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ESNS announces Spain focus for 2022

Spain will be the focus country for Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2022, the Dutch conference and showcase event has announced.

Eurosonic typically puts the spotlight on a single European nation each year (Switzerland was the focus country in 2020) but opted instead to focus on Europe as a whole for this year’s virtual edition, which took place in January. In partnership with Live Nation Madrid and export initiative the Spanish Wave, ESNS 2022 will highlight the diversity of musical talent in Spain.

César Andión of the Spanish Wave/Live Nation says: “We are thrilled to bring to ESNS 2022 a great roster of panels and artists that will showcase the strength, quality and diversity of the Spanish music industry and future stars. For years Spain has had artists performing in Groningen, and professionals attending the conference, so it was about time that we became the focus country to show how professional, large and diverse Spain is for touring, releasing music and trade.

“We look forward to getting started on bringing an eclectic selection of new music to Groningen”

“The Spanish focus will join forces and work together with labels, promoters, media, festivals, artists and private and public agencies to make this special spotlight a success in business, networking and talent. The Spanish Wave showcase will bring a wide palette of young, emerging and talented acts from all over Spain to show what fresh, alive and exportable artists we have in our country. Thanks to ESNS for giving us the support and opportunity to do so.”

“The Spanish music scene has a lot to offer for the international market,” comments Robert Meijerink. “While there is a growing interest in music in the Spanish language in Europe and beyond, we’d like to focus on all its different regions and lively scenes, from emerging electronic acts to the new wave of indie bands hailing from the big cities, the islands and everything in between. Together with the Spanish Wave and Live Nation Madrid and their partners, we look forward to getting started on bringing an eclectic selection of new music to Groningen.”

Eurosonic Noorderslag 2022 takes place in Groningen, Netherlands, from 19 to 22 January. Artist applications open on 1 May; registration for delegates will open later this year. To pre-register, sign up here.


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O Canada: market report

Canada’s economy has led G7 nations in growth in 2017, and that momentum seems to have carried over to the live music industry to a large degree.

“It’s robust,” says Jim Cressman, president of Pentiction, British Columbia-based Invictus Entertainment Group, which books and promotes 500-700 concerts per year at multiple venues. “The right artist at the right price almost always does predictable business.”

Though no national study has yet been done on the live music industry, an economic impact analysis of the business in Ontario – Canada’s most populous province and home to the music hub of Toronto – illustrated how important it is. The Live Music Measures Up study showed that the industry was responsible for 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2013 and that spending by live music companies and the tourism activity generated by music festivals together contributed just under C$1.2billion (€0.8bn) to Ontario’s gross domestic product.

Those numbers have likely increased, and can be extrapolated across the country, according to Erin Benjamin, executive director of Music Canada Live, which was created in the fall of 2014 to advance and promote the live music industry’s many economic, social and cultural benefits.

The concert industry received an extra boost in 2017 due to Canada’s sesquicentennial, as communities across the country often included live music in their celebrations of the nation’s 150th birthday.

While the Canadian recording industry has benefited from national sources of funding – including the Canada Music Fund, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), Radio Starmaker Fund, VideoFACT, PromoFACT and the SOCAN Foundation – and broadcasters being legally obliged to play a minimum amount of Canadian content, the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government also provide grants for events and festivals where live music is a major component.

“That support really makes the Canadian music business the envy of the world, quite frankly,” says Jack Ross, who heads the newly opened Canadian office of the Los Angeles-based APA talent agency along with Ralph James.

The concert industry received an extra boost in 2017 due to Canada’s sesquicentennia

But that’s not stopping Music Canada Live and its more than 125 members – including concert promoters, festivals, presenters, venues, agents, ticketing companies, industry associations and suppliers – from advocating for policy advancement and increased funding, public awareness and research.

“Live music hasn’t effectively told its story with a united voice, and it’s my job to do that,” says Benjamin. “When we’re truly united by this association, whether it’s with me or ten executive directors from now, we will be the most powerful piece of Canada’s music industry because of the connection between artists and fans.”

Shawn Sakamoto, vice-president of Lethbridge, Alberta-based live event production and management company Sakamoto Entertainment, would like to see Canadian content regulations introduced to the domestic live music sector, which he believes has suffered due to “monopolisation of the touring market by entities such as Live Nation” and other multinational companies. He advocates Canadian artists being added to national tours by international performers in order to give them further exposure.

Confidence in Canada from American companies was shown this summer when, after LA-based United Talent Agency closed its Canadian office, APA and LA-based Paradigm Talent Agency both opened up shop in Toronto. They join the Feldman Agency and Paquin Artists Agency as Canada’s largest, while several smaller domestic agencies are also active.

“That competition is going to be a good thing for Canadian artists, and it will be a good thing for the music industry overall,” says Ross.


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Market report: Norway

If money doesn’t make us happy, then how do we explain Norway, which is both the world’s happiest country and, thanks to its oil wealth, Europe’s second richest?

Maybe money isn’t such a curse after all. Or maybe Norway’s diverting live scene keeps those rich kid blues at bay. The smallest Scandinavian nation by population, with the fiddliest coastline, it houses a disproportionately deluxe live market, with all the international shows and domestic touring talent a nation of 5.2m people could reasonably expect, and a festival scene that is thoroughly embedded in its culture.

“Festivals have taken over Norwegian social life now,” says Torbjørn Heitmann Valum, CEO of Norske Konsertarrangører, the country’s live business trade body. “That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands.” Events such as Norwegian Wood, Øya, Findings, Picnic in the Park and OverOslo, which all take place in the capital, are among the prominent evidence of this, but in the summer, Norway is swarming with festivals from top to bottom – not just national ones, but regional and local ones, too, in virtually every town.

“That’s all people do in the summer: they go to a festival, meet up with friends and see bands”

Likewise, Oslo is the prime destination for most international artists, but second and third cities Bergen and Trondheim have their moments too, and Norwegian music is strong and varied enough that the country’s live business could, if pushed, run on little else. Once famous solely for A-ha, Norway’s talent machine these days produces a far broader range of artists than before.

“Yes, it’s a really good time,” says Atomic Soul’s Peer Osmundsvaag. “I remember growing up thinking Norway was probably the most rubbish country in the world, with only A-ha…”

These days, artists are breaking out of Norway all over the place. Notable names include hit-making DJ Kygo, pop twins Marcus & Martinus and X Factor offshoot Astrid S; diverse singer-songwriters such as Susanne Sundfør, Maria Mena, Anna of the North and Aurora; and indie-rockers Kakkmaddafakka – part of the so-called New Bergen Wave, which follows the original wave in the 1990s that produced Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and Annie. Norwegian artists even occasionally manage to get noticed in Sweden, which would once have been unheard of.


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Dutch set to make an Impact at TGE 2018

The Netherlands has been announced as The Great Escape’s lead international partner for 2018.

Partnering with export office Dutch Music Export (DME), the 13th edition of the British conference and showcase festival will highlight some of the Netherlands’ most prominent rising stars, including Dutch-Kurdish artist Naaz and Amsterdam-based singer Pitou. DME’s Dutch Impact party has long been a mainstay of The Great Escape (TGE), having brought Jameszoo, Klangstof, Amber Arcades, Dope DOD and Jacco Gardner to the event in the past.

Dutch Music Export producer Ruud Berends comments: “Dutch Music Export is proud to be the focus country at TGE 2018. Our country has supported and attended TGE from year one with both the Dutch Impact party and through various promotional support for our artists and industry.

“The UK is one of the most important countries for us to present the best the Lowlands has to offer and The Great Escape provides the best platform to showcase, support and promote Dutch musical talent to not only the UK but international music industries and audiences.”

“2018 is the perfect time to put the very best the Netherlands has to offer at the forefront of our festival”

Previous international partners include Switzerland (2017), Latvia and Lithuania (2016), New Zealand (2009), France (2007) and Canada (2006).

“At last we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on one of our strongest, most longstanding partners, the Netherlands,” adds Rory Bett, CEO of festival organiser Mama. “Since the birth of TGE in 2006, DME has worked alongside us to bring the best Dutch artists to the festival; our convention and line-up has grown from strength to strength with their support and incredible music scene.

“Twenty-eighteen is the perfect time to put the very best the Netherlands has to offer at the forefront of our festival.”

TGE returns to Brighton from 17 to 19 May 2018.


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Switzerland is prosperous, politically neutral and stands outside of the EU, a wealthy, land-locked island in the middle of Europe. But in its highly active live business, it is certainly not insulated from competition, external or otherwise.

Take the case of the Hallenstadion, Zürich’s 15,000-capacity former Vélodrome, and Switzerland’s most popular arena destination for major incoming touring acts. Until 2013, the venue was booked exclusively by Good News – then the unchallenged market leader. These days, it’s open to all, as everyone knows, but here’s the point: Hallenstadion director Felix Frei estimates that the arena now routinely takes bookings from ten or 15 promoters.

“We have a much broader base of promoters in music than before,” says Frei. “We have more concerts but, on average, less attendance. The reason seems to be a really, really strong music market here. Artists are playing five, six, seven times in Switzerland and we can feel that.”

“You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event”

Out in the fresh Swiss air too, where it has been joked that every field has its own festival, the open-air market is bulging at the seams. Something like 300 events battle for the attention of fewer than 8.5m Swiss, plus musical tourists.

“I think it’s great for the audience,” says Dany Hassenstein, booker at Paléo in Nyon, which has sold out in advance for 16 years in a row. “You travel through Switzerland in the summer and basically in every town you have a music event. It’s great for people who love music.”

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Among the latest nuggets from the Brexit coalface is that Guinness crosses the Irish border twice before it’s ready to drink: from Dublin to Belfast for canning, and then back to Dublin for distribution. A hard border will apparently cost beverage company Diageo an extra €100 a lorry-load.

The price of the black stuff arguably does directly affect the live music business, if we’re talking about the craic and how that happens. But the story also seems to find a parallel with Irish music: how it involves both the north and the south and a useful connection to England.

“It’s bred into us from when you are a kid”

Taken individually, Ireland’s two musical legacies are mighty, or at the very least mighty successful: Van Morrison, Ash, The Undertones, The Divine Comedy and Snow Patrol from Northern Ireland, for starters; U2, Thin Lizzy, My Bloody Valentine, Sinead O’Connor, The Boomtown Rats, Rory Gallagher, The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Script, Boyzone and Westlife from the Republic. Taken together, they’re more formidable still, and all of the above are successes across the UK and all of Ireland, and most internationally.

“It’s bred into us from when you are a kid,” says Mark Downing at Dublin’s AMA Music Agency. “It’s the first thing you think: how can I break internationally? You are always trying to break into other territories. And for credibility, if you are an Irish band, you always want recognition from London – it’s really important.”


Read the rest of this feature in issue 71 of IQ Magazine

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Market report: Middle East

Live music disappears quickly in times of war and turmoil, and even at the best of times it finds no outlet in parts of the Middle East. But between the music-hungry city of Tel Aviv, the expat-driven markets of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and the dedicated promoters of Lebanon, there are oases of touring opportunity in this complex region.

In the past decade, Dubai and Israel have been the most actively entrepreneurial markets in the Middle East, though both have had their challenges in attempting to balance the limited spending power of a relatively small gig-going population with the cost of bringing in the talent and staging the show.

Promoters in Tel Aviv can be heard to complain that their city is too small a market for the artist fees they face, and, as in so many cities, the lack of a sufficiently large indoor arena keeps much of the major touring traffic to the summer months.

In Dubai, similarly high fees, traditionally combined with the cost of setting up an outdoor venue from scratch on a patch of ground in the venue-poor emirate, have seen a succession of promoters fizzle out, unable to make the numbers work.

“If you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary”

But both Dubai and Tel Aviv find themselves the object of ambitious investment, as the former braces for a clutch of new venues and the latter is identified as a growth prospect by an incoming Live Nation and Ticketmaster operation. Whether these markets are the goldmine those developments might suggest remains to be seen, but improved infrastructure is a good place to start, and both harbour expat wealth and a great, though not inexhaustible enthusiasm for live music.

“Listen, if you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary,” says Guy Beser, co-CEO of the newly inaugurated Live Nation Israel, launched in February as a 50:50 deal between the live giant and Beser and Shay Mor Yosef’s Bluestone.

Necessary they may be, but they are not always simple. As you would expect, relative to recorded music, live music contributes a greater share of music industry revenues in the Middle East and North Africa than elsewhere in the world: 90%, compared to around 65% worldwide.

And whereas worldwide nearly a quarter of live music revenues come from event sponsorships, this figure is estimated to be below 10% in the Middle East, leaving promoters heavily reliant on ticket sales, or, as in markets like Abu Dhabi, on occasional state patronage.


Read the rest of this feature in issue 70 of IQ Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

Rocking Rio

In Brazil, when they go to work on a tricky problem, they call it peeling descascar o abacaxi: peeling the pineapple.

But Brazil in 2016 offers a lot of the kind of pineapples that aren’t easily peeled. The former president was impeached in September amid a wide-ranging corruption enquiry; the economy is suffering a recession worse than the Great Depression; and the real–US dollar exchange rate has halved since 2012. Then there are ecological concerns, the Zika virus, and an epic struggle with economic inequality. If Brazil was only recently thought to have moved into a new era of ease and prosperity, 2016 – a fairly terrible year in just about any language – has provided a sharp correction.

For the live business, however, one negative appears to have created a positive: a reduction in international traffic, leading to a boom in domestic action.

“Brazil is going through a tough phase”

Brazil is still the number-one live market in South America and a must-visit for international stars going that way. But the weakness of the real means they’re not going that way as often as they were, even if the megastar shows – the Stones, Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath – keep on coming and keep on selling.

“Brazil is going through a tough phase,” says Phil Rodriguez of Miami-based, South America-wide Move Concerts. “Between the corruption scandals, the economy going through the worst recession since the 1930s and companies laying off workers, a certain paralysis has come into play.

“Companies are holding onto budgets until a better, more defined picture of the future comes into view. That primarily affects sponsorships, and it creates a scenario where the topline shows still do well but many mid-level shows are hurt.”


Read the rest of this feature in issue 69 of IQ Magazine.

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