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United Festival Force: ‘Banding together keeps us independent’

Some of the festival organisers behind the newly formed United Festival Force (UFF) have told IQ about the benefits of banding together.

The alliance, announced earlier this month, comprises seven European metal festivals including Alcatraz (cap. 15,000) in Belgium, Bloodstock (20,000) in the UK and Brutal Assault (20,000) in the Czech Republic.

Dynamo Metalfest (10,5000) in the Netherlands, Leyendas del Rock (18,000) in Spain, Motocultor festival (14,000) in France and Summer Breeze (45,000) in Germany are also part of the group.

The group came together after their joint virtual event, in August 2020, to raise money for the independent festival sector.

“The project helped us to battle the challenging Covid times. We joined our fanbases who supported us by buying a ticket for the event,” says Tomas Fiala from Obscure Promotion, which promotes Brutal Assault (CZ).

“We’re able to show interest by offering a larger number of possible festival appearances”

Roman Hilser from Silverdust, which promotes Summer Breeze, says that joining forces has helped each one of the festivals stay independent. “Together we are stronger,” he adds.

Even as the pandemic recedes, the festivals want to continue the spirit of independence, says Fiala: “The future is finally looking bright so there will be more interesting opportunities for our collaboration.”

Hilser says that one of the top benefits of operating under one umbrella is being able to make bigger and better offers to agents.

“We’re able to show interest by offering a larger number of possible festival appearances to create reasonable routing and advanced touring plans for artists,” he says. “We can also offer help to fill vacant show days before respective festival dates.”

“This will certainly be of advantage for overseas bands, especially US bands,” he continues. “We can act faster and earlier to ensure the required number of show dates, which naturally add further income through fees for the artists.”

“The passion that lies within all our festivals will be strong enough to build future headliners”

Another key objective for the United Festival Force is developing local and underground acts by providing them with slots across the European metal festivals.

“We believe in the importance of developing underground bands,” says Hilser. “The passion that lies within all our festivals will be strong enough to build future headliners. That’s what we are aiming for.”

But on a basic level, the festival organisers are hoping to exchange experiences and learn from both the similarities and differences with their events.

“Of course, we can’t always find a common ground in perspectives since we each have slightly different fan bases and dramaturgy – and the local business environment also comes into play,” says Fiala.

“What’s interesting is that these distinctions can be enriching moments in which we can learn from the approaches and attitudes of others.”


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European metal festivals form alliance

Some of the biggest and best-known metal festivals in Europe have formed an alliance to ensure that the members can “continue to offer their fans excellent line ups”.

The United Festival Force comprises seven festivals including Alcatraz (cap. 15,000) in Belgium, Bloodstock (20,000) in the UK, Brutal Assault (20,000) in the Czech Republic and Dynamo Metalfest (10,5000) in the Netherlands.

Leyendas del Rock (18,000) in Spain, Motocultor festival (14,000) in France and Summer Breeze (45,000) in Germany are also part of the alliance.

Bloodstock festival director Adam Gregory tells IQ that the members initially gelled during the pandemic when they joined forces on a virtual fundraiser event.

“We don’t look at each other as competition – we very much try to support each other”

“We were able to talk a lot more [during the pandemic] and provide something together that, individually, we would have probably struggled with. But using the resources of all the festivals, we were able to deliver an online event that was second to none. We don’t look at each other as competition – we very much try to support each other as much as we can.”

Emerging from the pandemic, the alliance says its main goal is to “make scheduling easier for bands as well as agents – no routing scheduling conflicts between these festivals and other arrangements”.

“We all have festivals all over Europe across two or three weekends in August so we wanted to have a bit of unity,” explains Gregory. “It means we can send combined offers to artists so they’ve got the opportunity to earn a bit more and reach a wider audience, across Europe.”

The United Festival Force members plan to meet every six months to share their visions.


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Metronome Prague announces 2021 ‘warm-up’ festival

Ahead of its full-scale return in 2022, Czech festival Metronome Prague has announced Metronome Prague Warm Up, a limited-capacity three-day event featuring several foreign artists, for September.

Taking place at Prague’s Výstaviště exhibition ground, the site of the previous four Metronome festivals, Metronome Prague Warm Up will mark the return of international live music to the Czech Republic before the “real comeback” for music festivals next year, says festival producer David Gaydečka. “We’re overjoyed that despite postponing Metronome Prague, we can invite fans to an exceptional musical event taking place this year,” he comments. “It may seem like a small miracle, but we continue to be optimistic and we’re working on a range of improvised musical events, the most important of which for us is September’s Metronome Prague Warm Up. It will be a huge party where we are able to secure to great acts from abroad.”

Among the acts confirmed for Metronome Prague Warm Up, which will have a capacity of up to 2,500 people a day, are the UK’s Morcheeba (pictured), German house producer Hosh and Berlin-based British DJ Bec, who will perform in the Czech Republic for the first time, as well as a host of local talent.

“We were able to put together a unique programme including confirmed acts from abroad that will bring the atmosphere we’ve become accustomed to at Metronome Prague,” says the festival’s booker, Barbora Šubrtová, who also put together the line-ups for previous Metronome Pragues.

“We’re overjoyed that despite postponing Metronome Prague, we can invite fans to an exceptional musical event”

Commenting on the line-up, Šubrtová says: “Morcheeba probably needs no introduction, but I would recall their amazing concert at Metronome Prague 2019, which was among the highlights of that year’s edition.”

She adds: “Fans of electronic music can look forward to producer Hosh, known from Solomun’s label Dyinamic, as well as formerly UK- and Berlin-based DJ Bec, who has experienced a meteoric rise recently. I think if you really want to dance or just enjoy some music, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Metronome Prague Warm Up.”

Metronome last took place in 2019, with a planned fifth edition replaced by a one-off socially distanced event produced in partnership with other Prague festivals, Praha září (Prague September), at the end of last summer.

Tickets for Metronome Prague Warm Up are priced at 1,200 Kč (€47) for a three-day pass. Organisers emphasise that they will be refunded if the festival is cancelled, though they are confident it will go ahead.


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Slovakia’s biggest festival called off again

The 24th edition of Pohoda (‘Peace’), Slovakia’s biggest festival, has been cancelled for a second consecutive year – a decision which organisers say was “the right and inevitable one”.

According to a statement from the festival, the decision to reschedule the event was made after a team of epidemiologists confirmed that an event for 30,000 visitors in Slovakia this summer “seemed unrealistic”.

The decision was also based on a number of artists cancelling summer tours and festivals that “fit in the schedule with Pohoda”. Major festival cancellations in neighbouring countries include CTS Eventim-backed Nova Festival in Austria and Czech festivals Colours of Ostrava and Metronome Prague.

The Libertines, Metronomy, Wolf Alice, Floating Points and FKA twigs were among the international artists slated for Pohoda 2021. The organisers say they hope to replicate the line-up for next year’s edition, which will take place between 7 –9 July, 2022.

Pohoda 2020 was also replaced by a one-off event, a free online event dubbed Pohoda in the Air.

In lieu of the flagship event, Pohoda is working on a series of smaller festival events under the banner ‘Pohoda on the Ground’

All festival passes purchased for the 24th edition of Pohoda Festival remain valid and organisers have encouraged buyers to keep their tickets: “It’s only thanks to our festival-goers’ support that we have been able to continue as a team. This support makes it possible for Pohoda to continue in the future and we are so grateful for it.”

In lieu of the flagship event, Pohoda has announced it is working on a series of smaller festival events under the banner ‘Pohoda on the Ground’ which is billed to take place between 7–11 July 2021 at Trenčín Airport in western Slovakia.

“We hope the situation will get better soon and this year’s Pohoda on the Ground will be an exceptional get-together with the club scene to restart and follow in the fall and we also hope that 2022 will be the year when we will meet at Pohoda at full strength. We can’t wait to celebrate art, freedom and togetherness,” says Pohoda’s Michal Kaščák.

The Pohoda organisers will talk with epidemiologists and other experts both about the decision to reschedule Pohoda and about Pohoda on the Ground in more detail during a livestream debate on the festival’s Facebook profile today (7 April) at 6pm CET.

Fellow Slovakian festivals including Uprising, Hip Hop Žije, Topfest and Grape are going ahead as planned for now.


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Game on for Czech fest Rock for People

Organisers of Rock for People, one of the biggest music festivals in the Czech Republic, has announced plans for an interactive, 3D virtual festival, Rock for People in the Game, on 31 January.

Open to anyone with an internet connection, webcam and microphone, Rock for People in the Game will allow fans to explore the festival area, sing along with both Czech and international performers, dance in front of the stage and interact with other attendees and festival partners.

The festival will act as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, the main, 30,000-capacity Rock for People event, which is scheduled for 10–12 June with performers including Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and more.

“It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment”

“We will move our festival to the online world for one day. It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment,” explains Rock for People (RfP) festival director Michal Thomes. “Those who know the Festivalpark in Hradec Králové can look forward to well-known places, from hangars to the runway, stages or even RfP merch to buy. You can dance, sing out loud, go to a bar, meet other visitors and our team.”

Festivalgoers will be represented by custom-created virtual avatars, while artists including Nothing But Thieves, Crown the Empire, Calva Louise, I Love You Honey Bunny, KennyHoopla and RedZep will play short concert sets.

Despite the events of 2020, Rock for People promoter Ameba Production was able to organise some 25 club and open-air concerts, as well as the Rock for People Home and Kefírek festivals, while showcase event Nouvelle Prague went online. Rock for People, which celebrates its 26th edition this year, is sold out.


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Key European markets tighten Covid-19 restrictions

European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic have pulled the plug on indoor events over the festive period with tough new restrictions on both organised and informal gatherings.

Germany, Europe’s largest concert market, yesterday (14 December) became the latest European nation to announce it would impose a ‘hard’ lockdown on its citizens over the Christmas break, closing all non-essential shops and schools and banning the mixing indoors of more than two households, with the exception of 24–26 December.

German chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Christmas shopping for Covid-19 infections continuing to rise throughout November, with over 16,000 new cases as of yesterday.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier yesterday appealed to Germans to support the new lockdown measures, which will run until 10 January 2021. “The virus still has a tight grip on us,” he said. “The situation is bitterly serious: Thousands of death cases in one week and an infection scenario that threatens to spin out of control. There is no way we can avoid [these] drastic measures.”

Despite German company BioNTech’s vaccine (co-developed with Pfizer) being approved for use in nearby Britain, Germany is still waiting for regulatory approval from the EU’s European Medicines Agency.

In the Netherlands, which only went into partial, or ‘intelligent’, lockdown in March, even schools and non-essential shops will also be forced to close for the first time as the country’s new daily cases of Covid-19 exceeded 8,500.

“The virus still has a tight grip on us. The situation is bitterly serious”

According to the AFP, “protesters could be heard whistling and shouting outside” the office of Dutch prime minister Rutte’s office as he announced the Netherlands will “close for five weeks” from today (15 December) to 19 January.

“We’re not dealing with a simple flu like the people behind us think,” he said in a televised address, referring to the anti-lockdown protesters.

All non-essential shops, as well as museums, zoos, cinemas and gyms, will close, while people were told to stay at home and can have a maximum of two guests per day (with the exception of Christmas, when they may have three).

“We need to bite this very sour apple before things get better. And yes they will get better. There will come a time when coronavirus will be behind us, when our lives will be normal again,” Rutte continued.

“It won’t be now, or in a week, or a month. But with the vaccine, 2021 will indeed be a year of hope and of light at the end of the tunnel.”

In Britain, meanwhile, only Cornwall and the the tiny Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly remain in ‘tier one’, or medium alert, under which events are permitted at 50% of a venue’s capacity, or 1,000 people indoors (whichever is lowest). The rest of the country is in tier two (high alert) or, increasingly, tier three (very high alert), under which no events are permitted.

“With the vaccine, 2021 will be a year of hope and of light at the end of the tunnel”

Announcing the placing of London and much of south-east England into tier three – effectively a regional lockdown – as of tomorrow (16 December), health secretary Matt Hancock says: “I know that this is difficult news. I know it will mean plans disrupted, and that for businesses affected, this will be a very significant blow.

“[But] this action is absolutely essential, not just to keep people safe, but because as we’ve seen early action can help prevent more damaging and longer lasting problems later.”

British scientists are also warning of a new mutation of the Covid-19 virus believed to be responsible for the spike in the south-east.

“The live music industry in London has worked so hard to make venues Covid-secure, so it’s a huge blow to be forced to close again,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association. “This will lead to the collapse of hundreds of gigs, from grassroots music venues to shows at the Royal Albert Hall and the SSE Arena, Wembley, with the loss of more than 6,000 much-needed shifts for staff or freelancers.

“The government must ensure they are providing real support for the industry until it can recover to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and businesses across the UK. It’s particularly hard to understand why people in London will be able to go into crowded shops this weekend, but will not be able to attend a carefully controlled, socially distanced music venue.”

Restaurants, hotels and indoor venues in the Czech Republic will also close again from Friday (18 December) after having reopened just two weeks ago, Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš announced yesterday.

“If we do not want to undergo a third lockdown, we must redouble our vigilance”

Public gatherings will be limited to six people indoors and out, instead of the current ten and 50, respectively, Reuters reports, with a nationwide curfew from 11pm until 5am, though shops will remain open.

“This year’s Christmas will be totally different, but that is the result of the situation we are in,” Czech health minister Jan Blatný told reporters.

Bucking the trend towards tighter restrictions is France, which ended its latest national lockdown today, although strict measures remain in place limiting travel, shopping and socialising over the Christmas holidays.

Per The Local, though French people no longer require permission to leave the house, bars, restaurants and cafés remain closed, while a planned reopening of cultural venues such as concert halls and theatres on 15 December has been pushed back to 7 January.

Additionally, a curfew covering the entirety of metropolitan France will run from 8pm to 6am, with €135 fines for those caught out and about at night without a valid excuse.

According to French president Emmanuel Macron, while the country has passed the worst of the second wave of the disease, “if we do not want to undergo a third lockdown, we must redouble our vigilance: protect our loved ones, especially the most vulnerable, by wearing a mask, including at home when we are with friends or with relatives who do not live with us.”


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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CEEntral Party goes digital with online conference

The CEEntral Party, a traditional fixture of Europe’s various music industry conferences, is moving into the digital world with a one-day online conference later this month.

On Saturday 28 November, CEEntral Party Digital will offer free workshops, panels and networking, as well as a special showcase from Rich Mix in London.

Workshops predominate in the CEEntral Party Digital programme. One of them will focus on Bandcamp, which is becoming a social network of its kind and, among other things, wants to produce vinyl records. Another workshop will focus on how to monetise digital distribution of your music. There will be also introduction to the music markets of selected Central and Eastern European countries.

Given the situation in 2020, one CEEntral Party Digital panel will focus on the future of the music world

Given the situation in 2020, one panel will focus on the future of the music world. “We called the panel David and Goliath, and we will ask whether mammoth companies will take over the smaller and local ones and how much this will after a balance of power in the field,” explains Márton Náray from SoundCzech, on behalf of the organisers.

Special stream: Katarína Máliková and others from London
The icing on the cake and the highlight of the conference will be a livestreamed concert from the London club Rich Mix. Unique audiovisual projects, which will be created directly for the purposes of CEEntral Party Digital, will feature four bands from four countries as ‘Electronica: Vision of Sound II’: namely Katarína Máliková (Slovakia), Brothers (Czech Republic), Hatti Vatti (Poland) and Óperentzia (Hungary).

The London streaming event is co-organised by the Czech Centre in London, the Hungarian Cultural Centre, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Slovak Embassy in London and Rich Mix.

Register for CEEntral Party Digital for free by clicking here.


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Tune in to SoundCzech: Inside the Czech music scene

If you could take Czech music back to a more hopeful moment than the present one, it might be worth heading to January 2019, when the nation, alongside its former other half Slovakia, was part of the first-ever dual-country focus at Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS).

In a snapshot of a diverse, ambitious scene, 11 Czech acts travelled to Groningen, including internationally noted pop favourite Lenny, London-raised female rapper Hellwana, shoegazing indie-rockers Manon Meurt, UK/Czech electronic alliance Floex and Tom Hodge and well-travelled Glastonbury and Sziget veterans Mydy Rabycad.

“It was nice, and I think it was good for the scene,” says Márton Náray, director of Czech music export office SoundCzech. “We did that in collaboration with Pohoda festival in Slovakia, and that was fantastic – Michal Kašcák is one of the legends of live music. We got into a situation where we were brainstorming to do more than a simple country focus, and I think we inspired each other.”

The exposure from ESNS and surrounding events was still in the process of bearing fruit when the current crisis struck. But while the touring world has hit pause, the Czech Republic holds a strong hand in terms of talent these days.

Many of the ESNS delegation (which also included one-woman musical sensation Bohemian Cristal Instrument, Baltic party band the Circus Brothers, bagpipe-toting punks Pipes and Pints, acoustic troubadour Thom Artway, the self-descriptive Lazer Viking, and cinematic jazzers Zabelov Group) had begun to make international inroads at club- and festival-level and were demonstrably building momentum.

There is no shortage of homegrown, locally loved talent

“To be honest, my realistic expectation is never to get [a band] to the headline billing, because that’s not realistic for the Czech Republic,” says Náray. “It’s about, in a few years, having a lot of bands that are genuinely going out onto the European club circuit. There are several like that,” he adds, mentioning Mydy Rabycad, the Circus Brothers, Floex and Manon Meurt, as well as the currently resting Pipes and Pints, “but that’s the level we would love to raise [to].”

Talent-wise, the Czech Republic is in a similar position to many non-English-speaking territories. There is no shortage of homegrown, locally loved talent, from long-running funkers Monkey Business to newly reformed ’90s legends Lucie. But to break across borders requires rare luck, as well as a delicate balance of international appeal and something unique.

“It’s the usual problem,” says Paul Elsasser of London-based, European-focused Minimal Surface, whose artists include edgy Czech solo prospect Giudi. “If you want to make it big in a country, you have to sing in their language.”

Numerous Czech bands have taken that advice to heart…


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European markets adopt stringent Covid measures

Across Europe, governments are introducing tough new restrictions in an attempt to battle a second wave of coronavirus.

France has declared a public health emergency after confirming 22,951 cases of Covid-19 yesterday (14 October).

President Emmanuel Macron has reacted by imposing a night-time curfew in the capital Paris and its suburbs, as well as Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Rouen, Toulouse, Grenoble and Montpellier, affecting 20 million people out of a total population of some 67 million.

The 9 pm–6 am curfew will come into effect from Saturday and last for at least four weeks, with a view to extending to six.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” said president Macron during a television address yesterday.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus”

Elsewhere, Germany has announced a “hotspot strategy” to tackle its cases, which are today at the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, with 6,638 recorded cases.

If an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will become mandatory in all places where people have close contact for an extended period. The number of people allowed to gather will also be limited to 25 in public and 15 in private spaces.

Once a threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 is exceeded, even tougher restrictions will apply. These include limiting private gatherings to 10 people or two households, and the closure of restaurants after 11 pm.

“I am convinced that what we do now will be decisive for how we come through this pandemic,” said chancellor Angela Merkel.

Earlier today, Spain‘s north-eastern region of Catalonia forced bars and restaurants to close for 15 days. Once again, venues will have to operate at 50% in accordance with the new measures adopted by the Generalitat, after less than a month of operating at 70% in many Catalan municipalities.

All cultural activities must end – and venues must close – before 11 pm. Spectators must always be seated and in a pre-assigned seat.

“I am convinced that what we do now will be decisive for how we come through this pandemic”

Northern Ireland has imposed a four-week circuit breaker lockdown, forcing the closure of non-essential retail outlets, gyms, pools, leisure centres, as well as the hospitality sector – excluding takeaways and deliveries.

Infection rates “must be turned down now or we will be in a very difficult place very soon indeed,” first minister Arlene Foster told lawmakers in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Yesterday, a partial lockdown came into force in the Netherlands, limiting music venues and theatres to a maximum of 30 visitors, in conjunction with the pre-existing metre-and-a-half rule and the rule that no more than four people may attend a performance or concert together.

The new restrictions also include a widespread ban on outdoor events and a ban on alcohol consumption in public areas between 8 pm and 7 am. Discotheques and night clubs must now remain closed until a coronavirus vaccine is on the market.

The measures came into effect yesterday (14 October) and will remain in place for at least two weeks, after which the cabinet will assess the infection rate and decide on next steps.

Czech Republic, which has the highest rate of infection in Europe over the past two weeks at 581.3 cases per 100,000 people, has imposed a three-week partial lockdown, shutting schools, bars and clubs until 3 November.


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IQ x SoundCzech to present best new Czech artists

IQ and SoundCzech are launching the next phase of the partnership with a livestreamed artist showcase, featuring some of the best new talent emerging in the Czech Republic.

The livestream will be broadcast this Thursday (15 October) at 4 pm BST, will feature sets from three groundbreaking acts, cherrypicked by SoundCzech.

Prague-based supergroup, Market, will showcase their veritable mix of art rock, math rock, stoner metal, jazz, and UK-verging indie during the livestream.

While, Noisy Pots will deliver their “DIY kitchen electro,” using – you guessed it – pots, buckets, cans and other kitchen ephemera, along with live synths, samples, a vibraphone and more. Viewers can expect a live performance full of spontaneous energy and catchy grooves.

See a teaser of Noisy Pots’ performance below:

And finally, twins Jiří and Ondřej, will perform under their pseudonym Bratři. Hailed as “the new face of the Czech electronic music scene,” the duo will converge two captivating streams of live percussion/drum beats and synthesised melodic motives in one uncompromising flow of electrifying energy.

The stream is set to go live this Thursday at 4 pm BST on IQ’s Facebook and Youtube channels, thanks to streaming partner LiveFrom. Set a reminder on Facebook or YouTube.

IQ’s partnership with the Czech music export office launched last month with a Spotify playlist featuring a myriad of promising acts from the Czech Republic, including Cult of Fire, Amelie Siba, The Ghost of You, Chief Bromden, Kalle and more.

You can still listen to the SoundCzech x IQ playlist here and read IQ’s feature on the Czech market, featured in IQ93, below. Still to come during the partnership is an hour-long IQ Focus panel spotlighting on the best of the Czech scene.


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