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Eric van Eerdenburg reveals Lowlands exit strategy

Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg has revealed his intention to step down from the Dutch festival next year.

Van Eerdenburg has been involved with the long-running event, which is promoted by Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts, since the turn of the century. But Vpro reports that he has now set the wheels in motion for his “process to the back door”.

“I’m not quitting yet, but I’ve started quitting, so to speak,” Van Eerdenburg told the De Machine podcast. “I will definitely do this Lowlands again and next year too. And someone will walk with me to take over afterwards.

“Lowlands is big, Lowlands is a lot. There is a lot of networking involved, which you don’t write down on a note and say, ‘Good luck with it.’ So I chose to do it that way.”

He continued: “Lowlands is a young festival. It’s about young culture, young new bands, new influences, new things. There you can think for a long time that you still feel it all the way down to your toes, but at a certain point that is no longer the case.”

“I’m not ready to wave goodbye to everyone yet”

Van Eerdenburg plans to hand over the reins to Mojo’s festival project manager Camiel le Rutte, who works across events such as Rolling Loud, Stadspark Live and Warehouse Project Rotterdam, and previously programmed Amsterdam’s Melkweg venue.

“He has also done things as a freelancer at Lowlands in the past,” said Van Eerdenburg. “I think he is the right man to take over this. He is now 38, 39, a good age to start. The same age as when I started.”

He added: “I’m not ready to wave goodbye to everyone yet.”

The 2024 edition of A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise will be held in Biddinghuizen between 16-18 August. Acts at the 60,000-cap festival will include Fred Again.., Queens of the Stone Age, Skrillex, Peggy Gou, Froukje, The Smile, Nas, Denzel Curry, Jorja Smith, Sugababes, Big Thief and Wargasm. Tickets, priced €325, sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale in February.

Van Eerdenburg joined the festival team in 2000 as right-hand man to MD John Mulder, becoming director the following year. Mulder himself stepped down from Mojo at the start of 2024 to “give the young guard space”. The new leadership team consists of Ruben Brouwer, with whom Mulder has co-led Mojo since 2017, as well as Ronny Hooch Antink and Kim Bloem.

 


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Lowlands 2024 sells out in less than 15 minutes

The 2024 edition of Lowlands sold out in less than 15 minutes on Saturday (3 February), becoming one of the Dutch festival’s speediest sellouts.

Around 65,000 tickets flew off the shelf for the Mojo-promoted event, featuring Fred Again…, Queens of the Stone Age and Gold Band among others. And as many as 130,000 people were in the digital queue at one time.

Tickets for this year’s edition were priced at €325, up from €300 the year prior and €255 in 2022.

The 2024 sellout looks to be Lowlands’ third-fastest after 2023 (14 minutes) and 2022 (two minutes).

The 2024 sellout looks to be Lowlands’ third-fastest after 2023 (14 minutes) and 2022 (two minutes)

The speed of the sell-out seems to have surpassed the expectations of the Lowlands team. Festival director Eric van Eerdenburg told Entertainment Business at the end of last year that he didn’t think the festival would sell out within 15 minutes again: “It could be a bit slower. 2023 went very quickly.”

Mojo also announced that 6,187 tickets for Lowlands 2024 were cancelled by Ticketmaster after it was discovered that they had been purchased by ticket-buying bots.

The tickets will be “offered again and for the original price to genuine Lowlanders” this Saturday (10 February).

Lowlands returns to Biddinghuizen between 16–18 August with Skrillex, Peggy Gou, Froukje, The Smile, Nas, Denzel Curry, Jorja Smith, Sugababes, Big Thief, Wargasm and more.

 


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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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NL to tackle ‘billon-dollar’ resale industry

The Dutch government says it will devise a strategy this autumn to tackle the resale of tickets for extortionate prices.

The state secretary for culture and media Gunay Uslu called resale a “persistent problem” and wants to better protect consumers.

It comes after reports that Lowlands tickets were being resold for more than €100 over the original price, prompting politicians to wade in.

The 60,000 tickets for the Mojo-promoted festival cost €300 euros each and sold out within 15 minutes.

Ticketholders are only allowed to resell tickets through Ticketmaster, with a maximum of 20% on top of the purchased price.

She said she expects to come up with a plan in the autumn after researching how other countries deal with this problem

However, Ticketmaster in the Netherlands reportedly charges over €40 euros in service costs per transaction, hiking the price of a Lowlands ticket up to over €400.

The Socialist Party of the Netherlands has been calling on the government to crack down on the ‘billion-dollar’ resale industry for years, to no avail.

However, the party submitted a motion last year that was widely supported in the House of Representatives, subsequently drawing the attention of Uslu.

She said she expects to come up with a plan in the autumn after researching how other countries deal with this problem.

Ticketing fees have been thrust under the microscope of late after The Cure persuaded Ticketmaster to offer partial refunds for “unduly high” ticketing fees charged in the Verified Fan sale for the band’s upcoming North American tour.

Various markets are already making moves to eliminate “excessive” ticketing fees for concerts and other events, with the US recently introducing a “Junk Fee Prevention Act”.

 


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Major festivals report speedy sellouts for 2023

Some of Europe’s biggest festivals have sold out within half an hour, regardless of significant ticket price increases.

Live Nation-backed Mojo Concerts says Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) sold out in less than 15 minutes, despite ticket prices increasing from €255 to €300.

The 2023 edition of the Dutch festival will see acts including Billie Eilish, Florence + the Machine and Charlotte de Witte return to Walibi Holland between 18–20 August.

Discussing the ticket price increase on the festival’s own podcast LLowcast, director Eric van Eerdenburg said: “Inflation has hit us hard. It is not in our interest to have an expensive ticket. It is in our interest to have a ticket that is as cheap as possible, because then it is easier to sell your tickets. But it’s no different.

“All refugee shelters are full of stuff from the festival industry, everything is becoming much more expensive and harder to get. People who work for us have all submitted their salary demands and we must also comply with them. It’s a tough cookie to swallow, but we’re going to deliver something good for it.”

This year the 55,000-capacity festival is going mobile-only, with ticketholders allowed to resell on Ticketmaster only.

Tomorrowland has sold all 400,000 tickets, with the first 50% (reserved for Belgium fans) selling out in 20 minutes

Lowlands sister festival Down the Rabbit Hole – which also experienced a significant price increase due to inflation and higher costs – also sold out faster than ever.

Elsewhere, Tomorrowland has sold all 400,000 tickets, with the first 50% (reserved for Belgium fans) selling out in 20 minutes.

This year the festival will return to its two-weekend format, taking place in Boom, Antwerp, from 21 to 23 and 28 to 30 July.

More than 600 DJs will perform across 14 different stages including Afrojack, Amelie Lens, Armin van Buuren, Lost Frequencies, Netsky, Paul Kalkbrenner, Steve Aoki, Tiësto and Yves Deruyter.

Last year, the festival took place over three weekends to “cushion the financial hangover” of six cancelled festivals in 2020 and 2021.

Lowlands and Tomorrowland’s speedy sellouts come after the UK’s Glastonbury festival sold out in just over an hour, despite a 26% price increase for the 2023 edition.

The Glastonbury onsale failed to beat 2019’s record of just 34 minutes due to a “technical problem”, as organisers reported “incredible demand” for the 135,000 weekend tickets. Coach packages sold out in just 22 minutes.

 


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Lowlands festival site to be used as refugee shelter

The festival site where Dutch festivals Lowlands and Defqon. 1 are held each year will become a shelter for more than 1,000 registered refugees.

The first refugees are expected at Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen, central Netherlands, in three weeks’ time and will be accommodated in temporary housing units until next spring.

The shelter will be used to relieve the burden on the asylum seekers’ centre in Ter Apel, Groningen, until April 2023 when the site will be available for festivals again.

The mayor of governing providence Dronten, Jean Paul Gebber, tells de Volkskrant that Walibi Holland is a good choice for a temporary shelter because of the festivals that are organised there. “If we can build a village here for 60,000 people three times a year, we can also set up a village for 1,500 asylum seekers if there is a need for it.”

The mayor of Dronten says that Walibi Holland is a good choice because of the festivals that are organised there

Walibi Holland hosts the 55,000-capacity Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) in August each year, with the 2023 edition set for 18–20 of that month.

The festival’s promoter, Live Nation-backed Mojo Concerts, recently opened the world’s largest solar carport in Walibi Holland’s on-site car park.

The site is shared by Defqon. 1 which is promoted by Q-dance, part of the Superstruct-backed ID&T group.

The electronic dance music festival is due to return to the site between 22–25 June, 2023.

 


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Lowlands opens world’s largest solar carport

Organisers of Lowlands festival in the Netherlands have opened the world’s largest solar carport in the event’s on-site car park.

A collaboration between promoter Mojo Concerts and renewable energy producer Solarfields, the car park opened on 3 May and covers 35 hectares.

Providing space for 15,000 cars, its 90,000 solar panels produce an annual capacity of 35 MWp of electricity, meaning around 10,000 households can be supplied with green energy – equivalent to the power consumption of roughly 100 Lowlands weekends.

“It is essential for our company that we commit ourselves to a sustainable society”

“We are proud of the realisation of Solar Carport,” says Mojo Concerts director Ruben Brouwer. “It is essential for our company that we commit ourselves to a sustainable society and with this initiative we ensure that more sustainable, green energy is generated. In our transition to using only renewable energy, this is a huge step.”

Held in Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen, the 55,000-cap Lowlands (aka A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise) returns from 19-21 August, when it will welcome acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Bring Me The Horizon, Glass Animals, Sam Fender and Arlo Parks.

“We are proud that this solar carport has been opened in collaboration with Solarfields after many years of development,” says Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg. “As a festival organisation we want to propagate an optimistic vision of the future and play a role in solving climate problems. We hope in this way to be a source of inspiration for our visitors to contribute – no matter how small – to making the world more sustainable.”

“We want to be part of the solution, not the problem”

Van Eerdenburg added to Dutch publication Omroep Flevoland the festival wants to run on green energy within two years.

“We are going to connect to the Smart Grid of Flevoland,” he said. “This consists of seven wind farms, solar farms and a number of large batteries. The dream is to connect to those batteries so that we can reduce aggregate use and diesel to zero. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. It is super-important for our young audience, for the future of the Netherlands, for green energy and a better future.”

 


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70,000 take part in ‘Unmute Us’ protest march

Tens of thousands of people took part in the ‘Unmute Us’ protest march in cities across the Netherlands on Saturday (21 August).

The march, spearheaded by the Dutch event industry and attended by festivalgoers, called on the Dutch government to end the ‘arbitrary’ restrictions that have effectively written off the festival summer.

Around 70,000 people attended the marches in Eindhoven, Groningen, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, including more than 2,000 parties from the Dutch event industry.

Ziggo Dome, Awakenings, Down The Rabbit Hole, Soenda, Apenkooi Events, Vunzige Deuntjes, and Kultlab were among the event companies that hosted floats in their home cities.

The event also drew support from the likes of DGTL, A State of Trance Festival, Amsterdam Open Air, Best Kept Secret, Defqon, Dekmantel Festival, Lowlands, Mysteryland and Paaspop.

The protest marches were reinforced by performances from DJs and artists such as Ryan Marciano, Joris Voorn, Goldband, Bizzey, Sandrien and Joost van Bellen and speeches by Kluun, Tim van Delft (De Staat), Lusanne Bouwmans (D66) and Michiel Veenstra (3FM).

“The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field”

“I had so many goosebumps all day. This is our scene, this is what we live for. Happy people, music and positivity. I only now realise how terribly I missed this,” says Bram Merkx, initiator of Unmute Us.

Jasper Goossen, co-owner of Apenkooi Events (DGTL, Amsterdam Open Air, Elrow Amsterdam), says: “Today we issued the best possible business card. The fact that an ambitious idea can grow into a real movement in such a short time is typical of our field. I am very proud of our entire industry. We now expect a quick response from The Hague.”

The protest comes after the Dutch government banned large-scale events such as festivals until at least 19 September amid fears over the spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

One-day events with a maximum of 750 visitors are allowed for people with a Covid-19 app showing they have been vaccinated, have recently tested negative or have recovered from a case in the past six months.

The organisers of Unmute Us want the ban lifted by 1 September, which would still come too late for festivals such as Down the Rabbit Hole (27–29 August), A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (20–22 August) and Mysteryland (27–29 August).

 


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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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