IFF 2022: Roskilde, 50 years young
Roskilde’s Anders Wahren and Christina Bilde opened up on the past, present and future of the Danish institution in a keynote session at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London.
Wahren, who has been a booker of Denmark’s biggest festival since 2003 and programme director since 2014, and deputy director – communications, partnerships & philanthropy Bilde sat down with ILMC head Greg Parmley to discuss the event, which celebrated its half-century this year.
Roskilde Festival recently announced a revamp of its booking team and an increased focus on volunteering in the wake of its recent 50th anniversary edition, with Wahren retaining overall responsibility for music, art and activism, but being succeeded as head of booking by Thomas Jepsen.
The festival is hosting a special 50th birthday celebration in the Glasshouse of IFF’s host hotel, the Holiday Inn in Camden from 9-11pm tonight.
First, here are some of the highlights of the hour-long Roskilde: 50 Years Young interview, starting with the first edition Wahren attended as a fan…
“The first show I saw on the Orange Stage was Sex Pistols. And maybe it’s too much to call it a show…”
Watching the Sex Pistols in 1996…
Anders Wahren: “It was 90,000 people in a field mostly wearing black boots and T-shirts, and it was an era of grunge, rock and metal. The first show I saw on the Orange Stage was Sex Pistols. And maybe it’s too much to call it a show because they tried to play but were hit by bottles and cups. They tried to come back and play three times, but in the end they had to give up. So that was my introduction to what it was like to be at the Orange Stage. Luckily, it was first and final [like] that. But there was still this community feeling. Not with the people throwing shit of course, but everybody else in the crowd. I was 13 at the time, I was going with some friends. But I also had friends from school who had been going since they were small kids going with their parents.”
The ever-evolving Roskilde line-up…
AW: “It’s reflecting audience taste and also what’s happening in the music world and in the world as such. We wouldn’t still have a young audience if we booked the same acts that were there in the 70s or 80s, there needs to be evolvement over time. Of course, some of the people who started coming when I did, complain: ‘Why are you not booking so many rock bands anymore?’ And we have got that for 20 years now because we don’t just book rock bands, we book a lot of other stuff as well. It’s very important that we keep the line-up fresh to attract new audiences and keep the festival moving. I think that’s a very good reason why we’re still here and having the 50th anniversary.”
“A challenge that we share with a lot of other events is how to get back the generation that haven’t been able to go to festivals during the pandemic”
Christina Bilde: “The average age [of the audience] has been 24 for the last 15 years. But this year, we had an average age of 27. I think some of the explanation is that the tickets were sold in 2019/2020 and the audience kept their tickets, so they rolled over. And of course, having a break of three years, the audience also grew older. We also think it being the 50th festival made some older people want to come. But that gives us a challenge, of course, because we want to get the younger participants back again. A challenge that we share with a lot of other events is how to get back the generation that haven’t been able to go to festivals during the pandemic.”
“The Roskilde poker face is something that all agents experience at one point or another”
The Roskilde ‘poker face’…
Jules de Lattre (UTA agent): “The Roskilde poker face is something that all agents experience at one point or another. We’re talking to the programming team and you could be pitching the next Daft Punk and doing so with passion, emotion, and throwing everything at it. What you will get back is not a sliver of visible interest or emotion, which is really quite unsettling the first time it happens for some of the younger agents and coordinators. We always have to reassure them after and say, ‘This is just the Roskilde poker face and actually you will probably get an offer for the act you least expect to have on the festival.’ I think that that points to – and I’m saying this seriously now – the impeccable A&R over the years at Roskilde.”
AW: “We should play more poker! Volunteers are a big part of the Roskilde organisation. We also have them in the midst of our booking team and that’s important because they are not entwined in the music business as such, so they just listen to a lot of music, go to a lot of shows, keep up with the current scenes and inform us. So there’s a lot going on behind the scenes and the poker face that we try to put up. Also, we’re not the sole decision makers and are not able to make the offer right away because we always want to discuss internally and make up our group mind. So it has never been my taste that dictates what a good Roskilde line-up is, it’s a combination of many people.”
“Roskilde has been quite good at listening and picking up trends from our audience over the years”
CB: “Roskilde has been quite good at listening and picking up trends from our audience over the years , even before the trends were visible in other areas of society. Listening to the young audience and being brave enough to move with them is part of the experience as well.”
Returning after Covid…
AW: “It felt good. I was a little worried that some things might have changed and maybe the audience only wanted to [see] the big headliners. How would we know? Three years off is a lot, so it was good to reconnect with the audience. Of course, it was a tough year: there were more cancellations than ever and there was a strike warning from Scandinavian Airlines. The pilots were going on strike the first day of the festival and they postponed it a week. But still, it was a lot of stress.”
AW: “The honest answer is we don’t know. It’s hard to say now that it’s going to be in this direction or that direction because it will probably change a few times, so we’ll see. We’ll keep evolving and will hopefully keep up with wherever the most interesting things are happening in art and music, we’ll go there and take the audience with us.”
Click here to read IQ‘s recent feature commemorating Roskilde’s half-century.
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Roskilde Festival revamps booking team
Roskilde Festival has announced a revamp of its booking team and an increased focus on volunteering in the wake of its recent 50th anniversary edition.
Anders Wahrén, who has been a booker of Denmark’s biggest festival since 2003 and programme director since 2014, will retain overall responsibility for music, art and activism, but will no longer book the event going forward and is succeeded by new head of booking Thomas Jepsen
“It is absolutely essential that we continue to push the limits and develop Roskilde Festival in new directions,” says Wahren. “That is why we are now changing how we put together our music programme. Partly in the distribution of roles in the booking team, but we are also in the process of rethinking how we can involve volunteers even more in programming in the future.”
Jepsen has been associated with the booking team since 2009 – the first years as a volunteer and from 2014 as a booker.
“I would like to build on the work we are already doing, where our focus is especially on young people’s communities,” says Jepsen. “We want to continue to pique people’s curiosity and give them something more than what they necessarily have on their wish list.
“At the same time, we must ensure diversity in the music programme. In recent years, there has been a necessary, increased focus on the gender distribution on the festival line-ups, we will also in the future pay even more attention to the representation of minorities in our programming.”
“We have a goal of reaching all corners of the musical trends, and the risk of hitting blind spots is minimised if we expand the group”
With Roskilde’s foundations based on voluntary engagement, the new organisation is focusing on involving even more volunteers in the booking team and on developing new ways in which they can engage.
“We have a goal of reaching all corners of the musical trends, and the risk of hitting blind spots is minimised if we expand the group,” adds Wahren. “Therefore, we are now investigating other ways to volunteer. It could, for example, be as a scout, where you go to concerts and report back to us. It could also be on a more organisational level. We are developing that.”
Wahren will be joined by deputy director – communications, partnerships & philanthropy Christina Bilde and head of sustainability Sanne Stephansen at this year’s International Festival Forum in London for the keynote conversation Roskilde Festival: 50 Years Young from noon on Wednesday 28 September.
The festival will then host a special 50th birthday celebration in the Glasshouse of IFF’s host hotel, the Holiday Inn in Camden from 9-11pm later that day.
Click here to read IQ‘s feature commemorating Roskilde’s half-century.
Dansk Live launches climate calculator
Danish trade body Danish Live is launching a climate calculator to help event organisers reduce their environmental footprint.
The innovation allows users to make calculations in the areas of waste, water, transport and energy, measuring consumption and optimising potential solutions from year-to-year.
“There are now many different climate calculators out there, but they are often very complicated or based on international emission factors,” says Søren Stochholm of developer World Perfect. “Dansk Live’s climate calculator is made very simple, and it is based on the Danish emission factors. This means that it is much easier for the smaller players to start measuring, and that the results are more accurate.
“Over time, the climate calculator can of course be developed so that it will give an even more accurate picture, but for now it is a bid for a common and simple way to learn more about the industry’s total CO2 footprint.”
“This calculator, which can be used freely by members of Dansk Live, makes it easy to get started with the absolutely necessary work”
Stochholm ran a webinar for Dansk Live members last week, giving an introduction on how to use the climate calculator.
“Several larger organisers in the membership have developed their own monitoring methods, but not everyone has the opportunity to have their own made or has the resources to acquire one,” says Esben Marcher, head of secretariat at Dansk Live. “This calculator, which can be used freely by members of Dansk Live, makes it easy to get started with the absolutely necessary work. The calculator is targeted at all types of organisers and can also be used by the venues.
“Now the organisers have to start using the calculator, but it could be exciting if we could create an overview of the industry’s overall climate impact in the various areas and the potential for improvements across the industry.”
Young concertgoers on the rise in Denmark
The number of young people attending concerts in Denmark has increased significantly on pre-pandemic levels according to a new study.
Statistics Denmark’s latest Culture Habit Survey shows that one in four of the population attended a gig in the second quarter of 2022, with 38% coming from the youngest age group (16-24 years) – up from 25% in 2019.
Esben Marcher, head of secretariat at trade body Dansk Live, says the development bodes well for the future of the live music business.
“The youngest concertgoers are the audience that helps to ensure that we develop as organisers,” he says. “That the young people, after several years largely without concerts and live music, are so strongly represented among the audience at festivals and at concerts, bodes extremely well for the future of live music.
“The figures from Statistics Denmark confirm that the desire for concerts and festivals is there”
“There has generally been a lot of talk about the youngest group of concertgoers during and after corona. Both the cultural actors themselves, but also the media, have discussed whether young people want to go to concerts after corona, and whether they can even figure it out.
“The festival season has shown us that young people know how to behave, and the figures from Statistics Denmark confirm that the desire for concerts and festivals is there. Overall, it’s really good news.”
The only age group with lower consumption was the 45-54-year-old category, which fell four percentage points compared to the same three-month period in 2019. However, Marcher stresses the positive numbers are not necessarily a sign that all is well in the industry.
“Many venues are currently experiencing that ticket sales are lower than before corona and that audiences are buying their tickets very late,” he says. “The picture is very mixed, but the tendency at many venues is that the big and well-known names can sell tickets well, but that the audience commits very late, while concerts with the new and slightly smaller names do not have the same search as before corona.”
Smukfest on the beauty of being a fan-owned festival
Smukfest’s Søren Eskildsen has spoken to IQ about the benefits of being owned and led by its fans.
Denmark’s second-largest festival (cap. 66,000) was borne from a non-profit association launched by five young men in 1980.
The Skanderborg Festival Club (named after the Danish town in which the festival takes place) has since gained over 20,000 members – three-quarters of which volunteer at Smukfest each summer.
For an annual fee of DKK 150 (€20), members have the right to vote on decisions related to the event and can even be elected to the board. Free tickets, discounted food and beverages, a pre-festival party, and management qualifications are also on offer to those who volunteer at the festival.
“I think it’s quite a unique Danish model to have a festival based on this and we’re very proud of that”
“I think it’s quite a unique Danish model to have a festival based on this and we’re very proud of that,” says Eskildsen. “We would do anything in our power to maintain this model.”
Volunteers and fans also get a say in which artists should perform at Smukfest by submitting their suggestions via the festival’s ‘audience wishlist’.
According to Eskildsen, the festival managed to book eight of the top 10 artists from the audience’s wishlists for this year’s edition. Gorillaz, Kraftwerk, Kygo, Limp Bizkit and Justin Bieber were among the 200 artists that performed at Smukfest between 31 July and 7 August.
“Booking Justin Bieber was a major achievement,” says Eskildsen. “Our booking department worked really hard on that and we’re proud that we managed to bring a star of that calibre to a Beech forest in Skanderborg.”
“Booking Justin Bieber was a major achievement”
In Eskildsen’s opinion, Bieber ranks among the top three headliners in the festival’s 43-year history, along with Prince and Rihanna. And while he deems this year’s Smukfest one of the biggest and best editions ever, it wasn’t without its challenges. Alongside predictable issues relating to the supply chain and inflation, the volunteers weren’t quite match-fit after a handful of years off.
“It has been hard to restart an old engine after three years,” he tells IQ. “The volunteers have been working really, really hard this year and it has been a struggle.”
“There has been a lot of co-operation abroad across the organisation to make it all work and solve various kinds of issues – both in the time before the festival and during the festival – just to make sure that the experience for the audience was top notch as it used to be.”
Customer experience is a top priority for Smukfest, whose average age is around 38, and it has been a major consideration when expanding the festival.
This year, Smukfest increased its attendance by 5,000 and boosted the capacity for the mainstage area from 30,000 to 40,000. The twin mainstages also got upgraded and can now hold 60 tonnes rather than the previous 12, enabling headliners to bring bigger productions.
“It has been hard to restart an old engine after three years”
The festival has the option to expand by a further 2,500 in 2023 but Eskildsen says the festival will have a “very close look” at whether the expansion will impact customer experience.
It’s thanks, in part, to those extra 5,000 tickets that the festival was able to make a “healthy profit”, as the vast majority of tickets were sold at 2019 prices.
“Nearly all of the seven-day tickets were transferred from 2019 to 2022,” explains Eskildsen. “Ninety-seven percent transferred from 2020 to 2021 and then 98% transferred again from 2021 to 2022. For the day tickets, the average transfer rate in both years was around 70%, meaning that we didn’t have a new sale for tickets for 2022.”
Challenges aside, Eskildsen says Smukfest is “back on track” after the Covid-19 pandemic, and volunteers and fans alike were thrilled to return to ‘Denmark’s most beautiful festival’.
“Lots of people had a major experience,” he says. “Both volunteers and guests really really needed that and we were happy to provide it once again.”
Ed Sheeran smashes ticket sales record in Denmark
Ed Sheeran has set a new record for ticket sales in Demark, shifting 160,000 tickets to four shows in the capital city.
The European leg of Sheeran’s + – = ÷ x (‘mathematics’) stadium tour went on sale in September 2021, with 100,000 tickets to the Copenhagen shows selling in approximately 100 minutes. The rest was purchased within just 48 hours.
Promoter smash!bang!pow! and its minority stakeholder, FKP Scorpio, say the ticket sales are “beyond comparison” in Danish music history.
The shows took place between Wednesday and Saturday last week (3–6 August) at Øresundsparken, a new 40,000-capacity outdoor area in Tårnby built by the Copenhagen-based promoter and booking agency.
Xenia Grigat, senior promoter at smash!bang!pow!, says: “I’ve worked with Jon Ollier [agent at One Finiix Live] and Ed Sheeran’s team in Denmark since the first album cycle, from club shows to arenas – first green fields (86,000 tickets in 2019) and now these unbelievable and impressive numbers from Copenhagen.
“smash!bang!pow! executed the shows beyond everyone’s expectations”
“Seeing an artist grow and leave a mark with old and new fans, as Ed Sheeran did over the four shows, is truly extraordinary. A production of this scale has been in preparation for over a year and there’s a big team behind going above and beyond to make this happen, both locally and in the artist team.”
FKP Scorpio CEO Folkert Koopmans congratulates his Danish division on the successful production: “Back in 2018, when we partnered with smash!bang!pow!, we both knew that we wanted to expand the size of the company and the size of their productions.
“We’re only four years in, and that is including a long period with Covid-19. Nonetheless, smash!bang!pow! have more than doubled their office, and they’ve broken the Danish ticket record by far. In addition to that, they executed the shows beyond everyone’s expectations, getting great feedback from audience and press. The whole team should be very proud.”
The European leg of Sheeran’s + – = ÷ x tour continues tomorrow (10 August) in Sweden before visiting Finland, Poland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
The last leg kicks off in early 2023 and will see Sheeran return to Australia and New Zealand for the first time in five years.
Dansk Live announces new chair Rikke Andersen
Dansk Live has announced a new chair, following the resignation of longtime board member Lars Månsson Sloth.
A unanimous board has voted Rikke Andersen as the new chair of the Danish live music association.
Andersen is the day-to-day manager at Herning-based live music venue Fermaten and became a member of Dansk Live’s board in April 2021.
She will be supported by deputy board leader Søren Eskildsen, who is the spokesperson for Smukfest.
Commenting on her new position, Andersen says: “Dansk Live is a strong and important organisation in the Danish live industry. In particular, the time with corona shutdowns has shown how important it is that we can work together across festivals and venues, geography and size. Therefore, I am looking forward to continuing the good development of the organisation together with the rest of the board of Dansk Live.”
“The shutdowns showed how important it is that we can work together across festivals and venues, geography and size”
Eskildsen adds: “I look forward to continuing as deputy board leader in a strong group on the board. Rikke has a fantastic commitment and I am looking forward to her taking up the position as board leader. It has always been a pleasure for me on the board that the representatives of the festivals and venues have such a strong collaboration for the common good of members.”
Anders Mortensen of Copenhagen-based live music venue, VEGA, joins the board after Månsson Sloth’s resignation.
Thomas Larsen, Nibe Festival, joined the board in June, after Sidse Gry Jeppesen resigned from his position at ALICE, and is thus no longer a member of the board.
One of a kinder: Roskilde at 50
It’s a fair bet to assume that, back in 1971, when Mogens Sandfær and Jesper Switzer Møller – two high-school students – decided to put on a festival, they had no idea how momentous an event it would eventually become. Sound Festival, as it was called, was a cultural success but a financial disaster – “10,000 people turned up, but less than half of them paid to get in,” remembers Leif Skov, the event’s former director and head of booking.
But the seed was sown and, slowly and organically, it grew in size and reputation. For 50 years now, music fans across the globe have flocked to Roskilde, its golden anniversary a fitting milestone for a festival that means so much to so many and has retained its unique character and vibe.
The event started out with a noble goal. “The idea was to bring people together,” says Skov, who notes that that remains the main ethos today. Inspired by Woodstock and the Isle of Wight, and based on their experience from a concert they had organised to support jailed Black civil rights activist Angela Davis, Sandfær and Møller were encouraged by a local Copenhagen agent, Karl Fischer, to do something that was unusual at that time – an outdoor event.
Twenty bands – mostly Danish but including US and UK acts like Stefan Grossman, Mick Softley, and The Grease Band – graced the single stage, with those fans who did pay coughing up just 30 Danish Kroner (approximately €4 euros, equivalent to €29 today) for the privilege.
That theme continued in the event’s early years – acts were mainly Danish and drawn from the world of folk, rock and pop. But behind the scenes, things changed. “In 1972, none of the 1971 organisers were involved,” says Skov. “Instead, it was organised jointly between American folk singer Tony Bush’s Kaunos Ltd, and the Roskilde Charity Society – about 16,000 people turned up. And from 1973 onwards, the Roskilde Charity Society became the main organiser under the name Roskilde Festival.”
The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones
By 1975, the festival had grown to three stages and a capacity of around 25,000. Bigger names began to appear on the bill, too – the likes of The Kinks, Canned Heat, Fairport Convention, Status Quo, and Procol Harum all played prior to 1978, with the festival’s booking committee looking to entice the most popular bands of the day. But that year also saw another important development, one that came to shape the festival’s image for years to come – they introduced the Canopy Stage, better known as the Orange Stage.
The festival’s primary icon, the stage, had previously belonged to the Rolling Stones. But a chance encounter with a photograph set Leif Skov on a hunt to track it down. “In 1977, I saw a photo of the orange canopy roof in Hyde Park, in NME – it had been used by Queen, I think. This was long before the fax, web, and mobile phones, so I wrote a letter to NME: ‘Who owns this stage?’ Early in 1978, Roskilde bought the roof from a company in liquidation, and since then it’s been the main stage and the logo for the festival.”
That year “started a new era for Roskilde” says Skov. Bob Marley and the Wailers and Elvis Costello entertained 36,500 fans, who had started to come from further afield – Sweden, Norway, and Germany among other countries. The festival also started to invite more NGOs and intensified its charity work; Skov started seeing Michael Eavis off-season to “exchange ideas and experiences.” In 1982, U2 headlined, with 49,000 in attendance; the following year, it was Simple Minds and Echo & The Bunnymen, with over 60,000 fans. Roskilde was starting to come of age.
“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition”
One of a Kind
Many things stand out about Roskilde and make it somewhat unique in the festival world. There is, of course, the charity aspect – it has been a non-profit since the very beginning, donating its profits in full to initiatives that benefit children and young people. “All proceeds are donated to humanitarian, cultural, and social charities,” notes Skov. “Roskilde today is still not primarily a music industry event.” But there is also the famed army of volunteers – the current iteration sees 30,000 contribute every year.
“The festival was founded and built by volunteers ever since the first edition,” says Malte Vuorela, Roskilde’s head of press. “It wasn’t until 1986 that the festival began employing a selected few as paid administrators. Today, we have around 30,000 volunteers – some are active all year, others only during the festival. They come from all over Denmark, but a large group – around 5,500 volunteers – are from the local Roskilde area.”
The volunteers don’t just make the festival happen, however. According to Henrik Bondo Nielsen, head of division, service & safety, they shape the festival’s unique vibe and ethos, making it very special indeed. “What is characteristic of our volunteers is that a very large group of them are also participants in the festival – it’s just another way to participate. We don’t make a sharp distinction between volunteers and participants, so it is the co-creation between people that is the core of Roskilde Festival.”
This means that a large part of what happens in the first four days of Roskilde Festival is participant-created. Nielsen goes on. “A notable difference from, for example, Glastonbury, is that when you arrive there, you pitch a tent in an area where basically nothing happens. All the fun happens inside the festival site. Instead, we have chosen to spread out the party. If you want to be part of the community-based camping area, called Dream City, you can start up 100 days before the start of the festival and help build up a city. We don’t curate – we just facilitate. I don’t know many other places that give so much freedom to the participants – that, I think, is quite unique.”
“In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996”
It’s a testament to the scheme’s effectiveness that many volunteers return year after year – and some, like Nielsen, end up working for the festival full-time. He started in 1980; Signe Lopdrup, the current CEO, first attended in 1985 as a regular fan. “I was fascinated by the organisation – the volunteering and the community,” she says. “And I was really impressed that you could create something that engaged so many people.”
Anders Wahrén first came as a 13-year-old fan in 1996; by 2001, he was volunteering as a stagehand at the Camping Stage and a few years later joined the booking team. He notes that in the 1990s, “It was very big and quite wild. In those years, there was no upper limit for the number of participants, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in 1996. My first concert at the Orange Stage was the Sex Pistols. They had reunited – but apparently not everyone thought that was such a good idea. Some felt that as old punk rockers they had sold out by going back together, so bottles were thrown towards the stage; the band had to leave and return three times!”
By the mid-nineties, Roskilde was firmly established as one of Europe’s biggest and best festivals. For the 25th anniversary, in 1995, the event had grown to nine stages and accommodated 95,000 fans – with tickets selling out even faster. And it was more international than ever. “Two out of three visitors were not Danish,” says Skov, and the headliners were iconic names drawn from rock, pop, and indie – Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Radiohead, Ray Charles, R.E.M., and Nirvana.
Live Nation’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions of Roskilde Festival. “I booked the headliners for the very first festivals – acts like The Kinks, Status Quo, Fairport Convention – when the audience was 8-10,000 people, and I just kept booking the headliners ever since,” he tells IQ.
In addition to the previously listed talent, Johansson has also helped Roskilde secure the likes of U2, Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, The Clash, Bob Marley, Lou Reed, Metallica, Nirvana, Rammstein, Coldplay, Blur, Kendrick Lamar, Rage Against The Machine and many, many more.
LN’s chairman of international and the Nordics, Thomas Johansson, is one of the few people who has worked on all 50 editions
Less is More
Despite the success, Roskilde’s management team worried that the event had grown too unwieldy and that the fan experience was suffering as a result. In order to protect what they had, they did what almost no festival would do – they reduced the numbers, first to 85,000 in 1996, then down to 75,000 the following year. “We wanted to give the audience a greater experience,” says Skov; they also refocused their humanitarian and environmental work.
For Nielsen, such a move encapsulates what makes Roskilde so special. “What captured me was building something big – like Lego bricks, only on a larger scale,” he says. “Many other places you have to fight to make changes, but Roskilde Festival has a driving force that says that we must innovate all the time because we cannot offer our guests a copy of previous years.”
This feeling is echoed by those who work with the festival in a professional capacity, some of whom have been involved since the very early years – loyalty here runs very deep. “Soundforce first got involved in 1982,” says Vagn Olsen, the company’s CEO. “We rent them every imaginable piece of musical gear, instrument, and backline, and we’ve now worked together for 40 years this year. Which is absolutely crazy when you think about it.”
“The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year”
“We have been lucky to work with almost the same people behind the scenes for around 28 years, so that makes a huge difference of where we are now. The uniqueness of Roskilde is also the fact that no year is the same, and it feels like a new production each year. So even though you have many years of experience, you never know quite what to expect.”
It’s a similar story for Meyer Sound, who have been providing sound reinforcement systems for Roskilde for years – and, since 2018, all stages have been powered by Meyer Sound. “In 2017, the Roskilde leadership team realised the best sounding stages were those with Meyer Sound,” says John McMahon, Meyer Sound senior vice president. “This inspired the festival to seek a sound partnership that would elevate the artist and fan experience at all stages, with a festival 100% powered by us.”
McMahon also believes that the partnerships the festival team foster, and the idea of equal collaboration, is what makes their working relationships so strong. “The Meyer Sound and Roskilde Festival teams are truly collaborative. The area where this is most apparent is on the technical side, where our team is embedded within the festival team to deliver the festival.”
He also notes that their actual festival work is just one aspect of their relationship. “We have partnered with the Roskilde Festival leadership on many levels, from the education of the audio teams to university research and development projects related to the impact of weather on festival sound and other scientific research, as well as creating the ‘Orange Feeling’ with our collaborative team approach.”
“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events”
While the festival went from strength to strength during the 1990s, tragedy struck in 2000. A crush developed during Pearl Jam’s headline set, with people falling close to the stage after a series of wave-like motions in the audience. Nine people died, with a further 26 injured – three of them seriously. It was a “total shock and a warning for youth culture in general,” remembers Skov; “a wake-up call for the entire industry,” adds Nielson.
“There had been other accidents elsewhere, but this one was so big it caused tremors all over Europe. People said that if it can happen at Roskilde Festival, it can happen anywhere.” The official investigation ruled it an accident and that there had been no criminal actions, but Roskilde took it as a spur to lead change – and to make every effort to prevent something similar from happening in the future.
“That accident led to massive development of safety in general – not just for festivals but for all events. Now, Roskilde Festival is present in all important networks in the industry,” says Lopdrup. “Before the accident, safety was not something that was discussed across the industry. It had the effect that we in Roskilde decided that it was a theme we should engage in – a legacy, and one way to move forward was to take responsibility for it being put on the agenda,” adds Nielsen.
“This means that today we have a very close collaboration across Europe. We have created a network of festival safety managers who are in close contact, and we have organised more than 35 seminars across Europe. We also try to keep up with developments in youth culture, to create as safe events as possible.”
“One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades”
Since then, and with extra safety measures in place, the festival has continued to grow – Roskilde now welcomes 130,000 music fans every year and continues to draw the biggest names in music. Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Metallica, and Paul McCartney all headlined through the 2010s, and this year had a distinct pop flavour – Post Malone, Dua Lipa, and Tyler, the Creator sit atop the bill. It’s all part of what Skov says is a desire to “develop respectfully rather than grow – the world and its people need leadership based on values that you can feel but not buy.”
Celebrating Roskilde’s carefully curated evolution, Wahrén notes, “One achievement is that we have managed to move and stay relevant through five decades. We’ve gone from being a festival where you could not experience hard rock, to having it as the primary thing and to having electronic music, to being able to present the biggest acts in pop and hip-hop, which we also embraced early on.”
As a personal highlight, he mentions Eminem, someone they chased for many, many years. “We tried for 17 years before we managed to book him, and it was his first and only concert in Denmark. At the same time, it was the show with the largest audience ever on Danish soil. We don’t know exactly how many people attended but probably over 90,000 – it has been interesting to see the change from hip-hop being an underground genre at the festival to the fact that it is now the most unifying.”
“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life”
And so to the 50th-anniversary celebrations, something that was postponed not once but twice due to Covid. Having such a special edition of the festival essentially “on hold” led to many challenges, but as ever, the Roskilde team rose to the occasion. 2022 will, they say, be the best yet.
“It has been a period of great uncertainty – we planned two festivals that were never brought to life, says Lopdrup. “But it also means that there are some things we have been working on for a long time – and that has given us great strength, too. So we are making a new, crisp festival this year.”
“We chose not to try to keep the whole line-up from 2020,” adds Wahrén. “Instead, we look at it as a new festival and evaluated everything again. It is difficult to assess what the right balance is because, on the one hand, we have to live up to what people bought tickets for two years ago so that we can keep the value. But we must also create what is Roskilde – there have to be surprises and progression. We have not moved away from our core, even if it is not exactly the same names as in 2020.”
That means doing things differently and thinking outside the box. As part of the celebrations, the festival published several books, including one about graffiti, which has been an important part of the festival for more than 20 years. They are also, says Wahrén, “being far-sighted and taking new paths through art and music.” For example, they presented a 2,000-square-meter, colourful dance floor, created by the internationally renowned visual artist Katharina Grosse. And the acclaimed German artist Tino Sehgal has co-created their brand-new venue, Platform, featuring both concerts and boundary-pushing hybrid art.
With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde
With 13 stages, this year’s festival was the biggest iteration yet – but the team are confident that Roskilde remains Roskilde. “The core values of all involved in putting on this festival represent the spirit of how festivals first came about in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” says John McMahon. “The Roskilde Festival team remains true to those values 50 years later.”
That, more than anything, is what keeps everyone – the volunteers, the fans, the bands, and all who participate – coming back. “For many of our volunteers, creating Roskilde Festival is a lifestyle,” says Nielsen. “And we manage to deliver experiences that people did not expect,” adds Wahrén. “You know you’ll miss something if you’re not here. People also come to cultivate friendships and the communities that exist at the festival.”
“With a non-profit event like ours, the strength lies in the local grounding,” says Lopdrup. “That there are people who support us and fight for us. We are greeted by this because our organisation extends beyond itself. We want to take the lead, but we also want to make a difference for [people other] than ourselves. That’s the secret – the community of volunteers, participants who held on to their tickets through the pandemic, and partners and suppliers who support us all the way.”
One person delighted to still be involved in the historic event is Live Nation chief Johansson. “The people at Roskilde are inspiring to work with because it’s not about someone who wants to buy a new Ferrari – they give all the money to charity, and the artists love that aspect, too, as they get to hand cheques to their favourite causes,” he says. “It’s the mother of festivals in Europe, and it has been a fantastic ride to be involved with it for 50 years: a true privilege.”
“We can become a community for even more people…where everyone can feel at home”
The future certainly looks bright, for 2022 and beyond. And with some of the seismic changes currently affecting the wider world, Roskilde’s focus is changing, too – sustainability looms large on the agenda, as does diversity and inclusion. Says Wahrén: “We can become a community for even more people – not in terms of capacity but in terms of becoming a more diverse community where everyone can feel at home. Some of it starts in the line-up, something else starts in the relationship with the participants – but those two things must fit together.”
“We must continue to be a fantastic eight-day event,” adds Lopdrup. “But our ambition is to expand the community to be more vibrant and present throughout the year. We need to develop within sustainability, and we are well underway. It is essential for an organisation like ours – no one is perfect, and we can always get better, but we want to inspire a more sustainable way of at- tending festivals in the future.”
So here’s to the next 50 years, then, and an even bigger celebration in 2072 for the 100th edition? Why not? “If there is one thing we have learned during the pandemic, it is that gathering around art, food, music – all the sensory experiences – cannot be replaced by anything else,” says Lopdrup. “We believe that this is what Roskilde Festival can and must do. And I bet that there will still be a need to make a difference together in the future – that won’t change.”
The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Alexander Rastén Rydberg, Dansk Live
The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) this month.
The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.
To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.
Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day, starting with Alexander Rastén Rydberg (he/him/his), head of diversity and talent management at Dansk Live in Denmark.
Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
In 2022, I was appointed vice president of the Nightlife Committee in Copenhagen by the mayor of culture. It’s been three long years fighting for queer and minority rights in nightlife that culminated in a position from where I (and the Copenhagen Club Commission) can actually make changes to the cultural system and introduce safer spaces, awareness policies and minority positions to conventional nightlife across the city.
What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
This is your world. You’re never alone. Trust your gut. The current most progressive initiatives in the Danish live industry are started by queer and minority communities. You’re a part of that generational wave. Don’t let the heteronormative structure tell you anything else.
One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place?
Many cultural experiences only cater to a cis- and straight-oriented crowd. This is a fact, but it’s not totally acknowledged in the live industry. In order to act on this, we have to learn and listen to the minorities that are excluded, on many different aspects. Only then can we create more inclusiveness.
“The first dance floor on which I could kiss my boyfriend without getting comments was created by Ved Siden Af”
A cause you support
Together WE PUSH. In Denmark, we have some very sad and ridiculous integrations laws that result in women and kids getting stuck in deportation camps. Together WE PUSH is helping these refugee families – organising football games for kids and so on.
The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
Lil Nas X. I absolutely love how he provokes the whole heteronormative world just by being himself. Also, he is quite handsome…
Your favourite queer space
Ved Siden Af – one of the only queer-friendly techno venues in Copenhagen. The crew that runs it have played an important role in my life as a younger queer person. The first dance floor on which I could kiss my boyfriend without getting comments was created by Ved Siden Af, and they continue to challenge the conventional majority norms in the clubbing scene.
Here and queer: IQ Magazine’s Pride edition has arrived
IQ 112, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online and in print now.
The July 2022 issue sees the return of IQ Magazine’s annual Pride issue, which was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.
Once again, the Pride issue’s marquee feature is the LGBTIQ+ List which profiles 20 queer professionals making an impact in the international live music business and beyond. This year’s top 20, which were announced yesterday, share their challenges, triumphs, advice and email addresses with us in the bumper feature.
Issue 112 also sees the return of the Loud & Proud playlist and feature, in which our agency partners profile some of the most exciting queer acts on their rosters. Contributing agencies include 13 Artists, ATC Live, CAA, FMLY, Hometown Talent, Progressive Artists, Wasserman Music, and X-ray Touring.
More recommendations for queer artists are shared in Your Shout, where executives including Rauha Kyyrö (Fullsteam), Raven Twigg (Metropolis Music), Paul Bonham (MMF) reveal the best queer act they’ve seen live.
Elsewhere, Pride editor Lisa Henderson speaks to executives working in the LGBTIQ+ events space to find out more about the economic and social value of the pink pound.
For this edition’s columns and comments, DICE’S Nix Corporan outlines ways the live music industry could make concerts safer and more inclusive for queer fans. In addition, Hatice Arici details the ramifications for the LGBTIQ+ community in Turkey, following the shutdown of Istanbul Pride.
Beyond the Pride-specific content, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson learns how the freight and transport business is dealing with its busiest and most challenging year ever.
Derek Robertson looks back on half a century of history that helped to shape Denmark’s iconic Roskilde Festival and Adam Woods reports on the extraordinary growth of live music in Latin America.
As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next six weeks.
However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below: