Greenhouse Talent boss on the future of Gent Jazz
Greenhouse Talent owner Pascal Van De Velde has spoken to IQ about the future of Belgium’s Gent Jazz Festival after rescuing the event earlier this year.
The Ghent-based promoter and booking agency acquired the international jazz festival after previous organiser – the non-profit Jazz en Muziek – went backrupt at the end of 2022.
“Gent Jazz Festival had been going for 20-plus years, but the bad news came that it had gone bankrupt by the end of last year, so there wasn’t going to be an edition in ’23 and it was in the hands of an administrator,” explains Van De Velde. “So we said to ourselves, why not try to buy it? And we came to an agreement and bought what was left of it: we bought the name and took over their staff.”
The 5,500-cap festival has attracted acts such as BB King, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Sting, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Gregory Porter, Grace Jones and Jamie Cullum through the years.
“I have a long history with the festival,” adds Van De Velde. “We have supplied many headline acts in the past and one of the founders was my best friend, who passed away in 2011, so there was an emotional connection. There is also a geographical connection because it is in our hometown and there is, of course, a content connection because we promote so much jazz.
“By February, the deal was done and we got the licence from the city of Ghent. We relaunched it and had a very successful edition – one of the most successful editions the festival has ever had.”
“We’re a very independent company. We don’t like to rely on bosses or structures that have goals not directly connected to promoting shows”
This year’s event, held from 5-15 July, pulled in around 40,000 visitors across 74 concerts. Artists included Ludovico Einaudi, Norah Jones and Herbie Hancock. While it was the first edition to be held under Greenhouse’s control, changes were kept to a minimum.
“I think we boosted the quality of the production, hospitality, marketing and promotion,” says Van De Velde. “We didn’t change the stage set-up, which is the main stage and a second stage. And we didn’t change the formula: it was still a 10-day festival between the first and the third weekend of July.
“The location is very beautiful. It’s in the historical city centre of Ghent, so you’ve got restaurants, hotels and the centre of the town all around the festival. We have four acts on the main stage and four acts on the garden stage, so it’s not hectic; it’s more relaxed and comfortable. Every act plays at least a one-hour set in the best acoustic conditions. We can also do seated shows, which is not possible at a lot of festivals.”
Dates for the 2024 event are still to be confirmed but Van De Velde says work is already underway behind the scenes.
Gent Jazz Festival is profiled as part of IQ‘s list of ten of the best independent festivals, in which Van De Velde discusses the benefits of remaining indie in 2023.
“Whenever festivals are taken over by bigger machines, they start to get streamlined and become a little bit samey. That is something we would like to avoid,” he concludes. “We’re a very independent company. We don’t like to rely on bosses or structures that have goals not directly connected to promoting shows. We are concerts and festival-driven, and to keep that purity is very important.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.