline staff. Members of the initiative have also helped to construct emergency triage centres.

The team behind Untold festival, currently set to take place from 30 July to 2 August with acts including Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Pussycat Dolls and David Guetta, launched the United Romania initiative, which aims to “bring together the good in Romania”.

So far, the campaign has helped supply six trucks with equipment such as portable flooring, geotextile and lighting from Untold and Neversea festivals for a field hospital in the city of Constanta and has provided 12,000 tests and other medical materials to hospitals in Cluj.


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EEMC enjoys second successful year

The Romanian city of Sibiu hosted more than 30 industry delegates from around the world for the second annual East European Music Conference (EEMC), 26–28 July, where artists expanding their careers outside of Romania’s borders featured heavily on the conference agenda.

Organised with the support of the Romanian Association of Concerts and Cultural Events Organisers (AROC) and sponsors Kaufland, and financed by Sibiu Municipality, the event provided a day-time programme for delegates attending ARTmania Festival, promoted by AROC chair Codruța Vulcu, who is also one of the leading exponents of the country’s new export office.

International producers, booking agents, promoters and showcase event organisers were among those who witnessed the first Romanian Music Export’s showcase, where five acts chosen by an international jury performed on the eve of the ARTmania festival.

The conference schedule included discussions involving the Take a Stand and Music Moves Europe campaigns; initiatives to improve event sustainability; how to make the most of showcase events; and how to set up an export office, while attendees were enthralled by keynote interviews with promoting legend Laszlo Hegedus and Exit Festival founder Ivan Milivojev.

“The business is becoming more professional and artists are being introduced to all sorts of new opportunities”

But with an emphasis on helping Romanian talent to establish meaningful careers, EEMC also featured networking and mentoring sessions for musicians and their representatives, while workshops on subjects covering the live, recording, publishing and branding side of an act’s activities were led by International Music Managers Forum policy advisor Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt, whose presentations captivated the many artists at the conference.

“The Romanian music industry is still in it’s infancy, but thanks to the many experts that have given up their time to come to EEMC over its first two years, I’m happy to say that the business is beginning to become more professional and artists are being introduced to all sorts of new opportunities to help them make a career from music,” says Vulcu.

“The launch of Romanian Music Export is another significant step toward developing our country’s vibrant cultural scene. More than 200 acts applied to take part in our first showcase event, highlighting the importance of creating such a support network for artists and those working in the local industry.”


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Colectiv fire: One year on

Together with the attack on the Bataclan some two weeks later, the tragic fire at the 700-capacity Colectiv nightclub in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, on 30 October 2015 is one of the worst disasters to hit the European live music industry – and Europe in general – in living memory. Sixty-four people are known to have died and close to 150 were injured, with many still in hospital, after pyrotechnics ignited inflammable acoustic foam at a show by metalcore band Goodbye to Gravity, with up to 500 people in attendance.

At an event commemorating a year since the disaster last Sunday, Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, paid tribute to the victims and praised the changes implemented in the wake of the disaster, which include the mass closure of unsafe venues, the introduction of an indoor smoking ban and the election of a new ‘technocratic’, non-politically affiliated government led by Dacian Cioloș after the resignation of the previous prime minister, Victor Ponta, amid mass anti-corruption protests triggered by the fire.

“Romania has changed,” he said. “A year later, things have changed for the better. Safety checks are clearer and more common at event venues.”

“A year later, things have changed for the better”

However, Iohannis criticised the speed of investigations into the cause of the fire: public prosecutors have yet to bring anyone to trial for their role in the disaster, despite Colectiv only having one exit and reportedly being well over capacity on the night of the fire. “After one year, we would like to know who is responsible for this terrible accident,” he said.

Speaking to the Associated Press, ‘Flueras’, a 32-year-old music photographer, said survivors are still awaiting the trial of the club’s owners and those involved in the firework show. “Unfortunately, there is no precedent and things haven’t moved quickly,” he said. “The trial hasn’t begun and we are [still] in a preliminary phase.”

In addition to the criminal trials, a total of 248 people are suing Colectiv representatives for damages of more than €212 million.

At ILMC 28 in March, Codruta Vulcu, festival director of Transylvania’s ARTmania, said it “took a tragedy for the government” to take notice of Romania’s music scene. “We have festivals, we have shows, but we have no regulations ­– or when they do exist they’re not enforced,” she said. “After the fire, the government realised the [55,000-capacity] National Arena had no fire licence!”

“There are more fire extinguishers at clubs and concerts, but I don’t think society is more aware”

Some progress has been made since then: a number of Bucharest venues lacking fire exits were shuttered in the aftermath of the disaster, and several more, including Expirat, La Bonne Bouche and Biutiful, were forced to close by a new law forbidding public gatherings in buildings considered to be unsafe in the event of an earthquake. (A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Vrancea county on 23 September.)

Cioloș’s government also banned smoking in enclosed areas, including bars, venues and restaurants, as of 16 March.

Despite these reforms, many Romanians remain unconvinced the country would be better equipped to deal with another Colectiv should it happen today. “We did not learn a lot from what happened,” Razvan Braileanu, a journalist and musician who survived the fire, tells Reuters’s Romanian correspondent, Luiza Ilie, adding that from his flat he regularly sees fire engines struggling to squeeze past cars parked in his narrow street.

“Sure, there are more fire extinguishers at clubs and concerts – but I don’t think society is more aware.”

“The private sector is now approaching the government to say let’s regulate the industry, let’s make laws a lot clearer”

Speaking to IQ, Vulcu – now also president of newly formed Romanian concert promoters’ association Aroc, which includes ARTmania, the Electric Castle, Sunwaves and Summerwell festivals and Romania’s biggest concert promoter, Emagic – says if there’s one positive to be drawn from the disaster, it’s that Cioloș’s non-political government is now listening to the music industry.

For the first time since the fall of communism, she says, “we’ve found support from the government”, with ministers willing to properly regulate the Romanian live sector. “The private sector is now approaching the [government] to say let’s regulate [the industry], let’s make laws a lot clearer,” she explains. “They say, ‘We understand, we’ll try to change things.'”

Vulcu’s relief at having what she calls Romania’s “first respectable government” in 25 years is, however, tempered by the spectre of the “old communists” in the PSD (Social Democratic Party) returning to power in the upcoming general election on 11 December. She says she “truly hopes”, for the sake of the Romanian music industry, that “this technocrat prime minister [Cioloș] will be willing to say on as an independent”.


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