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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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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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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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ESNS detail long-awaited in-person return

The final touches are being added to this year’s Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS), which will be the first in-person edition since 2019.

The showcase festival and conference returns to Groningen, the Netherlands, from 18 to 21 January, with a line-up of 290 emerging European artists.

“After staring at cold glassed screens for the last two editions of ESNS it is like a dream come true to finally organise an irl edition and to welcome delegates from all over the world to beautiful Groningen to celebrate our return with great European music and fantastic networking,” says Ruud Berends, head of conference & ESNS Exchange.

“I am looking forward to many essential panel discussions and keynotes about the complex issues we and our world are facing.”

The ILMC and IQ teams will be present at ESNS and lead several of the conference’s main sessions.

ILMC head Greg Parmley will moderate the ever-popular Festival Panel on Thursday (19 January), during which Thomas Sonderby Jepsen (Roskilde, DK), Fruzsina Szép (Superbloom, DE), Kem Lalot (Eurockéennes) and Pavla Slivova (Colours of Ostrava) will outline just what makes their festival so unique and how they weathered the last few years.

The following day, Parmley will steer The Agents Panel, featuring Adele Slater (Wasserman Music), Jess Kinn (One Finiix Live), Summer Marshall (CAA) and Andy Duggan (WME).

“I am looking forward to many essential panel discussions and keynotes about the complex issues we are facing”

The assembled agents will discuss how they have survived Covid-19, what strategies they’re putting in place for their artists in 2023 and beyond, and how they’re continuing to grow their client’s live careers.

Elsewhere, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson will conduct a keynote interview with Robert Grima, president of Live Nation Spain, on Thursday.

The conversation will delve into Grima’s 30 years’ worth of experience in the industry, discovering what still drives his passion for live music; his unfaltering determination to care for his artists; and his unique vision that has helped Live Nation Madrid become a powerhouse promoter in the global business.

Masson has also been enlisted for a keynote conversation with global superstar Dua Lipa and her manager and father, Dugi on Saturday 21 January. The pair will discuss their philanthropic efforts with Sunny Hill festival in their native Kosovo, as well as Dua’s style, culture, and society editorial platform, Service95, and accompanying podcast Dua Lipa: At Your Service.

Meanwhile, IQ‘s deputy news editor Lisa Henderson will chair Grassroots touring is fucked, what are you going to do about it? on Thursday with Mark Davyd (Music Venue Trust), Rev. Moose, Marauder (NIVA), Audrey Guerre (LiveDMA) and Max van Bossé (Melkweg).

Henderson will also moderate Future Fit Festival, presented by Yourope/3F, on Friday. This panel will see Christof Huber (Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG, Yourope), Pavla Slivova (Colours of Ostrava), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio) and Maiju Talvisto (Flow Festival) discuss what makes European festivals resilient to meet the challenges of the future.

For more information on ESNS 2023 or to buy tickets, click here.

 


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Priya Ragu most-booked act on ESNS Exchange 2022

Swiss-Tamil artist Priya Ragu is the most-booked act of 2022 on Eurosonic Noorderslag’s (ESNS) European talent exchange programme.

ESNS Exchange boosts the international careers of European artists and facilitates the bookings of acts on festivals outside their home countries and generates extensive media exposure for these artists in cooperation with Euroradio, export offices and local media.

Last year’s Exchange tallied 357 shows by 149 acts from 30 countries at 86 festivals in 28 countries, with Ragu landing 11 bookings through the programme.

The singer-songwriter was followed closely by Ukrainian rapper Alonya Alonya, Irish singer CMAT and British rock band Yard Act – all of whom secured 10 bookings.

“The results of ESNS Exchange 2022 are in no way inferior to the pre-pandemic figures”

Also in the top 10 was Belfast-based punk band Enola Gay with nine bookings, English singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone (8), Netherlands-based psychedelic band Altin Gün (7), Ukrainian electro-folk band Go_A (7),  the Faroe Islands’ Joe & The Shitboys (7) and UK outfit Wet Leg (7).

The five festivals that booked the most ESNS Exchange acts in 2022 were Germany’s Reeperbahn festival (23 bookings), the UK’s The Great Escape (23) Belgium’s Pukkelpop (18), Hungary’s Sziget (11) and Spain’s Primavera Sound (11).

“The results of ESNS Exchange 2022 are in no way inferior to the pre-pandemic figures,” says ESNS in a statement. “This gives us a very positive outlook on the future of ESNS Exchange.”

Since 2003, the programme has helped 1,852 European artists from 35 countries to play 879 shows.

ESNS is due to make its in-person return this month, between 18–21 January in Groningen, Netherlands. Registrations for ESNS23 are available at via https://esns.nl/tickets/.

 


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European Festival Awards returns, entries open

The European Festival Awards is slated to return at next year’s Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) in the Netherlands, after a pandemic-induced hiatus.

Taking place on 18 January 2023, in De Oosterpoort, Groningen, the 12th edition will honor the best major, medium-sized, and small festivals; best indoor festival; and best new festival.

Self-registration for the awards is now open, with other awards including line-up of the year, newcomer of the year, the lifetime achievement award, agent of the year and promoter of the year.

The 12th edition will honor the best major, medium-sized, and small festivals; best indoor festival; and best new festival

Established in 2009 by Festival Awards, Yourope and ESNS, the last European Festival Awards ceremony took place on January 15, 2020 in Groningen.

The 2020 awards saw Wacken Open Air and Roskilde Festival pick up the biggest prizes of the night – best major festival and best line-up respectively. The Netherlands’ Mojo (Pinkpop, North Sea Jazz, Down the Rabbit Hole, Lowlands) won best promoter, with CAA’s Mike Greek earning the agent of the year award.

 


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ESNS: ‘The digital edition will still fulfil our mission’

ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) organisers have promised that the upcoming digital-only edition will still “fulfil our mission to network, connect, inspire and promote”.

For the second consecutive year, the European festival and conference in Groningen, Netherlands, has moved entirely online from 19–22 January 2022 in response to the government’s latest Covid-19 measures.

Conference director Ruud Berends says that, while the biggest challenge was accepting that they could not hold an in-person event again, the team has worked to make this year’s event “the best online edition ever”.

“We learned a lot from our first online conference and festival. It was beyond our expectations – the standard is high,” added head of programme Robert Meijerink. “We would like to service both our audience, artists and delegates even better than last year.”

Confirmed speakers for the conference include Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival), Fruzsina Szép (Goodlive), Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Henk Schuit (CTS Eventim NL), Lotje Horvers (Backstage Pass), Mia Ternström (Keychange/Musikcentrum Öst), Mikko Niemelä (Ruisrock), Morten Therkildsen (Roskilde Festival/RF Experience),

Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Ruben Brouwer (Mojo Concerts), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Stuart Galbraith (Kilimanjaro Live) will also be making appearances during the conference.

“I really think the programme is very relevant and diverse and really captures the whole music sector”

The conference last week announced an opening keynote speech from executive VP of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the Green Deal – aligning with the conference’s ‘Building Back Better Together’ theme.

Also confirmed last week was blockbuster panel ‘Festival Season 2022’ with Marta Pallares (Primavera), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania), Paul Reed (AIF), Christof Huber (Yourope) and Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio).

Delegates can expect a conference programme that spans the metaverse, ticket scalping, cancel culture, mental health, diversity, equity and inclusion, streaming, Brexit, Covid, gender equality, the agency business and more.

“I really think the programme is very relevant and diverse and really captures the whole music sector – focussing on solutions, information and answers we all need to hear so we can move on in the most beautiful industry in the world,” says Berends.

Alongside the conference programme, the digital edition of ESNS 2022 will feature the usual festival programme of Noorderslag, Eurosonic, as well as the Music Moves Europe Awards award ceremony.

Tickets for the digital conference cost €99, and are available via www.esns.nl. The festival will be available – free of charge – with sessions recorded by Dutch broadcaster NTR in collaboration with NPO 3FM, to be broadcast by NPO 3FM, NPO 3 and the digital festival platform, hosted by VPRO 3VOOR12.

 


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ESNS bolsters 2022 programme

ESNS 2022 is taking shape after organisers confirmed a keynote interview with DreamHaus CEO Matt Schwarz and inked a long-term deal with See Tickets.

Eurosonic Noorderslag, which returns to Groningen, the Netherlands from 19-22 January 2022, will also feature talks from Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma, Dutch music entrepreneur André de Raaf and psychologist Anne Löhr of Mental Health In Music.

See Tickets will handle all ticketing for the conference and festival as part of a new four-year partnership.

“ESNS is always on the lookout for new possibilities to take the customer journey to a higher level,” says Dago Houben, CEO of ESNS. “Especially in this time, smart data interpretation and personal communication with our visitors are key. We’re looking forward to building a strong partnership with See Tickets.”

This partnership fits in perfectly with the experience we have in the dance industry and our ambitions in live music

Under the agreement, all products will be selectable in one single transaction and ESNS will also be one of the first partners to benefit from the new See Tickets CRM-tool Identity.

“The combination of history and heritage of the festival/conference and our scalable e-commerce solutions promises a lot for our joint future,” adds See Tickets Benelux MD Marijke van den Bosch. “This partnership fits in perfectly with the experience we have in the dance industry and our ambitions in live music.”

Meanwhile, 60 up-and-coming European acts have been added to the ESNS line-up, including 10 new Spanish acts (Marta Knight, Marina Herlop, Mundo Prestigio, Pódium, Biznaga, Gabriela Richardson, Santa Salut, Maika Makovski, Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba and Dora) for Eurosonic, along with five Dutch acts (Don Melody Club, Flemming, Hang Youth, Kuzko, and Son Mieux) for Noorderslag. Spain has already been announced as the focus country

“[The focus on Spain] will bring a wide palette of young, emerging and talented acts from all over Spain to show how fresh, alive and exportable artists we have in our country,” says César Andión, of The Spanish Wave and Live Nation Madrid.

The 2021 edition of ESNS was held entirely online and welcomed nearly 4,000 people from 124 countries to its digital conference and festival platforms.

 


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