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ESNS 2021 to go ahead in hybrid format

Dutch conference and showcase festival Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) will go ahead in a part-virtual, part-physical format next January.

Taking place in Groningen from 13 to 16 January, the in-person aspect of ESNS 2021 – the event’s 35th edition – will be “widely supported in a digital form”, including both the conference programming and showcases, say organisers.

All parts of the programme will be “organised with the safety of visitors, delegates and artists as the highest priority”, they add.

Eurosonic creative director Robert Meijerink comments: “There’s all the more reason to get together again in Groningen in January 2021 and to review and anticipate the future. It is precisely these uncertain times that call for an opportunity to open the dialogue, to support and inspire, to learn from each other and, ultimately, to regain trust for hopeful times ahead.

“Last but not least, ESNS wants to organise an event that does justice to its mission: stimulating and promoting the circulation of new European music. The necessity has never been so great.”

“There’s all the more reason to get together again in Groningen in January 2021”

ESNS 2021 will be preceded by European Music Week, a new digital platform showcasing the best new European music. Whereas ESNS has previous chosen focus countries, the 2021 event will focus on Europe as a whole.

“The music sector has been hit hard. But we feel strengthened by the hundreds of music professionals from home and abroad who have still bought a registration for ESNS 2021 in recent months, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic,” says ESNS director Dago Houben. “We feel that as a call from the sector”

Tickets for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2021 will go on sale “as soon as possible”, say organisers, and will available at a substantial discount compared to previous years: €195 for a full conference ticket, or €50 for digital only.

“[W]e receive tremendous support from a large number of partners, not to mention the authorities who indirectly supported us to let us do what we are good at: stimulate the circulation of European music. This extra support gives us the opportunity to drastically reduce the price of our event to make it as accessible as possible for everyone,” continues Houben.

“We are developing an accessible digital edition for people who are not yet allowed, or who are otherwise not able, to travel.”


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Oosterpoort rebrands as SPOT Groningen

De Oosterpoort and Stadsschouwburg Groningen (OPSB), the organisation behind Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) venue De Oosterpoort, has a new name: SPOT Groningen.

The Oosterpoort in Groningen – which has been home to Dutch music industry conference ESNS (then called the Holland-Belgium Festival) since 1986 – merged with the Stadsschouwburg, a Groningen theatre, in 2002. The old name, says the former OPSB, “no longer does justice to who we are and what we stand for.”

“The new name fits in better with our mission: bringing the artist and the audience together to create an unforgettable experience,” says SPOT in a statement. “We no longer do this only in De Oosterpoort and the Stadsschouwburg, but also in other places in Groningen such as the Lutheran Church, the USVA, the horse racing track, EM2 and the Martini Church. Depending on the artist and the audience, we determine the place that fits best. In this way we create places of encounter and places of meaning.”

“The new name fits in better with our mission: bringing artist and audience together”

The 33rd edition of ESNS wrapped up on Saturday 19 January at the Oosterpoort in Groningen, Netherlands, having been attended by a total of 42,789 visitors, of which 4,135 were conference delegates.

Speakers included Fruzsina Szép of Lollapalooza Berlin, the Windish Agency founder Tom Windish, Cindy Castillo from Mad Cool Festival, Mojo’s Kim Bloem and Key Music Management’s Richard Jones, as well as Pinkpop director Jan Smeets, whose keynote interview focused on the 50-year history of the legendary Dutch festival.

Outside of the conference programme, highlights included the European Festival Awards and A Greener Festival Awards, as well as a total of 342 shows in 52 venues across the city.

Eurosonic returns to the Oosterpoort on 15–18 January 2020.


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Czech Republic, Slovakia joint ESNS 2019 focus countries

The Czech Republic and Slovakia will be Eurosonic Noorderlag (ESNS)’s first-ever joint focus countries in 2019.

In cooperation with Michal Kaščák, CEO of Slovakia’s Pohoda Festival, and Márton Náray, director of new Czech export office SoundCzech, the Dutch conference/showcase festival will next year shine a spotlight on the two central European neighbours, which, says booker Robert Meijerink, although “two of the youngest countries in Europe”, both have “diverse and growing music scenes, a great history and lots of amazing music to be discovered”.

Previous recent focus countries include Denmark (2018), Portugal (2017) and the central and eastern European (CEE) nations (2016).

“I am confident that this will be a remarkable focus, especially with CR/Radio Wave and Radio_FM, SoundCzech/Czech Music Office and the ETEP festivals Colours of Ostrava, Metronome Festival, Rock for People, United Islands of Prague [Czech Republic] and Pohoda [Slovakia] on board,” says ESNS conference coordinator Ruud Berends.

“We are excited about the opportunity to show European professionals how much we have to offer”

Náray says the music scene in the Czech Republic has grown tremendously over the past five to ten years, with more than 500 summer festivals, a booming club scene and a host of promising emerging talent. “We are excited about the opportunity to show European professionals how much we have to offer,” he comments. “I think it is the perfect moment to do that.”

“It is great to be a music fan in Slovakia,” adds Kaščák (pictured). “The whole world knows Metallica, PJ Harvey and the Sex Pistols – and we are lucky enough to know Čad, Jana Kirschner and the Wilderness. But don’t worry: thanks to the Czech–Slovakian focus at ESNS 2019, we will be sharing our hidden treasures with music lovers around the world.”

ESNS returns to Groningen in the Netherlands from 16 to 19 January 2019. More than 4,000 industry delegates attended Eurosonic Noorderslag 2018, which saw performances from 300 European acts, including 22 from focus country Denmark.



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Eurosonic Noorderslag 2018 goes down a storm

Despite the best efforts of Storm Friederike, whose 125mph winds grounded flights at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport and forced the cancellation of Groningen-bound trains on Thursday, Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2018 marked another successful year for the long-running Dutch conference and showcase festival.

More than 300 European acts – 22 of them from focus country Denmark – performed across the three days of 17–19 January, while 4,092 delegates from 42 countries participated in the conference programme, the highlights of which included panels on the ‘gender gap’, Brexit, mental health, the festival market and secondary ticketing; keynotes from agent Emma Banks, manager Paul Craig, ESNS founder Peter Smidt, Ticketmaster head of music David Marcus and promoter Harvey Goldsmith; and the traditional European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) and European Festival Awards on Wednesday night.

EPIC (the European Production Innovation Conference), meanwhile, tackled topics such as safety, sustainability, volunteering and event technology, while Buma Music Meets Tech focused on blockchain, streaming services, bots and other technological innovations.

4,092 delegates from 42 countries participated in the conference programme

ESNS 2018 kicked off with the EBBAs, hosted by Jools Holland and recognising ten European acts who “broke borders” with their music over the past 12 months. The head of Creative Europe, Barbara Gessler, handed out the public choice award to the Bulgarian singer Kristian Kostov, with other winners including Germany’s Alice Merton, Finland’s Alma, the UK’s Youngr and Norway’s Sigrid.

Playing across ESNS’s 62 venues were 352 acts vying for success in the European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP), whose member festivals presented their first selection of acts booked for the summer ahead. The most-booked were IAMDDB (UK), Zeal & Ardor (Ch), Meute (De), Superorganism (UK), Jacob Banks (UK), Tamino (Be), Agar Agar (Fr) and Altin Gun (NL).

In total, 40,288 people attended the event, while many more listened on the radio, including to 41 hours’ worth of live broadcasts.

ESNS will return on 16–19 January 2019.


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ESNS 2018: Groningen prepares for annual industry invasion

Barely had the festive parties started when agents began talking up some of the acts they will be showcasing at Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) in the Netherlands in mid-January.

Combining daytime panels and keynotes with a packed programme of evening gigs, ESNS will welcome Denmark as its focus nation for 2018, with a number of Danish acts rubbing shoulders with musicians from around Europe, vying for success in the European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP), which continues to go from strength to strength.

Last year’s big ETEP winners were British punk band Shame, who achieved a record number of 17 ETEP festival bookings throughout 2017, while the scheme as a whole secured a total of 424 festival slots, involving 164 acts from 24 countries.

Elsewhere, ESNS will kick off with the EBBA Awards, which recognise ten European acts who have been successful in developing their careers outside their own country. The current crop include Skott (SE), Off Bloom (DK), Blanche (BE), Alice Merton (DE), Alma (FI), Kristian Kostov (BG), Sigrid (NO), The Blaze (FR), Youngr (UK) and Salvador Sobral (PT).

More than 400 acts from 30 countries will showcase their talent during ESNS, in the hope of catching the attention of some of the hundreds of festival bookers who will be in Groningen for the 17– 20 January event, which also hosts the European Festival Awards on the opening night.

Among the European Festival Awards 2017 nominees are Sziget and Lowlands (both best major festival and line-up of the year), Pohoda (best medium-sized festival and promoter of the year), Sea Star and Labyrinth Open Croatia (best new festival), festival drug testing service the Loop (health and safety innovation award), Rolling Stone Weekender, MENT Ljubljana (both best indoor festival) and late Primary agent Dave Chumbley (award for excellence and passion).

A full shortlist is available from the European Festival Awards website.


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North Sea Jazz launches Groningen fest Rockit

The Oosterport in Groningen, Netherlands, will this November be the venue for a new jazz festival, Rockit.

Rockit – named for a 1983 composition by Herbie Hancock, who will headline the event – is jointly organised by Mojo Concerts’ North Sea Jazz Festival and the in-house promoters at the Oosterport (1,850-cap. in the main hall), a music/performing arts venue and the long-time home of the Eurosonic Noorderslag conference.

Joining Hancock as the first confirmed performers are BadBadNotGood, Donny McCaslin, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Ben van Gelder and Reinier Baas, and Jeff Parker and Rob Mazurek.

Like the song ‘Rockit’ (a “groundbreaking mix of funk, jazz, hip-hop, dance and a touch of rock”), Rockit festival says it will focus on experimental programming, featuring acts “who are open to the unknown”.

“The first headliners … are artists who are open to the unknown, who wish to enter a new ‘galaxy’…”

“These artists and groups collaborate with hip-hop, pop and rock musicians, and integrate those influences into their own projects and records,” reads a press release. “For example, you can hear saxophonist Donny McCaslin on David Bowie’s Blackstar and Jeff Parker is a band member of the post-rock group Tortoise. […]

“Rockit has it all: hip, contemporary, stinging, pioneering. In short: future music.”

IQ spoke to North Sea Jazz’s festival director, Jan Willem Luyken, about artist fees, sponsorship, the Dutch market and the festival’s philosophy shortly after selling out once again last month.


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