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More Swiss festivals cancel “unfeasible” 2021 editions

OpenAir St.Gallen (1–4 July), Gurtenfestival (14–17 July), Zermatt Unplugged (15–25 July), Caribana Festival (16–20 July) and Thunerseespiele (14–28 August) have called it quits on their Swiss summer events for the second consecutive year.

Swiss festivals Paléo Festival Nyon, Greenfield Festival, Rock the Ring and Baloise Session have already called off their 2021 editions.

CTS Eventim’s OpenAir St.Gallen (OASG), which usually welcomes 30,000 guests each year, released a statement on Facebook saying a 2021 edition “is simply not feasible” due to the pandemic and the current ban on large events.

“The outlook for the summer has become more and more uncertain over the past few weeks and months,” reads the statement.

News of the recent cancellations comes days after the Swiss federal government announced an update to its event cancellation scheme, which seems to have left organisers and live associations more uncertain than ever about the viability of this year’s festival season.

“The outlook for the summer has become more and more uncertain over the past few weeks and months”

One of the main concerns of the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA) is whether the government will provide insurance for events that can only be carried out to a limited extent.

Stefan Breitenmoser, managing director of SMPA, says: “Should the original planning be maintained or can alternative formats be worked out? There are still no framework conditions and approval criteria for both. In addition, it is unclear what compensation organisers will receive if planning continues and the event has to be cancelled later or can only be carried out to a limited extent.”

Christoph Bill, president of the SMPA, says it boils down to a fundamental question: “Do we want to preserve cultural diversity in the long term?”

“Its economic importance and its role for the wellbeing of a large population are undisputed, but politicians and authorities still do not seem to recognise the seriousness and urgency of the situation. Is there also a lack of will? Does it even come in handy when the organisers cancel on their own initiative? Doesn’t anyone want to take responsibility on the part of the authorities? Is the federal system simply not suitable for a crisis?”

The SMPA is now calling for compensation for losses of more than 100% of the actual damage incurred

The SMPA is now calling for the opening steps and framework conditions until normal operations resume to be defined in a standardised manner across Switzerland, as well as a commitment to compensation for losses of more than 100% of the actual damage incurred – “without cantonal ceilings that distort competition, and rapid, pragmatic implementation of the protective umbrella that has been agreed”.

According to the SMPA, the following Swiss festivals are under pressure to make a decision now: Stars of Sounds Aarberg / Murten, blues’n’jazz Rapperswil, Montreux Jazz Festival, Open Air Frauenfeld, Openair Etziken, Open Air Lumnezia, Unique Moments Zurich, Blue Balls Festival, Basel Tattoo, Sion sous les étoiles, Flumserberg Open Air, Summer Stage Basel and Lake Live Festival.

The association says the following Swiss festivals have until the end of April 2021 to make fundamental decisions: Stars in Town, Musikfestwochen Winterthur, Hehre Open Air, Open Air Gampel, Royal Arena Festival, SummerDays Festival, Seaside Festival and JazzNoJazz.

 


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Major Swiss festivals cancel 2021 editions

A number of Swiss festivals have called off 2021 editions, citing uncertainty about whether major events will be permitted to take place this summer.

The 45th instalment of the annual rock festival Paléo Festival Nyon, scheduled to take place between 19–25 July, has been cancelled as “the situation is still too uncertain to consider organising the festival in its usual form”.

However, the organisers revealed that they are working on a ‘Covid-compatible event’ with a reduced capacity and size, and an extended duration. Health conditions permitting, it will take place from 8 July to 8 August 2021.

Greenfield Festival 2021, due to take place in Interlaken, Bern, between 3–5 June with headliners Volbeat, Korn and Billy Talent, has also been called off.

“Just when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, it moves even further away than it already was,” reads a statement from the organisers.

“We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed, which measures we would have to integrate”

“The situation around Covid-19 is simply not getting better fast enough internationally and in Switzerland in particular. Since we don’t know whether major events will be allowed at all, we simply lack planning certainty. We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed and which measures we would have to integrate.”

Rock the Ring (cap. 15,000) has also been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to “the lack of planning security for large events,” says the organiser. The event was planned for 17–19 June in Hinwil, with a line-up that included Foreigner, Three Doors Down and Airbourne.

However, CTS Eventim’s stable of Swiss events, which includes Open Air St Gallen (1–4 July) and SummerDays and Seaside Festival (3–4 September), are taking a wait-and-see approach.

On 4 February, a statement was published on their respective social media pages saying the organisers are “working on various scenarios and protection concepts” for each festival but that ultimately, it’s uncertain whether the events will be able to take place.

At the time of writing Blue Balls Festival is set to go ahead from 23–31 July in Lucerne; hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld is holding onto its 7–10 July date and pop event Zürich Openair is on for 25–28 August.

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition in January, as organisers say it’s “impossible to plan with any certainty” due to the limitations of the pandemic.

While it was announced in February that Montreux Jazz Festival will take place at least partially in the digital realm in 2021, livestreaming all performances from its 55th edition as part of a plan to protect the festival against future disruption.

The lack of certainty around Switzerland’s summer season prompted the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA), along with 26 of the country’s festivals, to call for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.

Last month’s appeal relayed three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.

Elsewhere, in neighbouring Germany, CTS Eventim and Goodlive have cancelled a slate of the market’s major festivals.

 


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European markets seek clarity on festival season

Major European festival markets are urgently seeking clarity on the viability of this year’s summer season in a race against the clock.

In Switzerland, promoters’ association SMPA has released a statement, co-signed by 26 of the country’s festivals, calling for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.

The appeal also relays three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.

“2021 is not 2020, the statement reads. “There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing. In combination with the expected lower case numbers in the summer months, this creates a different starting position for the summer of 2021. The task now is to find a strategy for summer 2021.”

“2021 is not 2020. There are better treatment options, testing options are constantly evolving, and vaccinations are ongoing”

The statement has been co-signed by festivals including OpenAir St Gallen (cap. 30,000), which is part of the majority CTS Eventim-owned wepromote, SummerDays (12,000), and Seaside Festival (10,000) – all of which were cancelled last year after the Swiss government outlawed live events until the end of summer 2020.

In Denmark, festival organisers have been given a glimmer of hope after the government announced the spring arrival of a vaccine passport, but are still seeking the security needed in order to plan for the summer.

Acting minister of finance, Morten Bødskov, announced in a press conference on Wednesday (3 February) that digital Coronavirus passports will be ready for use in three to four months but will initially apply only to travel.

According to Bødskov, whether the digital passport can be used to go to a concert or a festival is a political discussion that will be decided by the infection situation.

The Danish live industry is cautiously optimistic about the news and have called for a roadmap for reopening to allow organisers to plan for the summer.

“[The vaccine passport] can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals this summer”

“The corona passport is an important tool that can be crucial in reopening the live industry,” says Esben Marcher, head of Dansk Live. “It is positive that a digital corona passport is now being established. It can be crucial in ensuring that we can quickly reopen venues and hold festivals when the summer comes.”

“Time is, of course, a significant challenge right now, and in organiser optics, three to four months is a very long time. The infection is currently fairly under control and the vaccine plan is being rolled out. Therefore, it should now be time to reconsider the plan for reopening. It will allow the country’s many organisers to plan for the future. ”

Danish festivals organisers say the ongoing uncertainty about whether the festival summer is to go ahead is keeping them in a stalemate situation.

“There are quite a few deals we do not close so as not to commit too much financially. Otherwise, we can have problems if the health authorities believe that we can not hold the festival,” Nicklas Lundorf, Langelandsfestival told Berlingske.

Lundorf revealed that the organisers are still planning to hold the festival until told otherwise.

“When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial?”

“It’s something we go and discuss internally. When do we have a cut-off date? When are we going to throw ourselves in at the last minute and close the agreements that are crucial in order to get the festival off the ground?” he says.

Vaccine passports have been gaining traction across Europe, with Poland becoming the latest concert market to confirm it will issue its citizens with a vaccine passport when they have been immunised against Covid-19.

Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal is examining whether ‘safe bubbles’ of vaccinated festivalgoers could be the key to keeping fans and artists safe this summer, French festival operators ‘have 11 days to save festivals’, and the UK festival sector is waiting with bated breath for the prime minister to reveal a roadmap on the 22 February.

The lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed at ILMC during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset, while leading festivals operators will be discussing the evolving passions, priorities and unique features of their events in Festival Futures: Core Priorities.

 


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Swiss festival season gone as gov extends event ban

Following two weeks of deliberation, the Swiss government last night (29 April) declared that no events over 1,000 people will take place in the country until the end of August.

The government states it will reassess the situation “before the summer holidays”. The fate of events with fewer than 1,000 attendees will be decided on 27 May.

The decision follows criticism from festival organisers and the Swiss Music Promoters’ Association (SMPA) over the lack of clarity offered by the government to organisers of large-scale events. In the absence of an official declaration, the SMPA recently advised all members to postpone any large events due to take place before mid-July.

Switzerland now joins fellow European countries Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland to effectively ban the whole summer festival season. Large events are not permitted until mid-August in Hungary, the end of June in Austria, mid-July in France and the end of July in Luxembourg and Finland.

Although Swiss festival giants Paléo Festival Nyon and Montreux Jazz Festival had already called time on 2020, a number of significant events including OpenAir St Gallen, SummerDays and Seaside Festivals, Openair Frauenfeld and Zürich Openair were awaiting word from the authorities before cancelling.

“This summer, for the first time in the history of the festival since 1977, there will be no OpenAir St.Gallen,” reads a statement from organisers of the 30,000-capacity festival, which is part of the majority CTS Eventim-owned wepromote, along with SummerDays and Seaside festivals.

Openair St Gallen 2020 was set to feature Twenty One Pilots, the Lumineers, Alan Walker and Of Monsters and Men. “We promise you that we will now put all our passion for the OpenAir St.Gallen even more into the 2021 edition.”

“This summer, for the first time in the history of the festival since 1977, there will be no OpenAir St.Gallen”

The OpenAir St Gallen team urges fans to hold on to their tickets for 2021, saying that “by doing so, you are helping to secure the foundation of our festival, the work of our colleagues and our various teams who have been working on the festival for months and to get us through this very difficult time.”

SummerDays (12,000-cap.) is another to announce its cancellation in the wake of the government’s announcement. The festival falls inside the event ban limits by only a few days, scheduled for 28 to 29 August.

Organisers say they “fully support the actions of the government” and “had to expect this would happen”.

“Let’s make SummerDays 2021 a big highlight together and celebrate like never before.”

Seaside Festival (10,000-cap.), which had previously postponed to the end of August, also announced its support for the government, “albeit with a heavy heart”. Seaside Festival will return from 3 to 4 September 2021.

Other Swiss events to cancel following the government’s announcement include hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld (50,000), which had booked Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and DaBaby for 2020; pop festival Zürich Openair (20,000-cap.), which was to feature Martin Garrix, Lewis Capaldi and Rita Ora, among others; the 30,000-capacity Greenfield Festival (Disturbed, Bring Me The Horizon); and 33,000-capacity OpenAir Gampel (Macklemore, Limp Bizkit, Sum 41).

 


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European festivals in limbo as crisis continues

As Britain’s large summer events continue to fall away (with Goldenvoice UK’s All Points East and Live Nation’s Lovebox and Parklife the latest to cancel due to coronavirus concerns), members of several European festival associations are taking a different approach – biding their time while urging governments to provide greater clarity about the months ahead.

“The cancellation of Glastonbury was a surprise to a lot of people [in continental Europe] and, media-wise, a big pressure on everybody,” says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen and Summer Days Festival, and general secretary of Yourope, the European Festival Association.

Last week, two of the association’s members, Roskilde Festival (Denmark) and Open’er Festival (Poland), spearheaded the #FestivalsStandUnited campaign, which saw some of Europe’s biggest music festivals state that they intend to go ahead with their events this summer, and that in doing so they will “be a crucial part of the survival of this industry”.

More than 60 festivals – including events taking place in early June – put their names to an open letter entitled ‘Festivals Stand United Across Europe’, which was also signed by Yourope.

Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says it’s widely expected the lockdown in Britain will go on beyond the current three-week period, with many festivals assuming 12 weeks of no public gatherings – a period that extends well into June (without even taking into account a two-week build).

“It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown”

Reed says the views of AIF’s 65-strong membership are as diverse as the festivals themselves: “We have some members with events in August contemplating what they should do, but on the other hand we have festivals in July thinking they’re going to go ahead,” he explains, noting that there are “myriad considerations” around deciding to cancel or postpone.

Also weighing up his options is Patrick de Groote, artistic director of Belgian world music festival Sfinks Mixed (23–26 July) and secretary of the Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (FWMW), who tells IQ: “We’re hearing that all April festivals [in Belgium] will be cancelled; in May, some yes, some no… We’re still waiting to be told, and everybody is preparing so we can be ready when we have more information.”

De Groote says one Dutch FWMW member has already made the decision to cancel, after concluding it could not be ready in time for June. “It’s impossible to build a festival when all the workers are in lockdown,” he says.

According to Reed, there are advantages in being ordered to cancel by authorities, as opposed to organisers pulling the plug themselves, particularly around artist fees (although he adds, encouragingly, that “most festivals are already working positively with agents” on that front).

“A lot of things are on hold right now,” adds de Groote, “including artist contracts. It’s hard to sign something when you don’t know if you’re going to be able to honour the contract.”

“Festivals can’t just pull the plug without knowing the situation in three months”

An additional issue for world music festivals like Sfinks, he continues, is that different parts of the world are at different stages with regards to coronavirus. “At Sfinks, we always have a lot of African and South American bands, and their countries are much earlier in this pandemic than Europe and North America,” he explains. “This year, we’ve booked [Malian duo] Amadou and Mariam and [US act] the Blind Boys of Alabama – the Blind Boys should be OK, but where will Mali be in a few months’ time?”

Huber says Yourope’s members are “all [still] working on our festivals”, and need “a few more weeks to monitor the situation” before deciding whether to go ahead as planned.

“We need a certain clarity about the policy of our governments and about any restrictions,” he adds. “Festivals can’t just decide to pull the plug without knowing what the situation will be in three months.”

Whatever the outcome of summer 2020, Reed emphasises than both fans and festivals must remain positive about the future. “It’s difficult to think about the recovery when people are in survival mode, but’s important to remember we will come out of this,” he concludes. “And when we do, people will need live music more than ever.”

 


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Festival Fever: what’s in store for summer 2020

Continuing the series of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ has a look at what organisers of Parklife, OpenAir St Gallen, Rock in Rio Lisbon, Colours of Ostrava, Download Japan, Wireless Festival and Roskilde have up their sleeves for 2020.

(See the previous edition of Festival Fever here.)

 


Parklife

When: 13 to 15 June
Where: Heaton Park, Manchester, UK
How many: 80,000

The line-up for Manchester’s Parklife festival was announced earlier this week, with a mixture of major hip-hop, electronic and pop acts topping the bill.

Tyler the creator, Carl Cox, Jorja Smith, Hot Chip, Giggs, Bicep, Four Tet and Roisin Murphy are among artists performing on the Saturday, with Khalid, Skepta, Lewis Capaldi, Anderson Paak, Robyn, Peggy Gou, Eric Prydz and Nina Kraviz leading the charge on Sunday.

Co-founded by Sacha Lord and Sam Kandel, who also started the Manchester-based Warehouse Project club nights, Parklife is majority controlled by LN-Gaiety, following a 2016 deal.

Tickets for Parklife 2020 are available here, priced at £125 for a weekend ticket and £95 for a day pass.

A mixture of major hip-hop, electronic and pop acts top the Parklife 2020 bill

OpenAir St Gallen

When: 25 to 28 June
Where: River Sitter valley, Saint Gallen, Switzerland
How many: 30,000

Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen is entering its 44th year in 2020 and its first as part of the newly formed powerhouse Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG, in which CTS Eventim acquired a majority stake last week.

This year’s festival will see performances from Twenty One Pilots, the Lumineers, Alan Walker and Of Monsters and Men, as well as German acts AnnenMayKantereit, Kontra K and Deichkind.

OpenAir St Gallen received the green operations award at the 2019 European Festival Awards, with Wepromote – the joint venture between OpenAir St Gallen, Gadget Entertainment, Incognito Productions, wildpony, SummerDays Festival, Seaside Festival and Wepromote Live – taking home promoter of the year.

Tickets for OpenAir St Gallen 2020 are available here, priced at CHF 239 (£188) for a four-day ticket and CHF 77 (£61) for a single day.

Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen is entering its 44th year in 2020

Wireless Festival

When: 3 to 5 July
Where: Finsbury Park, London, UK
How many: 50,000

Festival Republic’s Wireless Festival is returning to London’s Finsbury Park this summer for three days of urban music, headlined by ASAP Rocky, Skepta and Meek Mill.

Within a day of announcing the line-up, all weekend tickets and single Friday and Saturday tickets had sold out.

Other artists performing at the event include Quality Control Takeover, DaBaby, Roddy Ricch, AJ Tracey, Aitch, Burna Boy and Young Thug.

The line-up announcement for Wireless’ flagship UK event came days after the billing for its German edition was revealed. ASAP Rocky will also head up the 40,000-capacity Frankfurt festival, alongside Kendrick Lamar.

Sunday tickets for Wireless London are available here for £72.50, with joint Friday and Sunday passes also still available for £137.50.

Tickets for Wireless Germany can be found here, with a weekend ticket costing €149 (£125) and a day pass priced at €79 (£67).

Within a day of announcing the line-up, all weekend tickets and single Friday and Saturday tickets had sold out

Colours of Ostrava

When: 15 to 18 July
Where: Dolní Vítkovice, Ostrava, Czech Republic
How many: 45,000

Czech Republic’s Colours of Ostrava festival is this year featuring acts including the Killers, Twenty One Pilots, Martin Garrix, the Lumineers, Sigrid, LP and Youssou N’Dour.

The festival, which takes place in the industrial area of a former mining site in the Czech city, hosts acts over two dozen outdoor and indoor stages, as well as providing a programme of cinema, theatre, literature and art.

The Colours of Ostrava team also organises the free Festival v ulicích (Street Festival) in the centre of Ostrava, and the Czech Music Crossroads, a music showcase conference

Four-day tickets for Colours of Ostrava 2020 are available here for €125.

Colours of Ostrava is this year featuring the Killers, Twenty One Pilots and Martin Garrix

Rock in Rio Lisbon

When: 20 to 28 June
Where: Bela Vista Park, Lisbon, Portugal
How many: 80,000

The Lisbon edition of Brazilian mega festival Rock in Rio added two more acts to its 2020 line-up this week, with singers Ivete Sangalo and Anitta joining artists including Foo Fighters, the Black Eyed Peas, Camila Cabello, the National, Liam Gallagher and Post Malone.

Promoted by Rock City, in which Live Nation recently upped its shareholding to a majority stake, the festival’s flagship Rio de Janeiro event hosted the likes of Drake, Red Hit Chili Peppers, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Pink and Muse across two four-day festival in September and October 2019.

Last year, Rock in Rio founder Roberto Medina hinted at the possibility of launching a Chilean edition of the festival, in what would be the first expansion of the festival brand within the Latin American region.

Tickets for Rock in Rio Lisboa are available here. Day tickets cost €69 (£58) and weekend passes are priced at €112 (£94).

The Lisbon edition of Brazilian mega festival Rock in Rio added two more acts to its 2020 line-up this week

Download Japan

When: 29 March
Where: Makuhari Messe Event Hall, Chiba, Japan
How many: 9,000

The Japanese edition of Live Nation’s Download festival franchise is returning for its second outing this March, with a headline performance from My Chemical Romance.

Other artists playing at the festival include Evanescence, the Offspring, Jimmy East World, Ministry and In Flames.

The flagship UK edition of Download Festival is celebrating its 18th year in 2020, with performances from Kiss, Iron Maiden and System of a Down.

Download is also returning to Australia this year, with festivals in Melbourne and Sydney on 20 and 21 March respectively. My Chemical Romance will also head up Download down under, alongside Ministry, Jimmy Eat World and Lacuna Coil, as well as domestic acts Dead Letter Circus, Hellions and Orpheus Omega.

Spanish and French editions of the festival will not be returning in 2020.

Tickets for Download Japan are available here for ¥16,500 (£115). Camping tickets for Download UK can be found here for £250 and tickets for the Australian Download events are available here for AU$194.93 (£99).

The Japanese edition of Live Nation’s Download festival franchise is returning for its second outing this March

Roskilde

When: 27 June to 4 July
Where: Roskilde, Denmark
How many: 85,000

Roskilde Festival’s 50th anniversary edition is shaping up to be a big, with 32 more acts added to the line-up this week.

Faith No More, FKA Twigs, Anderson Paak and Kacey Musgraves are among artists joining previously announced acts Taylor Swift, Tyler the Creator, Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Deftones and more.

“What is unique about this generation of artists is how fast they make their mark – both artistically and when it comes to drawing attention,” comments Anders Wahrén, head of programming at the Danish non-profit festival.

“Artists like FKA Twigs, Anderson Paak and Kacey Musgraves are important to music, but are also important voices for the young people too.”

Tickets for the full eight-day festival experience plus camping are available here for DDK2250 (£257).

Roskilde Festival’s 50th anniversary edition is shaping up to be a big, with 32 more acts added to the line-up this week

Summer Nights at the Bandstand

When: 30 July to 15 August
Where: Kelvingrove bandstand, Glasgow, Scotland
How many: 2,500

Regular Music’s annual concert series is returning to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove bandstand this summer for 13 nights of live music.

This year’s line-up includes performances from Rufus Wainwright, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, KT Tunstall, Van Morrison and Rick Astely, as well as a two-night run by Primal Scream.

All twelve shows sold out last year, which featured acts including Bloc Party, the National, Burt Bacharach, Father John Misty and Patti Smith. Tickets for this year’s Summer Nights went on sale last week, with the Van Morrison, Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Rick Astley shows already selling out.

“Kelvingrove Bandstand has such a fantastic atmosphere and the feedback we have had from both artists and audiences is that they have a great time just being there,” comments Regular Music director Mark Mackie. “They really are unique and special nights under the stars.”

Tickets for Summer Nights at the Bandstand 2020 are available here.

 


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Angry punks and happy faces: industry pros talk breakthroughs

Hard work, knowing the right people and a slice of good luck can all play a part in getting a proper footing on the career ladder. IQ puts some more ILMC regulars in the spotlight and asks them to share their breakthrough moments…

 


John Giddings, Solo Agency

When I was about 14 years old, a mate at school persuaded me to learn to play bass guitar, with the promise that we would pull chicks. I had to borrow a bass because I could not afford to buy one and that’s why, to this day, I play bass guitar with a right-handed guitar, upside down, because I’m left handed.

We were at a gig and we were playing ‘The Nile Song’ from Pink Floyd’s More album and this punk came up to the stage and said, “If you don’t stop playing, now, then I’m going to fucking hit you!”

That was the end of my career as a musician, but I knew I wanted to be part of the live music thing, even if I was not capable of being onstage.

In those days, we just used to listen to LPs on our own in our bedroom, but I remember going to Isle of Wight Festival and walking over the top of the hill to see 600,000 other people who liked the same music as me – it was like going on a pilgrimage. And that was that – I was hooked.

Going to Isle of Wight Festival was like going on a pilgrimage – I was hooked

Christof Huber, OpenAir St. Gallen/Yourope

When I was around 15, I knew that I wanted to work in music and organise events. I even wrote business plans about my future virtual company. After my apprenticeship, I looked around for job options, but at that time there were very few in the Swiss market and I couldn’t find a way in. I never lost that focus, but I had to work in several other jobs, including as a bookkeeper in real estate in 1992. Hell!

Out of the blue, a former work colleague called me to tell me that she was working for OpenAir St. Gallen, as the assistant for the festival director but was going to leave. As I was so persistent in telling her about my vision, she suggested I put myself forward for the job interview. This was my chance!

I went to the interview and tried to convince them that there was only one person who would be perfect to do the job. They asked me for some time as they had other candidates, but due to a timeline in my other job, I needed a quick answer. They had me complete some tests and I convinced them that I would do everything to make my dream come true. And they finally offered me the job.

I remember as I drove home that I looked at other people and felt so lucky to have achieved my dream.

I started in 1993, was able to take over the event company a few years later and work with wepromote Switzerland on a national level for many festivals and concerts.

In addition, for the past 20 years, I have been part of the European festival family of Yourope where I’ve made so many close friends.

Thank you, Lisa and Andreas, for having given me this opportunity.

I remember as I drove home that I looked at other people and felt so lucky to have achieved my dream

Fruzsina Szép, Lollapalooza Berlin

Since childhood I had always been very passionate and enthusiastic about arts and music and creating and organising things. Watching the happy faces during a festival is “my fuel“ and has kept me going for so many years in the industry, despite the gigantic workload many of us deal with day to day.

In 2008, I was offered the position of programme and artistic director for Sziget Festival in Budapest. I was 30 and I thought ‘Oh my God!’ – this coat is really not my size. My size is S/M and that coat felt XXL.

But I listened to my inner voice. I knew that if I didn’t try, I would never know if I was capable. I can always fail, I told myself, but only after trying.

I’m so extremely happy that I was wise enough to listen to my inner voice, to have the support of my family, and to believe in myself.

If Elon Musk asked me to organise the first festival on Mars, I’d be up for the job

I’m so thankful for having gained such an enormous amount of experience in those seven years working at Sziget. Without which, I could have never taken the next huge challenge and worn the even bigger coat known as Lollapalooza Berlin.

Moving the Lolla festival site four years in a row allowed me to learn so much and overcome so many challenges. I must say that I’m very thankful for these experiences because now, if Elon Musk asked me to organise the first festival on Mars, I’d be up for the job.

I’m so grateful to have been able to work in such an amazing industry, to have colleagues from whom I can learn day by day, and to be part of an international festival family with like-minded humans that are rocking their own festivals every summer.

 


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European festivals, associations report 2019 slowdown

Mainland Europe’s music festivals are experiencing a similarly slow season to their counterparts in Britain, hurt by repetitive line-ups, rising ticket prices and – potentially – wider societal changes in entertainment consumption, according to festival associations and operators.

IQ revealed last month that many UK festivals are bracing for a quieter-than-normal summer, with sell-outs down amid economic uncertainty and difficulty in differentiating themselves from the competition.

That’s also the case on the continent, says Christof Huber, festival director of Switzerland’s OpenAir St Gallen and general secretary of Yourope, the European Festival Association. “It’s definitely slower than in previous festival seasons,” says Huber, who says he thinks there are fewer sell-outs compared to previous years.

“I am afraid this is a real trend,” says Jean-Paul Roland, festival director of Eurockéennes, one of the biggest rock festivals in France. Roland – who is also co-president of festival association De Concert! with Les Nuits Botanique’s Paul-Henri Wauters – explains that, in France, the success of metal festival Hellfest (which sold 55,000 tickets in two hours) is an exception, playing “the role of the tree that hides the forest”.

“Paleo in Switzerland and Vieilles Charrues in France are usually sold out very quickly always. Biarritz En Été [also in France] threw in the towel for lack of sufficient reservations. Indeed, the season seems more subdued than last year: later sales, more difficulties to reach a point of profitability…”

This was illustrated earlier this week by the surprise cancellation of the revived Doctor Music Festival, with promoter Doctor Music pulling the plug due to low ticket sales after the event was forced to move by Catalonia’s environment agency.

“The market has been quite saturated for a few years”

Doctor Music head Neo Sala described the cancellation as “the toughest decision of my promoter career”, but said the number of fans who had returned the tickets for refunds – coupled with slower-than-expected sales for its new location at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack – meant the headliner-heavy festival (the Strokes, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy and Christine and the Queens were all booked to perform) “won’t be able to offer the experience we were striving for”.

While independent, non-corporate events are believed to have been hardest hit by the slowdown – a senior exec at one of the multinationals tells IQ it has a “couple” of festivals underperforming, “but no more than usual” – Folkert Koopmans, CEO of European festival powerhouse FKP Scorpio, says, to his knowledge, “it’s the same everywhere. There are a few that are sold out, but it’s not like it used to be before.”

Roland says rising artist fees (what the AIF’s Paul Reed recently described as the headliner “arms race”) are making major international stars “more inaccessible” to many European events.

“The summer circuit in North and South America is becoming more structured and competitive, and that captures the international headliners in the summer, which results in less and less differentiated line-ups,” he explains. In France especially, this means “often the same Francophone artists are [headlining lots of] different festivals”, with festival ticket sales increasing “shifting to major theme parks”.

“My personal view is that the market has been quite saturated for a few years,” says Huber. “Also, the same headliners return too often and sometimes play multiple festival seasons.”

“We need to see what is happening, what people want, and adapt to those changes”

This, combined with more expensive tickets, has “led to the point that sales got slower”, he adds.

Koopmans suggests the soft summer is a symptom of wider demographic changes that will have an impact on the business for years to come. “It’s changing and we have to adapt,” he says. “When we were young, we were fans of music – we’d buy the records, spend hours looking at the sleeves – but young people now are more into gaming and other things. They’ll hear a song they like, then swap to another song – they’re not willing to spend so much money on music anymore.

“For example, they’ll go to an EDM festival because they can dance to the music, and they don’t mind going to smaller, one-day events that are €49. But not €200…”

The perception of a general slowdown isn’t being felt in other areas, with the world music genre faring better, suggests Patrick de Groote, the artistic director of the Sfinks Mixed arts festival in Boechout, Belgium, and secretary of the Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (FWMW).

FWMW’s members, including Kriol Jazz Festival in Cape Verde, Gardens of Sounds in Poland and Barcelona’s Ciutat Flamenco, largely report improved or static sales, with only a few exceptions.

Roland agrees with Huber that the popular music market is saturated, saying De Concert!’s events are being negatively affected by increased competition, especially the “multiplication of small regional festivals, often at low prices or free, which offer more conviviality, more proximity and less security than the big festivals”.

“Small regional festivals, often at low prices or free, offer more conviviality, more proximity and less security…”

He adds that, in addition to competition from smaller festivals and theme parks, stadium events are taking away marketshare: the likes of Metallica, Muse and French-Canadian star Mylène Farmer all play stadium shows throughout this summer, which “makes festivals’ programmes less exceptional”.

Koopmans says festival operators are being forced to accept that traditional camping festivals – with a few honourable exceptions – “aren’t the hip thing anymore”, with people preferring to go to headline shows and one-day events.

“The festival market is still there, and it will continue to exist – Hurricane and Southside, for example, have great line-ups, and they’ll work this year – but in general it’s a challenge,” he explains. “Over the next few years we need to see what is happening, what people want, and adapt to those changes.

“Touring is stronger than ever before – people love to go to shows. But there’s been a change across the whole society, about what you do when you’re young and how you spend your money. We’re an entertainment company, and we need to entertain people in the way they want to be entertained.”

IQ’s own analysis of Europe’s festival market, the annual European Festival Report, will return in the end-of-year issue #87, providing an in-depth look at capacity and attendance, ticketing and pricing, VIP sales, challenges and concerns, new technology and more.

Read the 2018 European Festival Report here.

 


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107,000 for wet but “euphoric” OpenAir 2017

A total of 107,000 people attended last weekend’s OpenAir St Gallen, with organisers praising the festival’s “euphoric and peaceful experience” in spite of the challenges posed by wet weather.

Festivalgoers took the muddy conditions in their stride – the hashtag #schlammgallen (#mudgallen) was trending through the weekend – with 20,000 people visiting the Swiss festival on Thursday 29 June and 29,000 each day on Friday, Saturday and Saturday.

It is the first year since 2011 OpenAir has failed to reach capacity, although Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten attributes the slight drop in attendance (there were reportedly about 1,000 tickets unsold) to rumours the festival was already sold out.

Festival promoter Christof Huber says he “takes off [his] hat to our incredible audience, who made the festival a real highlight despite the rain and cold temperatures”.

Despite cold and rainy weather conditions, the event was an euphoric but peaceful experience”

New for 2017 was the Campfire stage – which, true to its name, hosted local artists including Silas Kutschmann, Emanuel Reiter and Turtur in a small (~150-cap.) campfire setting – an expanded Plaza area featuring “food, design and street culture” and several new other food and drink options.

For the second year running, the festival also partnered with Zurich-based nonprofit myclimate to minimise the environmental impact of its food offering. Other eco-friendly achievements included 91% of reusable cups being recycled and 89% of tents taken home, underlining what OpenAir calls its “[well] known efforts in sustainability”.

Headliners were Biffy Clyro, Bastille, Justice, alt-J and German punks Die Toten Hosen, with other performers including Lorde, Glass Animals, Cage the Elephant and Confidence Man.

OpenAir St Gallen will return on 28 June–1 July 2018.

 


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OpenAir St Gallen goes green for 40th birthday

The 40th edition of OpenAir St Gallen was the greenest yet, with a deposit system for tents and cups and a partnership with the myclimate non-profit paying environmental dividends for the Swiss festival.

Festivalgoers paid a deposit of 2 SFr. (£1.58) for cups, the majority of which was refunded after 93% of cups were returned. Those camping also had to put down 20 Fr. as a tent deposit, of which 85% was refunded for tents taken home after the event.

The ‘home delivery’ service also returned, allowing attendees to have beer delivered to the campsite for the same price as in supermarkets. With the festival fully cashless for the fourth year, all payments were taken from RFID wristbands.

93% of cups were returned and 85% of tents taken home

Working with myclimate, OpenAir St Gallen (OASG) – promoted, in partnership with Gadget, SummerDays Festival, Incognito Productions and wildpony, by newly formed promotion/booking agency wepromote – drew up a carbon footprint, which revealed that the food selection offered the greatest potential for reducing CO2 emissions.

The festival therefore committed to regional, sustainable menus – including vegetarian options – using fair-trade ingredients and Swiss meat from sources complying with animal welfare guidelines. “We wanted to give our stand operators a tool allowing them to be more sustainable and align their products and offers with the spirit of OASG,” explains the festival’s head of sustainability, Michaela Tanner.

A total of 110,000 people (20,000 on Thursday, 30,000 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday) attended OASG 2016, held near St Gallen in eastern Sweden last weekend. Headliners were Radiohead and Mumford & Sons, with other performers including Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Years & Years, Nothing but Thieves, Rhodes, Blossoms, Wolf Alice, Rag ’n’ Bone Man and Tom Odell, who filled in for Jess Glynne after she pulled out.

 


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