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VibeLab co-founder on Saudi Arabia’s music push

One of the speakers at Saudi Arabia’s first music conference, XP, has shared his thoughts on how the region can further grow its creative economy.

Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of Amsterdam-based consultancy VibeLab, will appear at the inaugural three-day event in Riyadh from 13-15 December, which is aimed at accelerating and amplifying the music business in the Middle East.

A leading authority on protecting night time economy, community and culture, Leichsenring advises the territory to take note of the best practices and tools employed around the globe.

“It is important to understand that the music scene is not going to be built the same way you build a tower,” he says. “There is not an actual blueprint to building a music scene, but I don’t see this as something very hard as it is rooted in the Saudi culture.

“The Saudi people are creative, the Saudi people have craftwork, the Saudi people enjoy music. It is basically rooted in their DNA. The important question is how to rekindle this?

“You need to make sure that people are willing now to a different route from their parents or grandparents, or even from the musicians they listen to that are from another country. You need to make sure that people are willing to build their own identity and own culture. And all of this takes a lot of time – there’s no shortcut.”

Huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream

Billed as the “most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region”, XP is being organised by MDLBeast in partnership with the Saudi Music Commission and will feature leading cultural representatives and music industry experts from around the world.

Through workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations, XP plans to expand opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds including artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and policymakers.

Organisers say the conference is built on four key pillars – talent, policy, scene and impact – that will help to amplify the region’s music industry. The full programme will be released in due course.

Asked how a country like Saudi Arabia goes about building a music scene, Leichsenring says: “Most cities, most countries will have had a scene of some sort. Perhaps it wasn’t visible, perhaps because it wasn’t allowed, but there would been something there and that was certainly the case in Saudi, with a genuine underground vibe.

“Now, these huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream. That’s being supported by government, so from the top down, but then there’s also the grassroots ‘bottom up’, organic scene which is now able to grow much much more.

“Further, there are now Saudi creatives returning home to be a part of these changes and they’re bringing experience they’ve gained all around the world back to their hometowns. This is amplifying the movement.”

Regional artists TamTam and Jeme have also been announced for the conference.

“I’m inspired by a lot of cities and Los Angeles is top, although it’s not the perfect role model for our region,” says TamTam. “I think the best angle would be to take away what’s best from different music cities, not just look at one city.”

“Creating public venues for artists to showcase their art and work will play a big part in supporting the music ecosystem as a whole,” adds Jeme. “Having more venues will create demand for artists, a huge market for promoters, booking agencies, production companies and so many other possibilities.”

Meanwhile, MDLBeast’s Soundstorm festival, which debuted in 2019, will return to Riyadh between 16-19 December, this time with a fourth day.

Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, The Chainsmokers, Charlotte de Witte, Cirez-D, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki and Tiësto are among the 150 acts scheduled.

 


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European Festival Conference returns to Barcelona

Yourope’s annual European Festival Conference (EFC) will return to Barcelona this November after two years off due to the pandemic.

The delayed fourth edition is set to take place between 23 and 26 November at Mas Salagros EcoResort in Vallromanes, 25 kilometres outside of Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain.

The two-day event comprises workshops, outdoor activity, networking excursions and seminars that will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, weather and insurance.

This year’s speaker line-up includes Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival), Marta Pallares (Primavera Sound), Mikko Niemelä (Ruisrock Festival), Henrik Nielsen (Roskilde Festival & YES Group), Andreas Groth Clausen (Roskilde Festival) and Johannes Jacobi (Für Festivals).

The two-day event will address issues such as post-pandemic challenges, health and safety, diversity and inclusion

Participating industry associations are the Green Operations Group (GO Group), Yourope Event Safety Group (YES Group) and the European Marketing and Communications Group (EMAC), which was formed at the first EFC.

Michael Fritz (co-founder of Viva con Agua de St.Pauli) will deliver the EFC keynote speech, discussing 15 years of social activism at festivals (and beyond) that helped provide fresh drinking water for more than 3.5 million people in need.

Elsewhere, Johannes Jacobi (Höme – für Festivals) will present the results of Europe’s biggest festival survey so far and Prof. Dr Ralf Kitzberger, Yourope’s lawyer on standard terms, will answer questions on annexes, clauses and insurances.

Since launching, the festival has moved from Austria to Norway to Barcelona, hosting around 100 delegates at each conference.

Conference tickets are priced at €800 for a single room or €700 for a shared double room, with a €100 discount for Yourope members, and are available from www.europeanfestivalconference.com.

 


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MDLBeast plans S.Arabia’s first music conference

MDLBeast has announced Saudi Arabia’s first music conference, set to become the “most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region”.

The inaugural conference, XP, will take place in the capital city of Riyadh between 13 and 15 December, drawing leading international and regional music industry executives.

Through workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations, XP plans to expand opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds including artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and policymakers.

The conference, which is in partnership with the Saudi Music Commission, comes days after MDLBeast’s Soundstorm 2021 festival, which debuted in 2019.

“XP is a first for the region and will serve as the foundation for a thriving music industry across the Middle East”

Ramadan Alharatani, CEO of MDLBeast, says: “XP is a first for the region and will serve as the foundation for a thriving music industry across the Middle East. Providing a platform to authenticate and further build the music industry in the region, local and international guests will be embraced by the wealth of possibility offered by this exciting new market over the three days. Through XP, we aim to join the global conversation, and by hosting such an event we will continue to build & accelerate the music infrastructure across the region.”

Nada Alhelabi, XP programme director, added: “Through these conversations, we want it to inspire future generations to consider a career in the industry and promote music as a vehicle for job creation and innovation, making it a sustainable industry from which they can profit. A big focus for us is promoting diversity, wellbeing, and fair working conditions to empower females and give a voice to minority groups within the industry.”

The organisers say the conference is built on four key pillars – talent, policy, scene and impact – that will help to amplify the region’s music industry. Full programming will be released in due course.

Soundstorm will return to Riyadh between 16 and 19 December, this time with a fourth day.

Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, The Chainsmokers, Charlotte de Witte, Cirez-D, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Tiësto are among the 150 acts slated for this year’s bumper edition.

 


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Event Production Show returns with in-person event

Live Nation’s executive president of international touring, Phil Bowdery, and AEG Presents’ CEO of European festivals, Jim King, are among the senior UK live music execs confirmed for the 2021 Event Production Show (EPS), which takes place in Farnborough this later this month.

Running from 26–27 May under government Covid-safe guidelines, EPS comprises an exhibition, Access All Areas-branded conference and the Event Production Awards.

Among the speakers at the Access All Areas conference will be Boomtown creative producer Mair Morel, Notting Hill Carnival director Mathew Phillip, Black Deer co-founders Debs Shilling and Gill Tee, Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, Standon Calling events director Claire Goodchild and Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed.

The main-stage conference sessions will examine ways in which the live events industry can recover from the impact of the pandemic and build back better to reduce its environmental impact, create a more representative workforce, mend the links in the supply chain and maintain its more unified approach to major challenges.

The National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) has also put together a day of seminars on its sponsored stage at EPS. Themed panels include Government & The Events Industry; Diversity, Equality & Inclusion; Licensing & Legalities; and What Comes Next? The Future of the Events Industry.

Conference sessions will examine ways the live events industry can recover from the impact of the pandemic

Elsewhere, nominations have been announced for the Event Production Awards, which will take place on the first day of the Event Production Show (EPS) on 26 May.

The awards will recognise outstanding work and dedication of companies and individuals throughout the past 12 months. It will for the first time include the Access All Areas Editor’s Award to recognise an individual who has championed the live events industry throughout the pandemic.

The nominees for the Editor’s Award are Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed, Black Deer co-founder Gill Tee, Parklife co-founder and Manchester night-time economy advisor Sacha Lord, LIVE CEO Greg Parmley and Production Services Association GM Andy Lenthall.

The full schedule for the conference, which takes place at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, is available on the EPS website.

 


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GEI announces special summer 2021 conference

The Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) has announced the launch of a special GEI Summer Edition taking place on 16 September 2021.

The launch, which coincides with Earth Day today (22 April), follows this year’s 13th edition of the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading conference for sustainability in the international events sector, in March. The decision to host a second edition in 2021 reflects the doubling of efforts to create a greener events industry post-Covid-19, according to organisers.

“We intend to set an example that we, the creative and can-do organisations and individuals are leading the way, and the future that we want to co-create is fully in our grasp,” says Claire O’Neill, co-founder of conference organiser A Greener Festival (AGF).

“There’s no time to waste, and so we’re keeping our foot firmly on the (zero-emissions) pedal to make sure our industry steps up to be a positive force to create a future we can all be proud of.”

“The future that we want to co-create is fully in our grasp”

Previous editions of GEI have welcomed speakers including Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), Dale Vince (Ecotricity/Forest Green Rovers), Emma Banks (CAA), Tom Schroeder (Paradigm), Fay Milton (Music Declares Emergency), Alex Hardee (Paradigm), Patricia Yague (Live Nation), Adam Pearson (O2 Arena/AEG), Mark Stevenson (ClientEarth/MoD), Bob Wilson (Greenpeace), Niclas Svenningson (UNFCCC) and Virginijus Sinkevicius (European commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries).

GEI Summer Edition takes place just two months prior to COP26 (the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference). Conference topics are expected to include social justice, biodiversity, clean air, clean water and healthy soils, wellbeing and mental health, as well as exploring how events and tours can make positive impacts through their design, energy, purchases, water, sanitation, materials, food and drinks.

Organisers expect 200+ delegates to attend the first GEI Summer Edition, limited launch price tickets for which are on sale now.

GEI is AGF’s annual flagship event, delivered in partnership with the International Live Music Conference in London. It has been running for over 13 years and welcomes delegates and speakers who are leaders in the event sector, sustainability and regenerative economies.

 


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Warning over post-Brexit work permits for conferences

Booking agent Ian Smith, the founder of Brexit information service UKEArtsWork, is warning that British visitors to music industry conferences may require a work permit after the current Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020.

In a new video posted to the UKEArtsWork YouTube channel, Smith addresses concerns raised in a recent Guardian article that those working in the “service industry”, which includes live entertainment, will face fines of up to €20,000 if they do not apply for special permits for visits to conferences in the event no deal is agreed between British and EU negotiators.

While the article largely focuses on the manufacturing/engineering sector, Smith is concerned the new rules could also apply to UK-based music professionals, many of whom speak at multiple conferences in continental Europe each year.

“Work permits may be necessary when attending conferences in another state”

“Here at UKEArtsWork, we’re as busy as ever fact-checking and bringing up to date info for everyone in the arts affected on both sides of the channel,” explains Smith. “The site covers as much as we can: all the ever-shifting sands for anyone working as a temp worker, from musicians to crew to management, that Brexit brings on both sides.

“We picked up recently from a Guardian story that work permits may be necessary when attending conferences in another state in an EU country or the UK – and yes, that means each and every state with their own work permit/visa rules.The bottom line is: are you doing ‘business’, and if so is this work, as this can lead to paid activities. Hint: The answer is yes…”

Frusion/Fizzion owner Smith, who is based in both the UK and Vienna, established the UKEArtsWork service in January to offer advice to live music professionals working in both the UK and EU.

Watch the video above or on on the UKEArtsWork YouTube channel.

 


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EAA announces Arena Resilience Alliance conference

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a special purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), will host a free virtual conference in December exploring the urgent need for the development of a pan-European strategy for the return to live events.

The conference, titled A Game of Two Halves, will take place on 8 December and focus on why ‘getting fit for purpose’ will be essential to bringing live music and sports events back to arenas and large-capacity venues across Europe, according to the association.

“This event will open important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and arenas to re-open their doors for fans of live events,” comments John Langford, president of the EAA.

The virtual conference will address the essential role of arenas as the central hub of the live event ecosystem across Europe, and as key partners to those who organise, promote, play and perform, says the EAA. According to the newly formed ARA, venue closures this year have resulted in the loss of more than 35,000 indoor live events, representing over 113 million lost ticket sales.

Through the event, the ARA hopes to open dialogue with ministers, MEPs and European commissioners with the aim of developing a regulatory framework for the mandatory requirements and measures that enable venues to re-open and facilitate the return of live touring. “A single framework will facilitate business continuity, provide job security and protect the wellbeing of all citizens, employees, freelancers, third-party contractors, players, performers visitors and fans,” the EAA says.

A Game of Two Halves speakers will include Sam Tanson, minister of culture, Luxembourg; MEPs Tomasz Frankowski and Monica Semedo; Tamas Szucs, director of the European Commission’s directorate-general for education, youth, sport and culture; Jason Danter, production manager/director for artists such as Madonna, Lady Gaga and Iron Maiden; Adrian Doyle, board member, European Arenas Association; Ole Hertel, GM, Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin; Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust Company (owner of the SSE Arena, Belfast); Luca Scafati, director, business operations, Euroleague; Herman Schueremans, CEO, Live Nation Belgium; Szymon Szemberg, CEO, European Hockey Clubs Alliance; and Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal, Luxembourg.

“We are at a pivotal moment in terms of the planning needed to protect and rebuild the live events ecosystem across Europe”

The first session, focussing on sport, will be a discussion around ‘Aligning product and place: delivering a new fan experience.’ Following a short break, the focus will turn to live music and will explore ‘why a pan-European approach is crucial for live music’s return.’

Closing the event, Gordon Masson, editor of IQ Magazine, will host a fireside-style discussion with ARA co-founders, Oliver Toth and Robert Fitzpatrick.

“We are at a pivotal moment in terms of the planning needed to protect and rebuild the live events ecosystem across Europe,” explains Toth. “Through this special event, the ARA hopes to open important dialogue between the industry and key EU decision-makers to ensure we move forward with a single framework to facilitate the safe return of live events.”

Robert Fitzpatrick adds: “Arenas are central to the cultural fabric of countries throughout Europe and are a key player in the national and regional tourism ecosystem. Without them, event promoters, artists, indoor sports teams and a host of third-party service contractors are at risk of going out of business. The importance of wellbeing for all venue staff and stakeholders cannot be underestimated; our industry is on the precipice of a major mental health crisis.”

The ARA’s A Game of Two Halves virtual conference takes place on Tuesday 8 December 2020, from 14.00–16.30 CET (13.00–15.30 GMT), and is free to attend. The conference, hosted in collaboration with the European Arenas Association and IQ Magazine, will stream live on the EAA YouTube channel.

 


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ESNS 2021 to go ahead in hybrid format

Dutch conference and showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) will go ahead in a part-virtual, part-physical format next January.

Taking place in Groningen from 13 to 16 January, the in-person aspect of ESNS 2021 – the event’s 35th edition – will be “widely supported in a digital form”, including both the conference programming and showcases, say organisers.

All parts of the programme will be “organised with the safety of visitors, delegates and artists as the highest priority”, they add.

Eurosonic creative director Robert Meijerink comments: “There’s all the more reason to get together again in Groningen in January 2021 and to review and anticipate the future. It is precisely these uncertain times that call for an opportunity to open the dialogue, to support and inspire, to learn from each other and, ultimately, to regain trust for hopeful times ahead.

“Last but not least, ESNS wants to organise an event that does justice to its mission: stimulating and promoting the circulation of new European music. The necessity has never been so great.”

“There’s all the more reason to get together again in Groningen in January 2021”

ESNS 2021 will be preceded by European Music Week, a new digital platform showcasing the best new European music. Whereas ESNS has previous chosen focus countries, the 2021 event will focus on Europe as a whole.

“The music sector has been hit hard. But we feel strengthened by the hundreds of music professionals from home and abroad who have still bought a registration for ESNS 2021 in recent months, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic,” says ESNS director Dago Houben. “We feel that as a call from the sector”

Tickets for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2021 will go on sale “as soon as possible”, say organisers, and will available at a substantial discount compared to previous years: €195 for a full conference ticket, or €50 for digital only.

“[W]e receive tremendous support from a large number of partners, not to mention the authorities who indirectly supported us to let us do what we are good at: stimulate the circulation of European music. This extra support gives us the opportunity to drastically reduce the price of our event to make it as accessible as possible for everyone,” continues Houben.

“We are developing an accessible digital edition for people who are not yet allowed, or who are otherwise not able, to travel.”

 


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Marc Geiger confirmed for IFF 2020 keynote

Marc Geiger, WME’s former worldwide head of music, has been announced as this year’s IFF Keynote, in conversation with Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang.

News of the conversation comes as a host of leading figures line up to speak, and leading booking agencies Paradigm, Primary Talent International and Solo Agency announce dedicated livestream showcases of rising stars.

In light of the current Covid-19 crisis, IFF 2020, the sixth International Festival Forum, will run online as the Interactive Festival Forum (iFF), a two-day online event, from 2 to 3 September. The conference will see hundreds of festival and agency professionals congregate for panel discussions, workshops, networking and deal-making.

The keynote conversation between Geiger – who left WME earlier this year after building the agency’s music division into a global powerhouse – and Lang is expected to cover major disruptors, innovation and change over the next few years. Other topics in the iFF programme include ticket prices and artist fees, force majeure and refunds, virtual festivals, the lost year of artist development, corporate upheaval, sustainability, risk, insurance and more.

Speakers to have already announced their involvement include Alex Hardee (Paradigm), Martin Elbourne (Glastonbury), Maria May (CAA), Jim King and Arnaud Meersseman (AEG Presents), Roberta Medina (Rock in Rio), Peter Elliott and Matt Bates (Primary Talent), Fruzsina Szep, Fra Soler (Primavera Sound) and Tamas Kadar (Sziget).

“IFF remains an important moment to bring the music festival and agency sectors together”

“Even as a virtual edition, IFF remains an important moment to bring the music festival and agency sectors together,” says Paradigm director and agent James Whitting. “There’s no shortage of great new artists to showcase, and after the lost summer, a huge amount to talk about.

“If anything, this year is more vital than ever.”

Paradigm is one of the agencies to host a livestreamed showcase as part of the iFF schedule, produced in partnership with Livefrom.events. Primary Talent International and Solo Agency are also among those presenting upcoming artists.

The sixth edition of the event is backed by festival associations including Yourope, the Association of Independent Festivals, and De Concert!.

Companies to have already confirmed attendance include 13 Artists, ATC Live, Black Deer Live, BPM Concerti, Charmenko, Cobra Agency, Electric Castle, FKP Scorpio, Fullsteam Agency, Gadget ABC Entertainment, ICM Partners, Lost Horizon Festival, Matchbox Live, MetalDays Festival, Mojo Concerts, Paléo Festival Nyon, Roskilde Festival, TAKK, The Talent Boutique, Vertigo, Wacken Open Air & X-ray Touring.

More details about the IFF Keynote can be found here, while the full conference schedule is here.

 


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Wide Days hails virtual conference success

Scotland’s Wide Days music convention surpassed all expectations with its mix of conference sessions, showcase performances and networking opportunities, as organisers shifted the event online for its rescheduled 23–25 July gathering.

Originally planned for April, Wide Days fell victim to the country’s pandemic restrictions, although a stand-in Zoom event served as a handy trial for the convention team as they prepared for the three-day affair in July.

“We’re really pleased we decided to go ahead with Wide Days, rather than cancelling, which would have been the easier option,” says founder Olaf Furniss. “We had the same number of registrations, 360, as the physical Wide Days in 2019, but we anticipate that will creep closer to 400 as the people around the world play catch-up with the online content over the coming days.”

The convention prides itself in giving Scottish artists a platform to showcase their talent to the wider industry, and it seems that the online format worked a treat for those acts. “Normally, we have around 1,000 people attending the live shows, but within 48 hours of the first showcases being streamed we had 14,000 combined views on Facebook and YouTube,” says Furniss.

The Wide Days team also reports success with its networking programme – a tricky achievement in an online situation. Delegates had signed into one-to-one meetings on more than 250 occasions, with showcasing musicians among those to fully exploit the opportunities.

Screening panel sessions and allowing people to network remotely opens up a huge untapped audience for us

“Most of the networking and one-to-ones were done within our platform, which was a great result, and it’s particularly pleasing to see the way the artists used the networking side of things, while there was also a high level of industry delegates arranging meeting after meeting,” Furniss notes.

With ticket prices set at just £30 (€33) for the three-day programme, the virtual attendee list included delegates from 25 countries and Furniss says revelations about the numerous “resourceful and ingenious” creative solutions that people have developed during the pandemic restrictions were among his highlights from Wide Days 2020.

“Back in March, none of us had ever used Zoom, so to fast-forward four months and the whole team has pivoted to running a fully fledged virtual event is something that makes me immensely proud of everyone involved,” Furniss tells IQ. “Pre-recording the artist performances – which were the first live showcases staged in Scotland since lockdown – has provided those acts with a far superior asset to use again, and it’s something we’ll assess for future showcases.

“But we’ll definitely be utilising livestreaming at the next Wide Days: we had people in Europe joining us from their holidays, and, going forward, people will not be travelling as they used to. Screening panel sessions and allowing people to network remotely opens up a huge untapped audience for us, so the virtual aspect is 100% here to stay and be developed.”

Content for the 2020 conference and showcase event can be accessed through the Widedays.com platform for the next four weeks.

 


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