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ESNS 2024 draws 4,000 European execs

The 38th edition of ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) drew 4,000 music professionals from Europe plus delegations from countries such as Canada, India and Mexico, it has been revealed.

The European showcase festival and conference took place between 17–20 January in Groningen, the Netherlands, and featured a total of 40,000 fans and professionals from around the world – around 4,000 less than last year.

More than 500 speakers participated in the conference, including keynote speakers Amy Thomson (formerly Hipgnosis, ATM Artists), John Mulder (MOJO Concerts/Live Nation) and Mark Mulligan (MIDiA Research).

In addition, 280 new European acts showcased their talents, including 12 from the 2024 focus country Poland. ESNS this year expanded its Noorderslag programme this year, showcasing 50 Dutch acts on Saturday.

“ESNS continues to play an indispensable role for the Dutch and European music community”

Elsewhere, the European Festival Awards, which took place on the opening night of ESNS (Wednesday 17 January), honoured executives including Wasserman’s Tom Schroeder, Lowlands promoter Eric van Eerdenburg and Lifetime Achievement honouree Ruud Berends.

“Once again, Groningen was the music capital of Europe and beyond,” says Frans Vreeke, interim director of ESNS.

“Thanks to the dedication and quality of artists, visitors, delegates, and our staff, we had a wonderful week with an amazing atmosphere. ESNS continues to play an indispensable role for the Dutch and European music community, especially for Dutch talent. Eurosonic, Noorderslag, and the conference once again showcased the strength and diversity of European pop culture. We look forward to the year ahead where we will undoubtedly see many acts that have proven themselves at ESNS on the stages of European summer festivals.”

ESNS 2025 will take place from 15–18 January in Groningen, the Netherlands, with Italy as the Focus Country.


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ESNS 2024: Touring heads unpick ‘new normal’

Leading European live executives have advised that ticket pricing is “more important than ever” as the business navigates its current challenges.

The subject was pored over during today’s Touring In ’24: Are There Bumps In The Road? session at the Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) conference in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Moderated by IQ MD Greg Parmley, the panel featured agents Beckie Sugden of CAA and UTA’s Carlos Abreu, as well as Mojo Concerts head promoter Kim Bloem and FKP Scorpio CEO Stephan Thanscheidt.

Netherlands-based Bloem reported the market appeared in rude health at all levels from her viewpoint.

“Tickets are flying out,” said Bloem. “It’s not just the blockbuster shows, it’s the club shows too. We’re not struggling.”

Thanscheidt, who is based out of Germany and is also FKP’s head of festival booking, painted an overall positive if more mixed picture.

“We have so many artists touring. But there are also shows that are not doing so well. It depends on demographics, genre and level of act”

“As a company, we don’t have a problem,” he said. “We have so many artists touring. But there are also shows that are not doing so well. It depends on demographics, genre and level of act.”

Sugden, whose roster includes artists such as Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, GloRilla, Noname, Chronixx, implied it was a constant work in progress.

“It’s a supply and demand market,” she said. “As agents, we have to make sure artists aren’t touring too much. And they’re going to other regions. It’s a constantly changing and dynamic market.”

Thanscheidt argued that show calculations were “more challenging and complicated than before”, triggering a debate around the impact of rising costs on ticket prices.

“Getting ticket prices right is more important than ever,” stressed Abreu, who works with the likes of Rosalía, Bad Bunny, Anitta, Morad, Tokischa and Ayra Starr. “There are also creative ways to structure deals with artists who are looking to do meet and greets or VIP packages, etc. You have to understand the demographic you’re selling to.”

Sugden said it was necessary to analyse the market “with forensic detail and check that your ticket prices are competitive”.

“It’s the perfect storm. Everyone’s prices are increasing”

“VIP doesn’t work in every market, so you have to know what works for each market,” she added. “It’s the perfect storm. Everyone’s prices are increasing. But actually with K-pop fans, they’re willing to stick their hands in their pockets. In times of crisis, people want to be entertained.”

Bloem felt the business has been “timid” regarding raising ticket prices in the past and felt the present level of demand indicated there was room for an increase.

“Given how fast tickets are selling, I think we can increase,” she said. “We added €30 to festival tickets this year, but festival tickets can’t be pushed too quickly.”

“This is a real problem,” advised Thanscheidt. “We had sold out festivals but the margins were complete shit. It’s getting better now but you still see festivals struggling.

“Ticket prices are at the limit. Some festivals overpriced and had only 70/80% of their usual audience, which German promoters know is terrible.”

The conversation then turned to dynamic pricing, with Abreu noting it had become “the norm” in the US. “It’s the way the world is going.” he added.

“We have to think differently about how we approach first steps for artists”

Thanscheidt appeared open-minded about the prospect, but pointed out that the European industry was still some way behind its US counterpart in terms of adoption. “I think it will take time but all sauces that can add to the pot,” he said.

In closing, the panellists shared their thoughts on keeping tickets affordable for fans. Thanscheidt brought up the concept of ‘social tickets’, where a small portion of tickets are available to unwaged citizens for a lower price.

“I had a show recently where the artist did a collection after the concert and the artist ended up tripling the guarantee,” responded Sugden. “We’re getting more creative. We’ve got to keep creative with the club scene. We have to think differently about how we approach first steps for artists.”

Abreu added that some artists could afford to do underplays to “give back” to their fans, but accepted it wasn’t always possible.

“We need to think in career terms for artists,” he concluded. “Not just ‘what do we want to make on this next tour’. It’s about where are we going to be in five years.”

ESNS, which recently appointed Anna van Nunen as its new general manager, wraps up its 2024 edition tomorrow. The event also featured the 2023 European Festival Awards. Check out the winners here.

 


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Festival chiefs talk sector’s issues and solutions

The Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) conference programme kicked off this morning with an IQ panel exploring the shared challenges of festival organisers from around Europe and some of the ways in which they resolve those issues.

The Common Ground: Boutique and Major Festivals session, moderated by IQ editor Gordon Masson, saw guests Beke Trojan (MS Dockville), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania), Eric van Eerdenburg (Lowlands) and Virág Csiszár (Sziget) tackle a variety of subjects including supply chain issues, ticket prices, timing of announcements, staffing, gender balance on line-ups, and artist booking.

“The problems we had in 22 and 23, I think are over,” said Van Eerdenburg about supply chain matters. “But the answer has been that we have to invest and pay much more for the stuff that’s coming in. And that translates to ticket prices that are rising faster than inflation, which is already high – that’s what is the most worrying issue for me.”

Noting that the price of a three-day ticket for ARTmania is just €90, Vulcu admitted that she and her team are contemplating taking the event to just two days because of other pressures on the audience. “The cost of hotels for the audience was maybe €100 per night, so for three nights practically, accommodation was ridiculous, which in the long term could kill the festival because it’s not sustainable.”

Trojan noted, “Our aim is to book a festival with a good mix of international national artists. But we are definitely struggling getting the international names because it’s January, and they’re only starting to make decisions now, which is very late for us, because rigorous planning and ticket sales really should be a lot earlier.

“We have a very young audience that buy the tickets very last minute, so we need to sell day tickets”

“Obviously we would want to sell three-day tickets, but we have a very young audience that buy the tickets very last minute, so we need to sell day tickets. But even with that, we can’t really announce like the day line-up yet, because we’re still struggling with international names. It’s a big problem, but I don’t really have a solution.”

Csiszár revealed that with Sziget’s massive audience involving more than 50% international visitors, local Hungarian acts are not really an option for the bill, even though some of them can sell out stadiums. “International people don’t really get it, so we can’t book them as headliners, but it’s the international stadium acts that we have to look at as our headliners, which is also difficult when there are so many stadium tours happening,” she said. “Stadium tours are definitely competitors for us during the summer.”

Both Csiszár and Van Eerdenburg said that they were using VIP offers such as glamping and sky boxes to help balance the books, rather than pushing general admission tickets too high in price, while with all the panellists working to improve gender balance on line-ups, the conversation moved to the timing of announcements and the various strategies employed by each festival.

The session concluded with panellists answering a question from an audience member regarding their expectations for the next generation of industry staff. Van Eerdenburg stated that when his colleagues work long hours at festivals, he compensates them with weeks off after the event. He added that when it comes to recruitment, “I always pick the [people] who are also working in a club, or running a stage, or volunteering at a festival, because they have the motivation to not only do it theory, but also in practice.”

 


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European Festival Awards winners crowned

The 2023 European Festival Awards (EFAs) officially opened proceedings at Eurosonic Noorderslag last night, with hundreds of festival organisers and staff attending the ceremony in Groningen’s Oosterport venue in the Netherlands.

Hosted by A Greener Festival’s Claire O’Neill and IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the 13th EFAs saw festivals from more than 30 countries participating and 300,000 votes cast by the public.

With live performances from Berry Galazka (PL), Kingfishr (IE) and Picture Parlour (UK), the event crowned Wasserman Music’s Tom Schroeder and Poland’s Alter Art as Agent and Promoter of the Year, respectively, while Lowlands promoter Eric van Eerdenburg collected the award for Excellence and Passion.

FKP Scorpio’s Hurricane Festival was named Best Major Festival, Slovakia’s Pohoda awarded Best Medium-Sized Festival and Germany’s Maifield Derby taking Best Small Festival. Other festivals recognised included Hungary’s Sziget (Take a Stand Award), the UK’s Glastonbury (Line-Up of the Year), Switzerland’s OpenAir St.Gallen (Event Safety Award) and Portugal’s Boom Festival (Green Operations Award).

However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for former Eurosonic conference chief Ruud Berends who was given the Lifetime Achievement award. Referring to his exit from the event, he noted, “Life is full of surprises,” before delivering an emotional speech to the festival awards audience.

“In our more and more money-driven industry and world, where shareholders rule, it is important not to forget who we are”

“Receiving a lifetime achievement award sort of sounds like the end of a career, but it is not for me. I am not done playing and I love what I do,” he said. “I do love working with and for my current clients and friends; especially IFF and Greg Parmley in London… Neill [Dixon] from Canadian Music Week in Toronto; Nuno & Rui from the lovely West Waylab in Guimaraes Portugal; and Ruth from the new So Alive Music Conference in Sofia. Thank you for your trust and let’s build something great together.”

He added: “In our more and more money-driven industry and world, where shareholders rule, it is important not to forget who we are, where we come from, how we started, our love for music, the artists and especially the emerging artists who really need our support… I am happy, proud and grateful receiving this life time achievement award, especially as it comes from the festival family.”

Organised by Yourope, the European festival association, the ceremony’s presenting partner was See Tickets, sponsors included EPS and 3F, and the media partner was IQ Magazine.

The full list of winners was as follows:

Take a Stand Award (Presented by Take a Stand):  Sziget Festival, HU

Line-Up of the Year (Presented by IQ Magazine): Glastonbury, GB

Event Safety Award (Presented by YES Group):
OpenAir St.Gallen, CH

Agent of the Year:
Tom Schroeder, Wasserman Music

Best Small Festival:
Maifeld Derby, DE

Newcomer of the Year (Presented by ESNS): Balming Tiger, KR

Brand Activation Award: Heroes & Hype Festivals & Unilever Axe, DE

Best Medium-Sized Festival:
Pohoda Festival, SK

Green Operations Award (Presented by GO Group): Boom Festival, PT

Best Major Festival (Presented by See Tickets):
Hurricane Festival, DE

Award for Excellence and Passion: Eric van Eerdenburg, NL

Promoter of the Year: Alter Art, PL

Lifetime Achievement Award: Ruud Berends, NL

 


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ESNS appoints Anna van Nunen as GM

ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) has appointed Anna van Nunen as the new general manager.

Her appointment is effective from 18 March, succeeding Dago Houben, who announced his departure last June. Frans Vreeke temporarily filled the position in the interim.

Nunen is an experienced executive who places sustainable entrepreneurship at the core of her career. She founded Innofest, a platform where numerous sustainable enterprises can test their innovations at Dutch festivals.

As the commercial director of Greener Power Solutions, a pioneer in clean mobile battery power at events, she was responsible for the startup’s growth into a European scale-up. She is also the founder of the lobbying platform ‘Ikd Lobby’ and actively participates as a keynote speaker, panellist, and moderator at events such as ESNS, Amsterdam Dance Event, and Dutch Design Week.

“ESNS is entering a new phase, one that requires new leadership”

Having grown up frequenting Groningen’s pop venues Vera and Simplon, Anna has ESNS marked in her calendar every year. She eagerly anticipates her new role, stating: “Having grown up in Groningen and with a big heart for the music sector, it is a huge honour to start working as director at Eurosonic Noorderslag. I am eager to strengthen the conference and festival with the team. In the coming years, I want to ensure a future-proof organisation and a rock-solid positioning of ESNS in Europe.”

Jeroen van Erp, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of ESNS adds: “ESNS is entering a new phase, one that requires new leadership. As a Supervisory Board, we are very pleased with the appointment of Anna van Nunen as director. With her background in the festival world, experience in sustainability and the start-up world, she embodies what we stand for: Always looking for new talent, new developments where inclusivity and sustainability are of paramount importance.”

ESNS will take place between 17–20 January 2024 in Groningen, the Netherlands.

 


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ESNS announces keynote speakers for 2024

ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) has announced the first keynote and featured speakers for next year’s edition, taking place between 17–20 January 2024 in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Amy Thomson (formerly Hipgnosis, ATM Artists), John Mulder (MOJO Concerts/Live Nation) and Mark Mulligan (MIDiA Research) are among the keynotes for the European showcase festival and conference.

Mulder will appear at ESNS 2024 mere weeks after leaving his post as CEO of Mojo Concerts, the Dutch Live Nation subsidiary, on 1 January.

During the keynote interview, the Dutch exec will reflect on his versatile career which includes roles as tour manager of Metallica and co-initiator of AFAS Live and the Ziggo Dome.

Elsewhere, Thomson, former chief catalogue officer at Hipgnosis Songs Fund and CEO and founder of ATM Artists, will address the music industry’s challenges regarding finding, tracking, and tracing metadata across different platforms.

Thomson has executed record releases, marketing campaigns, touring, legal rights and copyright for clients including Kanye West, DJ Snake, Swedish House Mafia, Gorillaz, and Seal. Her passion for catalogue management led her to develop an online application that helps artists manage their metadata.

Mulder will reflect on his versatile career which includes roles as tour manager of Metallica and co-initiator of AFAS Live and the Ziggo Dome

The third keynote announced today is Mark Mulligan, managing director of MIDiA Research. As a long-term media and technology analyst, he is considered a leading thinker on the music industry’s digital transition.

At ESNS 2024, Mulligan will explore the rise of the next music business, explaining that we’re already entering the post-streaming era. He will present a vision for what this new world will look like and who will be the key players.

Joining the Music Industry Therapists Collective, Justin Lockey of English rock band Editors will share his insights on mental health on the road, shining a light on touring with Editors. Additionally, George Musgrave (Goldsmiths, University of London) will join two sessions about mental health.

European Parliament MEP Ibán García Del Blanco joins a panel moderated by Helienne Lindvall (ECSA) to discuss the European Parliament draft report on Cultural diversity and the conditions for authors in the European music streaming market.

ESNS Tech is a series of panel discussions curated by innovation specialist and community builder Turo Pekari (Music Finland). Experts in the intersection of music and technology will address topics such as tomorrow’s business model. ESNS Tech will tune into challenges, opportunities and the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence within the music industry.

Discover the full conference programme here. More panels and speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

 


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ESNS Exchange celebrates 20th anniversary

ESNS Exchange, the European Talent Exchange Programme formerly known as ETEP, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The scheme, which facilitates the international distribution of European music, artists, and productions, is funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission and is organised in collaboration with Yourope, the export offices and the media partner EBU.

Since 2003, ESNS Exchange has supported 2,145 European artists from 35 countries, enabling them to perform at 5,288 shows across 187 partner festivals in 44 countries. Successful acts through the years have included Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Sigrid, Editors, Blood Red Shoes, The XX, Iceage, Anna Calvi, Katzenjammer, Aurora, Kae Tempest, Phoenix, Shame, Buraka Som Sistema, Fontaines DC, Sigrid, Flohio, Marina Satti & Fonés, Altin Gün, Priya Ragu and Royal Blood.

“It is an honour to support and present the diversity of the live music scene in Europe by kickstarting the careers of many new artists for 20 years by Exchange, the European Talent Exchange Programme,” says Robert Meijerink, head of programme at ESNS and booker for ESNS Exchange.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary, ESNS Exchange hosted a panel at this week’s BIME festival in Bilbao, alongside several events and panels held during ESNS in January.

ESNS Exchange has presented 315 shows by 134 acts at 82 festivals so far in 2023. The most booked act is The Haunted Youth with 13 bookings, followed by Deki Alem with nine bookings and Avalanche Kaito with eight. In addition, Sprints, Tramhaus and UCHE YARA all have seven bookings.

“With Exchange, the role of the ESNS conference and festival has been put to the next level”

The bookings of the last five festivals of the season in October-November will be included in the final results at the end of the year.

“With Exchange, the role of the ESNS conference and festival has been put to the next level,” adds Meijerink. “Exchange as a project connects all parts of Europe and helps artists grow beyond local, cross European borders and around the world.

“This is impossible without the strong cooperation with Yourope, our great partner festivals, the export offices, the partners of the European Broadcasting Union, the European Commission and of course all the amazing artists from Europe. We’re looking forward to building the future of the European music scene and ESNS Exchange’s role in it.”

CEETEP was also part of the Exchange programme with the aim to promote the circulation of artists and repertoire of Central East European countries across Europe. During the five-year project, which ran from 2012 to 2015, ESNS and co-organisers Sziget and Exit Festival created a plan to encourage the circulation of CEE artists and repertoire in Central and Eastern Europe with the support of 18 festivals and selected media partners in the CEE region.

The ESNS showcase festival and conference returns to Groningen, the Netherlands, from 17-20 January 2024.

 


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Eurosonic chief quits showcase event

Eurosonic Noorderslaag (ESNS) has announced that general manager Dago Houben has quit the organisation with immediate effect.

A statement issued by the event’s Supervisory Board says that Houben’s departure is “ due to a difference of opinion within the ESNS leadership about the way in which an organisational development considered necessary by all parties involved should take shape.”

Houben is the second senior staffer to quit in recent months following the departure of conference head Ruud Berends in May, also due to a “difference of opinion”.

Houben has run the European showcase event since 2009 and is credited by the organisation with growing its programming, media attention, budget, number of stages and visitor numbers over that time.

“It is with pride, but certainly also with sentiment, that I bid farewell to a great event and a wonderful organisation with great cultural relevance”

Antje Diertens, chair of the Supervisory Board, says that the board regrets Houben’s departure, and that, “Dago was director since 2009, a very successful period for ESNS in which it has grown into a globally respected platform for European pop music. We thank him for his commitment.”

In turn, Houben says “It is with pride, but certainly also with sentiment, that I bid farewell to a great event and a wonderful organisation with great cultural relevance. I thank everyone who has supported and assisted me and ESNS over the past years. It was a privilege to be able to lead this organisation.”

Frans Vreeke will start as interim director on 4 July with Daniële Streep acting as deputy director temporarily. The Supervisory Board has begun the process of identifying a successor.

Eurosonic Noorderslag takes place in Groningen in The Netherlands from 17-20 January 2024.

 


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Ruud Berends exits Eurosonic Noorderslag

Ruud Berends, head of conference for Eurosonic Nooderslag (ESNS), has departed from the Dutch showcase festival and conference after a 21-year tenure.

A short statement agreed by both parties reads: “After years of cooperation, ESNS and Ruud Berends have decided, due to a difference of opinion, to end the collaboration earlier than planned.”

Berends joined the Groningen-based event in 2002 where the conference grew under his leadership. Among the projects he led for ESNS was the European band promotion program ETEP (now ESNS Exchange) which facilitates the bookings of European acts on festivals outside their home countries.

The Dutch executive said his exit from ESNS marked the “end of an era” but told IQ he was “looking forward to working on new interesting projects in our great music industry and to continue building the existing ones”.

“ESNS and Ruud Berends have decided, due to a difference of opinion, to end the collaboration earlier than planned”

Berends continues to run his own consultancy agency, Networking Music, which he founded in 2011. He is also currently head of agenda at the International Festival Forum (IFF), which he co-founded in 2015, and a consultant to Portugal’s Westway Lab and Romania’s East European Music Conference (EEMC).

Berends first roles in the live music industry were as co-founder of music venue Debarak in Zutphen (1979–1988) and cultural worker at youth club ‘De Steile Trap’ in Deventer (1984 – 1986) – both in the Netherlands.

In 1981, he co-founded Paperclip Agency, whose clients included Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, The Flaming Lips and more. He left the Nijmegen-based agency in 2001 and set up Networking Music the following year.

Eurosonic Nooderslag 2024 will take place in Groningen, the Netherlands, between 17–20 January with Poland as the lead country.

 


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European Festival Awards 2022 winners revealed

Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, the Netherlands’ Mojo Concerts and Atlas Ukraine were among the big winners at last night’s European Festival Awards (EFA).

The in-person ceremony, held at De Oosterpoort in Groningen, the Netherlands as part of Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS), returned to celebrate the best of the 2022 season after a forced hiatus due to the pandemic.

Already announced as winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Roskilde also triumphed in two other categories at the EFA’s 12th edition – Best Major Festival and The Impossible without Youth Award.

In their acceptance speech, the team praised the festival’s army of volunteers (“We couldn’t do it without them”), along with the “best audience in the world”. “We are so proud and so honoured,” they added. “Thank you for seeing the ambition and the idea and the community behind this.”

Elsewhere, Atlas Festival & Music Saves UA received a standing ovation when picking up the Take A Stand Award, while Mojo collected Promoter of the Year.

“Two years of corona showed how difficult it is to organise the things we love”

Germany’s Superbloom was named Best New Festival. “Two years of corona showed how difficult it is to organise the things we love,” said Superbloom organiser Fruzsina Szép. “And to start a new brand, even more so.”

X-ray Touring’s Josh Javor dedicated his Agent of the Year gong to his mentor, “the one and only legend”, Steve Strange and recalled the times Strange took him to Eurosonic. “Because of him I didn’t know there were panels for three years because all we did was drink, watch bands and sleep,” he joked.

The Award for Excellence & Passion, meanwhile, went to festival veteran Holger Jan Schmidt. Dubbed a “A true servant for the cause”, Schmidt said: “I can only do something with passion. Burnout goes hand in hand with passion. I think we should all take a look at ourselves. How much can we do. How much passion can we invest?”

Festivals from more than 30 countries participated in the awards process, with 300,000 single votes cast by the public, resulting in 124 shortlisted nominees in 15 categories, not counting the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The full list of winners is as follows:

The Take a Stand Award 
Atlas Festival & Music Saves UA (Ukraine)

Best New Festival
Superbloom (Germany)

The Impossible without Youth Award
Roskilde Festival (Denmark)

Best Indoor Festival
Iceland Airwaves (Iceland)

Line-Up of the Year
Hellfest (France)

The Health & Safety Innovation Award
Watt en Schlick Fest (Germany)

Agent of the Year
Josh Javor (X-Ray Touring)

Best Small Festival
Roadburn (The Netherlands)

Newcomer of the Year
Fred Again (UK)

The Brand Activation Award
Wacken Open Air (Germany) & Krombacher

Best Medium-Sized Festival
Best Kept Secret (The Netherlands)

The Green Operations Award
Rock Werchter (Belgium)

Best Major Festival
Roskilde Festival (Denmark)

The Award for Excellence & Passion
Holger Jan Schmidt

Promoter of the Year
Mojo (The Netherlands)

The Lifetime Achievement Award
Roskilde Festival (Denmark)

 


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