Dutch gov delivers death knell for summer festivals
Dutch festivals such as Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Mysteryland, will not be permitted to take place this summer after the government extended its ban on multi-day events until September.
The ban on non-seated public events and multi-day festivals with more than 1,000 attendees came into effect on 10 July and was set to remain until 14 August, when the government would decide whether festivals after that date could go ahead.
However, the cabinet has sealed the fate of the summer season sooner than expected, ruling out multi-day festivals until at least 1 September due to uncertainties surrounding the Delta variant of Covid.
Following the news, Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands), which would have taken place between 20–22 August, has been called off for a second consecutive year.
“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction in recent months,” says Mojo. “Based on that, we started the preparations for Lowlands full of enthusiasm and all artists, suppliers and especially you were ready for a fantastic weekend in the polder. While this is a major setback, we understand and respect [the government’s] decision.”
“This is a very bitter pill because the developments surrounding corona have clearly gone in the right direction”
All Lowlands ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. The next edition of the festival is set for 19–21 August 2022.
The organisers thanked the government for setting up the €385 million insurance fund, which they say would guarantee the survival of the sector, as well as Lowlands itself.
Mojo has also been forced to cancel Down the Rabbit Hole, which had already moved from July to the weekend of 27–29 August for a one-off visit to the Biddinghuizen (home of Lowlands).
“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the life preservation buoy in the form of a guarantee fund that allows us to support artists, suppliers, caterers, and all the other thousands of hands that make Down The Rabbit Hole,” says Mojo.
All ticket buyers will automatically receive a refund for tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021. Down the Rabbit Hole will return to its usual home of Groene Huvels in Beuningen between 1–3 July 2022.
“No matter how big that setback is, we respect that decision and are happy with the guarantee fund – a life preservation buoy”
Mysteryland (cap. 60,000), the Netherlands’ oldest and most famous electronic music festival, will also forego 2021 due to the extension of the ban.
This year’s sold-out edition was due to take place between 27–29 August in Haarlemmermeerse Bos in north Amsterdam.
The festival’s promoter ID&T, along with a raft of Dutch event organisers, recently initiated summary proceedings against the government over the initial ban on multi-day festivals.
“We understand that this isn’t the news you were hoping for, and it breaks our heart to share it with you,” ID&T wrote.
“During the last months, our whole team has been pushing the limit, working day and night to create what would’ve been the most magical weekend of the year, while also complying with the changing regulations set by the Dutch government. With only a month to go till a sold-out Mysteryland would’ve taken place, all stages and shows were ready for our festival adventure, but unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t meant to be this year.”
“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that [multi-day festivals] are an unfeasible scenario”
Elsewhere, the Alliance of Event Builders says that it understands the cabinet decision: “Over the past few weeks, we have had intensive consultations with the government about the conditions under which multi-day camping festivals such as Lowlands and Mysteryland can continue.
“Unfortunately, the Alliance jointly with the government had to conclude that we have now been overtaken by reality and that this has become an unfeasible scenario. The quality and responsible festival experience for visitors, employees and artists cannot be sufficiently guaranteed.”
Organisers of one-day festivals will have to wait until August before the government decides whether or not they can continue with their event. The same applies to other one-day events without overnight stays.
The government’s tightening of restrictions comes in spite of Fieldlab’s findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
Fieldlab is an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the Alliance of Event Builders.
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Netherlands latest EU country hit by summer event ban
There will be no festivals in the Netherlands this summer, as the Dutch government imposes a ban on all large-scale events until 1 September.
The move follows similar decisions taken in some of Europe’s biggest festival markets including Germany, Belgium and Denmark, where events are banned until 31 August, as well as slightly shorter bans in France (mid-July) Austria (end of June) and Luxembourg (31 July), and is in line with European Union guidance.
The government in the Netherlands had previously stated public events were not permitted until 1 June, affecting festivals including DGTL Amsterdam, Awakenings Easter and Dauwpop.
The extended ban has resulted in the calling off of major festivals organised by Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts, Friendly Fire – part of the CTS Eventim-owned FKP Scorpio group – and dance music giant ID&T.
“We all saw it coming, but the hammer has finally fallen: there will be no Lowlands this summer,” reads a statement on the Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (Lowlands) website, set to take place from 21 to 23 August with performances from Stormzy, the Chemical Brothers, Foals and Liam Gallagher.
“Like you, we are heartbroken. All we can do now is look to the future and promise you that we’ll make Lowlands 2021 an all-out party beyond your wildest dreams.”
“Like you, we are heartbroken. All we can do now is look to the future and promise you that we’ll make Lowlands 2021 an all-out party beyond your wildest dreams”
Mojo-promoted Lowlands is part of the Netherlands’ ‘Save your ticket, enjoy later’ campaign, supported by the Dutch government and competition watchdog ACM, encouraging fans to hang on to tickets for a later date, rather than request refunds.
Lowlands will return from 20 to 22 August 2021.
Fellow Mojo festivals, Pinkpop (Guns N Roses, Post Malone, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Down the Rabbit Hole (Tyler the Creator, Disclosure, FKA Twigs), North Sea Jazz Festival (Alicia Keys, John Legend, Lionel Richie) and Woo Hah! (Kendrick Lamar, Asap Ferg, Aitch) have all moved to 2021 following the ban.
The cancellation of the 8th edition of Friendly Fire’s Best Kept Secret, which had a line-up including the Strokes, the National and Massive Attack, is a “massive blow”, say organisers.
“This news has an enormous impact on our festival and everyone involved. For us it makes an enormous difference if you decide to stay with us in 2021. By doing so, you’ll help secure the foundation of Best Kept Secret so that we can organise a fantastic edition for you next year.”
Best Kept Secret returns from 11 to 13 June 2021.
Netherlands-based dance music promoter ID&T has also had a number of events affected by the extended ban. The group states “we will do everything in our power to find an alternative date for all concerned events,” with the 2021 dates for festival including Defqon.1, Awakenings, Mysteryland and Amsterdam Open Air already announced.
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Dutch govt bans all events until 1 June
The Dutch government has tightened up restrictions on live events, extending its existing ban on public gatherings until 1 June, applying the ban to events of all sizes and issuing fines to those not in compliance.
The new measures were announced by the cabinet on Monday evening (23 March). Under the new rules, groups of three or more not keeping one-and-a-half meters apart will be fined. Previously, events were banned until 6 April, and gatherings of up to 100 people were still permitted.
Companies not complying with the new rules will face fines or up to €4,000, whereas individuals will be charged €400.
The extension brings the event ban into festival season. Following the announcement, the organisers of DGTL Amsterdam cancelled the 2020 edition, due to take place on 11 and 12 April. Acts billed to play DGTL included Nina Kraviz, Sven Väth, Bonobo, Marcel Dettman and Honey Dijon.
“In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, we at DGTL believe in putting the health and safety of our visitors, crew, volunteers and society above all. After closely following the advice and precautionary measures from the Dutch government and health officials, it is with deep sadness that we have to officially inform you that DGTL Amsterdam will not be taking place as scheduled,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.
“Despite all the hard work that everyone has put into the organisation of the festival, this obviously feels like the only right decision. Our current priority is to play our part responsibly in the fight against this global health crisis.”
“In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, we at DGTL believe in putting the health and safety of our visitors, crew, volunteers and society above all”
Organisers will reach our to ticketholders in the coming weeks, offering a ticket exchange for the 2021 event or a full refund. In accordance with recent government advice, fans are urged to give organisers “time and space” and to resist getting into contact regarding refunds.
Organisers of Kingsland Festival, set to take place on 27 April in celebration of Kingsday (the Dutch King’s birthday), are currently working “to find a suitable solution with all authorities and parties involved” and ask for the understanding and patience of ticketholders.
The one-day festival takes place simultaneously in the cities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Rotterdam and Tilburg. Acts scheduled to perform include Afrojack, Wizkid and Fisher.
Awakenings Easter, a four-day series of events across Amsterdam over the Easter bank holiday, will no longer take place. Awakenings Festival is still set to go ahead on June 27 and 28, with acts including Amelia Lens, Avalon Emerson, Charlotte de Witte, Helena Hauff, Ricardo Villalobos and Maceo Plex.
Major Mojo festivals such as A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, Woo Hah!, North Sea Jazz Festival, Down the Rabbit Hole and Pinkpop are all currently going on as planned once the ban is lifted.
Other Dutch festivals going ahead this summer include Mysteryland, FKP Scorpio’s Best Kept Secret and Defqon.1 Weekend Festival.
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Festival Fever: more 2020 line-ups under the microscope
Continuing the series of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ reveals what’s in store for the debut of Pitchfork Music Festival Berlin and the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim’s first year under a new promoter, as well as what’s on offer at old favourites Byron Bay Bluesfest, Exit Festival, Lovebox and more.
(See the previous edition of Festival Fever here.)
Byron Bay Bluesfest
When: 9 to 13 April
Where: Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, New South Wales, Australia
How many: 25,000
Byron Bay Bluesfest celebrated its 30th outing last year, with performances from Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Mavis Staples and Kasey Chambers, among others.
The Peter Noble-led event is back in 2020, with acts including Dave Matthews Band, Crowded House, Patti Smith, George Benson, Lenny Kravitz, Brandi Carlile, Frank Turner and Xavier Rudd appearing on the bill.
A report undertaken earlier this year revealed that the festival contributed over AU$83 million (£43.5m) to the local economy in 2019.
Tickets for Byron Bay Bluesfest are available here, with five-day tickets costing AU$639 (£335), three-day passes priced at $440 (£230) and a single-day ticket available for $195 (£102).
The festival contributed over £43.5 million to the local economy in 2019
Down the Rabbit Hole
When: 17 to 19 July
Where: Groene Heuvels Park, the Netherlands
How many: 35,000
The Netherlands’ Down the Rabbit Hole last year saw performance from the Editors, Janelle Monae, Underworld and Thom Yorke.
The event, promoted by Mojo Concerts which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary, has announced a handful of acts for the 2020 edition, including Tyler the Creator, Disclosure, Beck, Kacey Musgraves, Haim, Bombay Bicycle Club, FKA Twigs, Charli XCX and Loyle Carner.
Elsewhere, acts for Mojo’s hip-hop festival Woo Hah! Include Kendrick Lamar, Asap Ferg, Aitch and DaBaby.
The Netherlands’ Down the Rabbit Hole last year saw performance from the Editors, Janelle Monae, and Thom Yorke
When: 9 to 12 July
Where: Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia
How many: 55,000
Serbia’s Exit Festival is gearing up for its 20th anniversary in 2020, with organisers promising that the event’s special birthday will be celebrated in style. Acts announced for the 2020 edition so far include David Guetta, Tyga, Fatboy Slim, James Arthur and Meduza.
Last year’s festival, which saw record crowds of 200,000 over four days, saw performances from the Cure, Greta van Fleet, the Chainsmokers and Amelie Lens.
Founded as a social activism project in 2000, Exit has grown over the years while maintaining its roots. 2020 will see the launch of the festival’s Life Stream initiative, which aims to engage festivalgoers in the fight against climate change.
Tickets for Exit Festival 2020 are available here, with tickets costing £89 plus £27 for camping.
Organisers promise that the event’s special birthday will be celebrated in style
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB)
When: 16 to 19 July
Where: Costa del Azahar, Spain
How many: 50,000
The first outing for the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (FIB) under new leadership will take place in July, following its acquisition by Spanish promoter the Music Republic earlier this year.
The 2020 event will see performances from acts including Liam Gallagher, the Libertines, Foals, Vampire Weekend, Khalid, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki.
The Music Republic added FIB to its portfolio of Spanish festivals, which includes Arenal Sound, Viña Rock, Granada Sound and Madrid Salvaje, after buying it from Maraworld, a Madrid-based promoter majority owned by MCD Productions and SJM Concerts.
David and Toño Sánchez, owners of the Music Republic, state they aim to “maintain [FIB’s] essence and position it once more as a leader on the global scene.”
Tickets for FIB 2020 are available here for €65 (£55) for a full pass.
The first outing for the FIB under new leadership will take place in July
When: 11 to 13 June
Where: Ippodromo delle Cascine, Florence, Italy
How many: 11,000
Italian rock festival Firenze Rocks is returning for its fourth year in 2020 with Guns N’ Roses, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers heading up the event.
The Guns N’ Roses appearance is part of a wider European tour that will see the veteran rockers play in Portugal, Spain, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
The Live Nation-promoted festival last year saw performances from Ed Sheeran, the Cure, Tool and Eddie Vedder, with Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne among those to have played the event in recent years.
Tickets for Firenze Rocks 2020 are available here for €271.40 for four days (£230).
Italian rock festival Firenze Rocks is returning for its fourth year in 2020 with Guns N’ Roses, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers
When: 18 to 19 July
Where: Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris, France
How many: 55,000
The fourth annual Lollapalooza Paris will feature headliners Pearl Jam and Billie Eilish, along with Vampire Weekend, Khalid, Burna Boy, Haim, Rita Ora, Illenium, the Struts and more, as over 40 acts will play at the four-stage event over two days.
Launched in 2017 as a further string to the Lollapalooza franchise bow, the Live Nation-promoted Lollapalooza Paris last year saw performances from the Strokes, Twenty one Pilots, martin Garrix, the 1975 and Bad Bunny.
The Paris event is one of three European editions of Lollapalooza, together with Lollapalooza Stockholm and Berlin.
Tickets for Lollapalooza Paris are available here, priced at €79 (£67) for a one-day pass and €139 (£118) for a weekend ticket.
The fourth annual Lollapalooza Paris will feature headliners Pearl Jam and Billie Eilish
When: 12 to 14 June
Where: Gunnersbury Park, London, UK
How many: 40,000
Mama Festivals’ Lovebox festival is returning for its third year at the Gunnersbury Park site in west London. The three-day event, which was founded in 2002, will be headed up by Khalid, Disclosure and Tyler the Creator in 2020.
Other acts appearing at the festival include Hot Chip, Jorja Smith, Anderson Paak and the Free Nationals, FKA Twigs, Charli XCX, Peggy Gou, Mabel and Little Simz.
Gunnersbury Park has also been home to Mama’s Citadel festival for the past two years, with year’s line-up featuring Catfish and the Bottlemen, Bastille, Friendly Fires and Bear’s Den.
Sister company Festival Republic launched a new festival at the site in September this year. The inaugural Gunnersville saw performances from Doves, the Specials and You Me at Six.
Tickets for Lovebox 2020 are available here, with a three-day tickets costing £149.50 and one-day passes costing £72.50.
Mama Festivals’ Lovebox festival is returning for its third year at the Gunnersbury Park site in west London
Pitchfork Music Festival Berlin
When: 8 to 9 May
Where: Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany
How many: 3,500
The team behind US-based magazine Pitchfork revealed plans for the inaugural Pitchfork Music festival Berlin at this year’s Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, adding to events in Chicago and Paris.
The festival, promoted by Scumeck Sabottka’s MCT Agentur, will see headline performances from Lianna La Havas and Modeselektor, with Nike Hakim, Celeste, Tim Hecker and John Talabot also appearing on the bill.
Launched in 2006, the Chicago edition of Pitchfork Music Festival this year saw performances from Haim, the Isley Brothers, Robyn and Pusha T. The more recent Pitchfork Paris has taken place since 2011 and last year featured Skepta, the 1975, Chromatics and Charli XCX.
Tickets for Pitchfork Music Festival Berlin 2020 are available here, with two-day tickets costing €99 (£84) and one-day passes priced at €58 (£49).
Festival Fever: a further glance at 2020 line-ups
Continuing the series of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ takes a peek at what organisers of Hellfest, Longitude, Lollapalooza Stockholm, Rock am Ring/Rock im Park and NorthSide have up their sleeves for the summer to come.
(See last week’s edition of Festival Fever here.)
When: 19 to 21 June
Where: Clisson, France
How many: 50,000
French metal festival Hellfest celebrated one of its best editions ever last year, which included an extra day to host the Slipknot-fronted Knotfest within the festival site.
The 2020 festival will feature headliners Deftones, Faith No More and System of a Down, playing alongside Incubus, Korn, Deep Purple and Judas Priest.
Earlier this year, a man was sentenced to a month in prison for hacking into the onsale of the French festival. The hacker, who works in cybersecurity, claimed he had only wanted to buy tickets to Hellfest 2020 “without having to queue”.
Tickets for Hellfest 2020 are sold out. Organisers advise fans to use fan-to-fan resale site TicketSwap to buy or sell tickets to the festival.
The 2020 festival will feature headliners Deftones, Faith No More and System of a Down
When: 5 to 7 July
Where: Marlay Park, Dublin, Ireland
How many: 40,000
MCD Productions’ Longitude festival is returning in 2020 with headline performances from Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator and Asap Rocky.
The event will also see performances from the likes of J Hus, AJ Tracey, Young Thug, Aitch, Playboi Carti and Dababy.
The Longitude line-up announcement comes shortly after the news that Denis Desmond-led MCD is bringing back alternative-rock festival Sunstroke in 2020. The event, which takes place from 13 to 14 June at Punchestown Racecourse near Naas in Ireland, features headliners Faith No More and Deftones.
Tickets for Longitude festival are available here, priced at €89.50 (£75) for a day ticket and €199.50 (£168) for a weekend pass. Tickets for Sunstroke can be bought here, with day tickets costing €79.50 (£67) and weekend camping tickets costing €169.50 (£143).
Longitude festival is returning with headline performances from Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator and Asap Rocky
When: 26 to 28 June
Where: Gärdet, Stockholm, Sweden
The debut edition of Lollapalooza Stockholm took place last year, signalling the festival franchise’s first edition in Scandinavia and third in Europe after Lolla Berlin and Paris.
The festival, which is produced by Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell, WME, C3 Presents and Live Nation Sweden with subsidiary company Luger, features headline performances from Post Malone, Pearl Jam, the Killers and Kendrick Lamar, as well as appearances from Ellie Goulding, Zara Larsson, Kacey Musgraves and Camila Cabello.
Launched in Chicago in 1991, Lollapalooza events now take place in Sweden, France, Germany, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, as well as the US.
Three-day early bird passes are available here for SEK 2,295 (£185).
The debut edition of Lollapalooza Stockholm took place last year
Rock am Ring/Rock im Park
When: 5 to 7 June
Where: Nürburgring race track/Zeppelinfeld, Nürnberg, Germany
How many: 90,000
Marek Lieberberg’s twin festivals Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, the biggest in Germany and among the largest in the world, are turning 35 and 25 respectively in 2020.
Headliners for the anniversary events come in the form of System of a Down, Green Day and Volbeat, with performances also coming from Babymetal, Korn, Gojira, Deftones, the Offspring, Weezer and Yungblud.
The past two editions of the festivals have proved successful, following three years plagued by inclement weather and possible terror threats.
Headliners for the anniversary events come in the form of System of a Down, Green Day and Volbeat
When: 4 to 6 June
Where: Aarhus, Denmark
How many: 40,000
The 2020 edition of Down the Drain’s NorthSide festival will be the last at its current site in the Ådalen river valley, near the Danish city of Aarhus, as the event prepares to move to a new site, more than twice the size of its original home, in Eskelund, also near Aarhus.
Described as ‘a controlled chaos’ by festival CEO Brian Nielsen, NorthSide has already confirmed acts for 2020 including Green Day, Robyn, Weezer, White Lies, Johnny Marr, Franc Moody and Jung.
Down the Drain Group, which wholly acquired the festival from FKP Scorpio in 2018, earlier this year received investment from Providence Equity-backed Superstruct Entertainment.
Tickets for NorthSide 2020 are available here, priced at DDK 1,935 (£218) for a full festival pass and DDK 1,195 (£135) for a day ticket.
Festivals make green pledge at ADE 2019
A group of 20 festivals from seven different countries have pledged their commitment to increasing sustainability efforts today (Friday 18 October) at ADE Green, the environment-focused sub-conference of Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE).
Representatives from Dutch festivals including Amsterdam Open Air, DGTL, Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands, North Sea Jazz and Into the Great Wide Open, as well as Denmark’s Roskilde, the UK’s Boardmasters, Boomtown and Shambala, Ireland’s Body & Soul, French festival We Love Green, the Berlin edition of Festival Republic’s Lollapalooza festival, and others, signed the Green Deal Festivals Circular onstage with Dutch environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven.
The pledge will see the participating festivals become completely circular, or sustainable, by 2025.
“This deal has a great value for all involved,” said Roskilde’s Freja Marie Frederiksen, speaking at the event. “We can all learn from each other and improve things much more quickly.”
“Collaboration is the key to the urgently needed change in how we deal with energy, water, food, mobility, plastic and other materials,” added Paul Schurink of Green Events International, organising partner of ADE Green and an initiator of the green deal along with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
“Collaboration is the key to the urgently needed change in how we deal with energy, water, food, mobility, plastic and other materials”.
“With a combined number of over three million festival visitors we can make an enormous impact.”
Topics discussed throughout the day at ADE Green included responsible plastic use, DJ’s air miles and innovative ways to change the industry. A workshop run by sustainability expert Douwe Luijnenburg instructed delegates on how to manage events in a environmentally friendly way.
Elsewhere, green initiatives will again take centre stage later today at the launch of Exit festival’s Life Stream, a project aiming to increase audience awareness around environmental issues.
The team behind the Exit events will broadcast performances from DJs Artbat, Coeus, After Affair, Andrew Meller and DJ Jock live from the Faralda Crane Hotel in Amsterdam from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Environmental imagery and statements will be incorporated into the live stream.
The Life Stream platform will be used throughout Exit Festival’s 20th anniversary event, which takes place from 9 to 12 July 2020 in Novi Sad, Serbia.
More than 9,000 delegates registered for this year’s ADE which kicked off on 16 October and wraps up on Sunday, 20 October.
Fewer headliners, stronger sales: EU festival preview
Festivals across Europe are hoping to ride off the high temperatures and high spirits of last summer for another successful festival season, as sales shape up well and the strength of newer talent bolsters event bills.
“We sold out more than two months earlier than last year,” Lowlands festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ. “There was a huge demand on tickets after we sold out too.” Van Eerdenburg puts the swift sell-out down to the success of last year, saying he is confident this year’s festival will live up to expectations.
The “exceptionally great summer” of 2018 has also helped to boost sales for powerhouse German promoter FKP Scorpio, with chief executive Stephan Thanscheidt noting that festivals are selling better than last year. The promoter notes that “fantastic line-ups” are another contributor to this success.
Elsewhere in Europe, Denmark’s Roskilde festival expects another sell-out year, Montreux Jazz Festival sales are on a par with previous years – despite an increasingly tough Swiss market – and Serbia’s Exit festival has sold 15% more tickets than at the same time last year.
However, ticket sales are only part of the story, as obtaining headline acts has not proved so straightforward for many this summer. “It’s been a big challenge for us this year to book big acts,” admits Down the Rabbit Hole director Ide Koffeman.
Koffeman points out that this is not so much an issue for more future-focused festivals such as Down the Rabbit Hole, but for fellow Mojo festival Pinkpop, which “depends on all the big names”, it has been a bit more of a struggle.
Mojo’s Lowlands has faced problems with procuring its line-up. Prodigy cancelled their slot following the sad passing of frontman Keith Flint, whereas Vince Staples, Courtney Barnett and Clairo confirmed and later cancelled “for no valid reason”.
“The whole process of announcing acts, and agreeing on a line-up poster is becoming a mission impossible,” says van Eerdenburg.
“The whole process of announcing acts, and agreeing on a line-up poster is becoming a mission impossible”
Roskilde head of programming Anders Wahrén also encountered some obstacles when confirming headliners. “Negotiations have drawn out because of the lack of headliners in some territories, but we have been patient and – we think – rewarded in the end,” says Wahrén.
Indeed, the rate of artist development and the strength of young acts are earmarked as a great positive of this year’s festival season. “It’s an opportunity for a great number of up-and-coming acts to headline big festivals,” explains Paléo festival’s Dany Hassenstein.
“These young artists are really keen to play live, it’s a massive part of their identity,” says Mojo’s Koffeman, naming Billie Eilish as one act in particular to have grown massively since being booked.
Despite the seeming lack of top shelf acts on tour, FKP Scorpio’s Thanscheidt is looking forward to presenting line-ups consisting of a mix of “legendary acts like the Cure, Foo Fighters and Mumford and Sons” alongside popular national acts and “very interesting new bands”.
Festivalgoers can also expect to see a growing number of urban artists on stages this year. Exit has dedicated a whole new stage to hip-hop, as the festivals focuses “on the millenials and their own taste in music”.
This sentiment is echoed elsewhere. “It is clear that urban is king”, says Roskilde’s Wahrén, identifying hip-hop and rap as the dominant genres among young festivalgoers.
Another point of discussion has been the attempt to increase female presence on festival stages. Yet, despite the growing presence of initiatives such as Keychange, organisers are struggling to produce gender-balanced line-ups.
“If we had the opportunity to book as many female stars [as males] we would, but it’s not always the case”
“Right now, we notice that we cannot find as many great female artists in the musical genres we mainly present, as we would like to,” says Thanscheidt. “We are trying to help change this status quo by supporting female talent wherever we can, through our festivals, tours and concerts.”
Montreux Jazz Festival chief executive Mathieu Jaton stresses the need to work on the “full chain”, focusing on the development of female artists from an earlier stage, both in the recording studio and the live arena. “If we had the opportunity to book as many female stars [as males] we would, but it’s not always the case”, he explains.
Exit festival’s Bojana Kozomora also highlights the need to initiate change “among the younger generations”, whereas Wahrén talks of the importance of looking for role models when booking artists. Janelle Monáe and Rosalía serve as female role models at this year’s Down the Rabbit Hole. “We do as much as we can,” says Koffeman, “but we have to be successful too.”
Sustainability is another key issue for 2019 festivals. “The plastic discussion took up a lot of our time,” says Lowlands’ van Eerdenburg, who states that the reusable PET plastic cups favoured by many brands are “no solution to any environmental issue”, given the miles covered transporting them to washing sites.
In an increasingly saturated and globalised market, Jaton speaks of the challenge of standing out from the crowd, whilst maintaining an event’s original spirit. “You need to build a story. It’s about the whole experience and what you’re giving to the audience after the show,” states Jaton.
“A bill-driven concept is not enough anymore”, says Paléo’s Hassenstein and, for Mojo, it’s all about developing the artist-fan interaction. This year’s Down the Rabbit Hole will feature a live studio on site to offer a more personal view of the artist.
After all, says Koffeman, festivals are about much more than “just the stage and the beer” nowadays.
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Mojo magic: 50 years of Mojo Concerts
When Berry Visser opened Delft’s first discotheque in the late 1960s, he could never have imagined the decision would impact the lives of millions of people for half a century to come.
With fellow students, he ran a small cabaret venue called Mojo Theatre, but despite a weekly 100-guilder grant from the city, it needed to make more money. So they opened disco Polly Maggoo, and it was packed within a fortnight. It was the first time Visser had heard pop music and it changed his life.
Shortly after, at a concert by The Doors, Visser decided he was going to promote concerts. “So I just went to London and met Neil Warnock at [Brian Epstein’s] NEMS, and asked to book Spooky Tooth and Traffic.”
“I remember the first time I met Berry,” says United Talent Agency’s Neil Warnock. “He had long hair and looked a bit like a hippie.”
Returning to the Netherlands, Visser banged on the door of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and asked to rent the main room. They took one look at him and turned him away. So he went back to Warnock, secured Julie Felix, and tried again at the venue. They sold 300 tickets – and Mojo Concerts was born.
Bitten by the promotions bug and inspired by Woodstock, Visser contacted Bath Festival of Blues founder Freddy Bannister, who agreed to share bands with the Dutchman’s as-yet-unnamed festival. “I had no site and no money,” Visser laughs.
In 1970, a young architecture student called Leon Ramakers went to an address in Delft to buy tickets for a Led Zeppelin concert that was taking place in the Hague.
There he found Visser, “a long-haired guy sat at a table with an electric heater at his feet.” The two got talking, and Visser told Ramakers of his festival plans with Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd and Soft Machine.
Full of enthusiasm and keen to be involved, Ramakers wrote to the minister of culture asking for money, but not expecting a response. To his amazement, a week later the minister called him to a meeting and later granted the young student 25,000 guilders. “As a result of the ministry’s contribution, Coca-Cola agreed to put money in too, because they thought that if the festival was backed by the ministry then it must be OK.”
“One year we brought in barrels of petrol and set them on fire on the roof of the venue. It caused quite a commotion”
Meanwhile, Visser received a visit from Georges Knap, “dressed like a salesman”, and pitching an idea for a festival in Rotterdam. The long-haired Visser took one look at him and slammed the door. But Knap persisted, and eventually drove Visser to the site he had in mind in Kralingen. Visser was convinced, and from 26–28 June 1970, Holland Pop Festival (known locally as Kralingen Music Festival) took place near Rotterdam. Headlined by Pink Floyd, and featuring the Byrds, T. Rex and Santana. Taking place two months after fellow Dutch festival Pinkpop, it was one of the first rock festivals on continental Europe.
“It was a fantastic day,” remembers Warnock. “I was on the bus with Jethro Tull and one of them was playing the violin while we tried to get Pink Floyd into the country because they didn’t have a carnet. It was chaos, but it was frontier times back then.”
Dubbed “Europe’s answer to Woodstock”, Holland Pop was a cultural success but a financial disaster. “We lost a million guilders,” remembers Ramakers. “We sold 28,000 tickets but the gates were crashed early on and lots of people got in free.”
Although the festival was organised through a foundation, creditors pursued the fledgling Mojo Concerts. For the next four years, Visser and Ramakers lived hand-to-mouth, borrowing money wherever they could to advance bands because box offices wouldn’t release ticket money until after the shows.
But they weren’t discouraged. “We were young and we loved what we were doing,” says Ramakers. “We were convinced that eventually we were going to make it so we just kept on going.”
This work ethic and passion for music has been integral to the success of Mojo Concerts. Ramakers explains: “It’s good that we’ve made money but the primary reason we do this is it gives us pleasure. If you do something for the love and you do it properly, the money will follow.”
Then, in 1977, everything changed. Arena shows became commonplace, and Mojo Concerts were at the forefront.
“All of a sudden there was a major boost in business,” says Ramakers. “We were doing three shows with Pink Floyd, three with Supertramp, two with Eagles, Bob Marley.
“Before then, you were lucky if you made 2,000 guilders on a night. Then it was boom time.”
“Berry got it. We had similar music tastes. I’ve been working with Mojo ever since”
What put Mojo ahead of their competitors when booking the biggest artists was their attitude – a refreshing change from the dominant long-standing Dutch jazz promoters of the time. “They had the approach that the artist was their employee because they were paying them,” remembers Ramakers. “From the beginning, we understood that we were not the boss – the artist was. All the jazz promoters were stuck in the past and couldn’t adapt to the new rock business. We would make sure the artists had breakfast in the morning, which was something those others never did.”
ITB’s Barry Dickins recalls: “The biggest promoter in the Netherlands at the time was Muziek Expres magazine owner Paul Acket [founder of the North Sea Jazz Festival]. He said to me, ‘Why are you dealing with these bootleggers?’, and I told him, ‘Because they get it, and you’re an old man who doesn’t.’ Berry and I were about the same age – about 20 or 21, so to me working with Acket was like dealing with your dad. Berry got it. We had similar music tastes. I’ve been working with Mojo ever since.”
Opening Pandora’s Music Box
In a story familiar to many promoters, as the years went on, the deals got worse. “I watched them go from 60/40 to 80/20 and then 90/10,” says Visser. His solution, in 1979, was Casa Nova, a ten-day cultural fair for young people at the Ahoy Rotterdam. Rather than relying on increasingly unreliable deals, Visser decided to create other entertainment. Alongside music, it was to feature tech showcases, poetry, circus, lectures, nightclubs, film and more.
It didn’t work and Mojo Concerts went bust. The pair bought the name back a few months later for 4,000 guilders.
Then in 1983, came Pandora’s Music Box – a combination of music, theatre and art. Visser brought in artist and composer Michel Waisvisz and the pair created a programme of what they called “phenomena” – interactive and immersive performances mingling with the audience.
“We had sheep walking the marble floors after midnight; a massage parlour; a lemonade girl standing in a bikini in a glass basin filled with lemonade handing out lemonade in paper cups; old people playing cards. One year we brought in barrels of petrol and set them on fire on the roof of the venue. It caused quite a commotion,” recalls Visser
The immersive theatrical experience blew everyone’s minds. Pandora’s Music Box became legendary, and a blueprint for most festivals today. “Barry Dickins was doing a show with Diana Ross at the Ahoy, and came over to see it,” remembers Visser. “He was flabbergasted and told me if we did it in New York, we’d smash it.”
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