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No infections recorded at Pohoda on the Ground

Slovakia’s Pohoda on the Ground did not record a single positive Covid-19 result throughout the “extraordinary” five days it took place, according to organisers.

The festival mini-series took place between 7–11 July 2021 at Trenčín Airport in western Slovakia instead of the flagship event, which was cancelled for a second consecutive year.

A maximum of 1,000 people were permitted on each of the five days, including campers who had their own designated space.

According to the organisers, nearly three-quarters of the visitors were vaccinated (twice as much as the national average), for whom pre-testing was not mandatory.

All non-vaccinated people (including crew) were tested at one of the festival’s seven test sites and not a single positive Covid-19 result was recorded in more than 2,200 tests, prompting the organisers to declare that “well-established cultural events can be even safer from the epidemiological point of view than the streets of our cities”.

“The Pohoda on the Ground Festival started as a concept full of uncertainty but all obstacles are negligible in terms of its outcome. The measures were worth it; I feel that we have managed to create a space full of freedom, a celebration of art, tolerance, and the joy of meeting,” says Pohoda’s Michal Kaščák.

“[The festival] started as a concept full of uncertainty but all obstacles are negligible in terms of its outcome”

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to its implementation—the commitment of many was huge and admirable, and visitors made sense of all our efforts. Also, this Pohoda has shown the importance of live art. We keep our fingers crossed for the other organisers of live culture events; we wish them to experience similar feelings of joy as we are experiencing now, so that they can realise their events in the freest possible format.”

Among the artists that performed at Pohoda on the Ground were Jewish DJ Ramzy Al Spinoza, Palestinian rapper MC Safaa Hathot, Korean-British duo Wooze, British band Dry Cleaning and Kinshasa-hailing collective Fulu Miziki.

Performances could be watched virtually on the festival’s 16-hour live stream which was viewed more than 3,000 times on the festival’s website, watched on YouTube more than 2,000 times, and Facebook videos were watched more than 18,000 times.

Marquee event Pohoda (cap. 30,000), which is the biggest festival in Slovakia, is due to return to Trenčín Airport between 7–9 July 2022.

Confirmed names for Pohoda 2022 include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Libertines, Richie Hawtin, Black Pumas, Metronomy, Wolf Alice, slowthai.

 


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Pohoda on the Ground 2021 unveils international bill

Pohoda, Slovakia’s biggest festival, has revealed details of the festival mini-series which is replacing the 2021 flagship event.

The series, dubbed ‘Pohoda on the Ground’, is set to take place between 7–11 July 2021 at Trenčín Airport in western Slovakia.

A maximum of 1,000 people will be permitted on each of the five days, including campers who will have their own designated space.

British bands Black Midi, Black Country, New Road, Pengshui and Dry Cleaning are touted to play, alongside Georgian band Murman Tsuladze and Congolese band Fulu Miziki – all of whom will perform on the main stage, curated by Pohoda.

The other two stages will be curated by ten clubs across Slovakia – Hangár, Bombura, Fuga, Diera do sveta, Stromoradie, 69, Collosseum, WAX, Záhrada, and Hájovňa – as a show of support for the country’s nightlife scene.

“With a capacity that is comparable to its beginnings and an emphasis on the club scene, Pohoda is returning to the ground,” says Michal Kaščák from the Pohoda team.

“We enjoy creating a different form of Pohoda and playing with space and programme”

“Clubs are essential for music, creating a year-round background for musicians and local communities. We enjoy creating a different form of Pohoda and playing with space and programme; especially we are very much looking forward to meeting visitors soon at the Trenčín Airport.”

Pohoda on the Ground’s non-musical programme will also be jointly curated along with cultural centres including Platform 1-12 Topoľčany, New Synagogue Žilina, Peripheral Centres Dúbravica, Kunsthalle Bratislava and Homeland Studies Museum Galanta.

The first 1,000 tickets for Pohoda on the Ground will be available for exclusive pre-sale via individual clubs on 12 May. The online pre-sale in the Pohoda shop will then start on 17 May.

Pohoda on the Ground will take place instead of the 24th edition of Pohoda (‘Peace’), which was cancelled for a second consecutive year after epidemiologists confirmed that a 30,000-cap event in Slovakia this summer “seemed unrealistic”.

The flagship festival will return between 7 –9 July, 2022.

 


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Slovakia’s biggest festival called off again

The 24th edition of Pohoda (‘Peace’), Slovakia’s biggest festival, has been cancelled for a second consecutive year – a decision which organisers say was “the right and inevitable one”.

According to a statement from the festival, the decision to reschedule the event was made after a team of epidemiologists confirmed that an event for 30,000 visitors in Slovakia this summer “seemed unrealistic”.

The decision was also based on a number of artists cancelling summer tours and festivals that “fit in the schedule with Pohoda”. Major festival cancellations in neighbouring countries include CTS Eventim-backed Nova Festival in Austria and Czech festivals Colours of Ostrava and Metronome Prague.

The Libertines, Metronomy, Wolf Alice, Floating Points and FKA twigs were among the international artists slated for Pohoda 2021. The organisers say they hope to replicate the line-up for next year’s edition, which will take place between 7 –9 July, 2022.

Pohoda 2020 was also replaced by a one-off event, a free online event dubbed Pohoda in the Air.

In lieu of the flagship event, Pohoda is working on a series of smaller festival events under the banner ‘Pohoda on the Ground’

All festival passes purchased for the 24th edition of Pohoda Festival remain valid and organisers have encouraged buyers to keep their tickets: “It’s only thanks to our festival-goers’ support that we have been able to continue as a team. This support makes it possible for Pohoda to continue in the future and we are so grateful for it.”

In lieu of the flagship event, Pohoda has announced it is working on a series of smaller festival events under the banner ‘Pohoda on the Ground’ which is billed to take place between 7–11 July 2021 at Trenčín Airport in western Slovakia.

“We hope the situation will get better soon and this year’s Pohoda on the Ground will be an exceptional get-together with the club scene to restart and follow in the fall and we also hope that 2022 will be the year when we will meet at Pohoda at full strength. We can’t wait to celebrate art, freedom and togetherness,” says Pohoda’s Michal Kaščák.

The Pohoda organisers will talk with epidemiologists and other experts both about the decision to reschedule Pohoda and about Pohoda on the Ground in more detail during a livestream debate on the festival’s Facebook profile today (7 April) at 6pm CET.

Fellow Slovakian festivals including Uprising, Hip Hop Žije, Topfest and Grape are going ahead as planned for now.

 


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Slovakia offers to assist vaccination programme

Slovakia is the latest market to offer assistance towards its government’s vaccination programme, following in the footsteps of the UK, the US and other European nations.

The country’s biggest festival, Pohoda (cap. 30,000), and numerous Slovakian organisations have come together under the banner ‘We wish Slovakia good health‘, to pledge assistance with the logistics, provision of human resources, coordination, communication, and promotion of the country’s vaccination programme.

“We have called on the government for help several times since March 2020, and now we are offering help,” the statement reads.

“We want to express our support for the vaccination plan in Slovakia and at the same time, we want to offer our experience and skills to ensure that vaccination takes place as quickly and smoothly as possible.

“We are well aware that some of the activities must be carried out by experts in the field of healthcare and epidemiology.

“With many years of experience with often logistically demanding events, we can help with the preparation and execution”

“However, thanks to our many years of experience with often logistically demanding events, we can help with the preparation and execution of the processes that vaccination requires, such as assistance with logistics, provision of human resources and coordination, communication, and promotion of vaccination.”

The statement is co-signed by over 50 organisations from across the cultural sector – including Klub Lúč, Grape Festival and Sunny Agency – with an open call for more signatories.

Last week, American promoters, venue operators and industry associations formally offered their venues, staff and expertise towards the United States’ national Covid-19 vaccination effort, while German ticketing and promotion giant CTS Eventim was commissioned by federal state Schleswig-Holstein to organise local Covid-19 vaccination appointments.

Live venues are already playing a key role in the immunisation process internationally, with concert halls, arena and stadia, and convention and conference centres offering their services as mass-vaccination sites.

 


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European festivals unite to create greener future

A collective of festivals and non-governmental organisations have launched Green Europe Experience (GEX), an initiative working to create a more eco-friendly future for music and arts festivals.

Portugal’s Boom Festival, Dour Festival in Belgium, Pohoda Festival in Slovakia and French event We Love Green have teamed up with sustainability groups A Greener Festival (AGF) in the UK and Germany’s Go Group in Germany as the co-initiators of GEX.

“In the middle of these demanding times, we feel an even stronger urge to use this special moment in history to take a deep breath and work towards healing our connection with this planet,” reads a statement from GEX initiators. “We understand that the big challenges ahead can only be addressed in a co-creation process.”

Using the two main focal points of scenography – festival decor, artwork, installations, design and signage – and food, GEX will work on developing ways to allow festivals to become fully circular through a process of implementation and review.

“We understand that the big challenges ahead can only be addressed in a co-creation process”

The project will take place over a period of three years, with the first year dedicated to minimising the ecological impact of scenography and the second focusing on food.

All findings will be shared with the teams of the festivals involved, local suppliers and stakeholders. A manual will be drawn up and distributed for the use of the wider festival and events industry.

“The GEX project brings together some of the most visionary organisations in this space to act as a catalyst to collectively accelerate the positive changes we need to make,” comments AGF co-founder and director Claire O’Neill.

“We look forward to exploring, learning and sharing ways for creative expression and precious social interaction that puts people and the planet at the forefront.”

GEX is co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe Programme.


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Unsung Hero: Paula Poštolková, Pohoda

IQ: You never planned to be in this job – didn’t you study for a career in the movies?

PP: Yes, I went to the Slovak National Film Academy and did my final year at Aalto University in Helsinki. I graduated with a master of the arts in film producing.

So how did you end up in music?

During a student film festival, I organised parties with DJs and bands in local clubs. Then I got a call from my cousin’s boyfriend, who was looking for a stage-managing partner. I didn’t have a clue what the job was, but I said ‘yes’ and two weeks later I was working on the second stage at Pohoda. It was 2011 and I was 21.

Peter Hrabě, who gave me the chance, taught me all about riders, risers and stages, and I looked after Lamb and Imogen Heap, who had a huge set up the night before her performance, which meant I missed the Portishead show on the main stage.

Peter must be an excellent teacher, because you were instantly promoted, right?

My colleagues from the main stage moved to higher positions in the festival structure and [festival boss] Michal [Kaščák] told us the news – it was pretty stressful, to be honest.

“My first year there were lightning storms and we had to evacuate the audience”

What was the learning curve like that first year on the main stage?

It wasn’t easy because there were lightning storms and we had to evacuate the audience. But there were unforgettable moments: the storm meant we had to jump on stage to stop Aloe Blacc the very second he started singing ‘I need a Dollar’, Emilíana Torrini played table football for hours, until the storm passed, and I had the honour of meeting Lou Reed.

Wow! What other acts have impressed during your eight years in charge of the main stage?

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Björk, Róisín Murphy, PJ Harvey, Atoms for Peace, Charlotte Gainsbourg… And from a production point of view, the highlight was definitely the Chemical Brothers’ show last year.

Atoms for Peace was also a big challenge. They had a special green rider, focused on the ecological impact of their production. In 2013, we were just starting with eco-policies at Pohoda, but Atoms for Peace insisted nothing backstage could be made from plastic. They even brought their own kitchen and this lady was cooking for them and doing laundry in the dressing rooms.

What do you do for work before the rest of the year?

I’m head of programming at cultural venue Nová Cvernovka and I work for some other events and festivals as stage manager or production manager.

“When people spend a few minutes on site, they quickly learn Pohoda is one of the best-organised events”

Is there anything visiting acts or crews do that annoys you?

Most crews and artists I meet are very professional and we have a good collaboration. But sometimes I meet with prejudice and low expectations, because it’s ‘eastern Europe’ and I feel a lack of trust. However, when people spend a few minutes on site, they quickly learn Pohoda is one of the best-organised events, with a super friendly atmosphere.

Pohoda’s main stage operates around the clock. How do you cope with the workload?

It’s all down to teamwork, starting with people from HQ who prepare and advance everything properly, and ending with my crew on the main stage – stagehands, security staff, crowd assistance, sound techs, catering… we are like a family.

You also need to survive long working hours, because the main stage runs almost 24 hours a day due to the big overnight and morning set-ups for headliners, and because of Pohoda’s traditional ‘Welcoming of the Sun’ gig at 5am each morning. Luckily, we now work as a team of three stage managers instead of two, so at least one can get some sleep while the others take over.

How do you relax?

Since I started working in live music, I really haven’t had much time to relax, and when I do, I travel to other festivals around Europe.

But this year, I made a change to save myself from burn-out and went to Cuba, where I spent nearly three weeks without internet or phone reception. I’m already planning a repeat trip next year.

 


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Pohoda called off, uncertainty grows for Czechoslovak fests

Slovakia’s Pohoda festival will not take place this summer, as festival organisers in the neighbouring Czech Republic ask the government for clarification over the fate of the country’s summer season.

Organisers of Pohoda (30,000-cap.), the biggest festival in Slovakia, have taken the “inevitable decision” to call off this year’s edition, which was to take place from 9 to 11 July. A free online event, Pohoda in the Air, will take place over the festival weekend instead.

Pohoda festival director Michal Kaščák will join organisers from Czech festivals Colours of Ostrava, Rock for People, Metronome Prague and Let It Roll in an online discussion at 8 p.m. CET today (16 April).

Artists from the 2020 bill including the Libertines, Wolf Alice and Metronomy are confirmed to play next year’s Pohoda, from 8 to 10 July 2021. “Other names will follow soon,” says Kaščák, adding that, “we cannot guarantee the same programme for 2021, but we will do our best to make it even more powerful.”

All 2020 Pohoda tickets will remain valid for 2021. Ticketholders have until 15 October 2020 to apply for a refund. Fans can either ask for a full refund or opt to support Pohoda by donating a portion of the refunded ticket price.

Fellow Slovakian festivals including Uprising, Hip Hop Žije, Topfest and Grape are going ahead as planned for now. Hip Hop Žije organisers state they give fans more “precise” information on 20 April, whereas Grape organisers say they have until the end of May to make a decision, although “it will probably be the government and crisis team that will make the decision for us in this matter”.

“We cannot guarantee the same programme for 2021, but we will do our best to make it even more powerful”

Pohoda’s decision comes as promoters in the bordering Czech Republic demand a clear decision regarding summer festivals in the country.

On Tuesday (14 April), the Czech government announced it will allow shops and restaurants to reopen in stages over the next two months, with theatres and cultural venues of up to 50 capacity opening on 8 June as part of a gradual exit plan.

However, no clear information has been given as to when festivals and events may be allowed to reopen, unlike in other European countries such as Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium and Germany, where a similarly staggered lifting of restrictions has begun.

Organisers of festivals including Rock for People (18 to 20 June) which has the 1975, Green Day and Fall Out Boy on the line-up, and Colours of Ostrava (15 to 17 July), which is set to feature the Killers, Twenty One Pilots and Martin Garrix, are awaiting an official government decision, whereas Prague’s Metronome festival has rescheduled from the end of June to 17 to 19 September.

“The government is unable to give us a decision and prolongs our suffering by giving us unclear information,” Colours of Ostrava director Zlata Holušová told Czech newspaper Novinky.cz. “For this reason, I take it that hope has not yet died. We have no official ban yet.”

Holušová will join Kaščák, Rock for People’s Michal Thomas, Metronome Prague’s David Gaydečka and Let It Roll’s Zdeněk Souček in a conversation moderated by journalist Petr Vizina to share their thoughts on current events here.

 


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Billie Eilish to debut Bond theme at 2020 Brits

Billie Eilish will perform the official theme song to the new James Bond film live for the first time at the Brit Awards 2020 on Tuesday 18 February.

The Paradigm-repped artist, who recently became the second artist ever to take home all four top awards at the Grammys, is debuting ‘No Time to Die’ with her brother and producer Finneas, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and an orchestral arrangement by Hans Zimmer and Matt Dunkley.

Eilish is nominated for the international female solo artist award at the Brits, along with Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey, Lizzo and Camila Cabello.

Taking place at London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, other performances at the live-focused event will come from Brits rising star winner Celeste, Dave, Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi, Lizzo, Mabel and Stormzy and will be hosted by comedian Jack Whitehall.

London rapper Dave and scottish singer Lewis Capaldi lead the way with Brit nominations this year, with four apiece for male solo artist, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist.

Billie Eilish will perform the official theme song to the new James Bond film live for the first time at the Brit Awards 2020

Mabel is also nominated for multiple awards, appearing in the female solo artist, song of the year and best new artist nominees. Across the eight categories awarded on the night, the singer is the only woman to receive a nomination outside of the female-only awards, asides from Miley Cyrus’ feature on Mark Ronson’s ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ in the song of the year category.

Stormzy – who is this year headlining Reading and Leeds, Pohoda and Sziget – is up for male solo artist, song of the year and album of the year.

The Brits is this year partnering with short-form mobile video platform TikTok, which will livestream the arrival of nominees and others on the Brits red carpet, including an exclusive live performance from Lewis Capaldi.

“Our BRITs 2020 partnership is part of a wider UK programme that aims at collaborating with and educating labels, managers and artists to make the most out of the platform, taking advantage of TikTok’s unique creativity to engage with their fans and connect with a new global audience,” comments Paul Hourican, TikTok’s head of music operations, UK.

Hourican will be delivering a workshop on how music industry professionals can make the most of TikTok at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) on 4 March.

The Brit Awards 2020 is taking place on Tuesday 18 February at the O2, broadcast live on ITV from 7.30 p.m.

 


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Festival Fever: more line-up announcements for 2020

Continuing the series of 2020 line-up announcements, IQ rounds up line-ups from US festivals Coachella and Bonnaroo, and European events Wacken Open Air, Pinkpop, Melt! and Pohoda.

(See the previous edition of Festival Fever here.)

 


Wacken Open Air

When: 30 July to 1 August
Where: Wacken, Germany
How many: 75,000

Leading metal event Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) sold all 75,000 tickets for its 2020 edition in under 24 hours. Slipknot, Amon Amarth, Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate are among those playing the 2020 event.

Speaking to IQ for a special 30th anniversary feature last year, W:O:A co-founder Thomas Jensen said the event was “kind of a home for a dedicated group of people”. Jensen and fellow Wacken co-founder Holger Hübner are to receive the lifetime acheivement gong at this year’s European Festival Awards.

Jensen and Hübner’s International Concert Service (ICS), which includes a roster of other hard rock festivals, a touring division, a booking agency (Seaside Touring), ticketing platform Metaltix and the nonprofit Wacken Foundation, received investment from James Barton-led Superstruct Entertainment last year.

Fans can sign up to the waiting list for Wacken 2020 tickets here.

W:O:A sold all 75,000 tickets for its 2020 edition in under 24 hours

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

When: 10 to 12, 17 to 19 April
Where: Empire Polo Club, California, USA
How many: 125,000

AEG/Goldenvoice-promoted mega festival Coachella is returning to the Californian desert for two consecutive weekends in April, marking the start to the international festival season.

Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean are headlining the event, alongside performers including Calvin Harris, Thom Yorke, Lana Del Rey and Flume.

Coachella 2019 saw headline performances from Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino and Tame Impala. Last year’s festival also saw the introduction of a new, AR-enabled stage.

Tickets for both Coachella weekends are now sold out. Fans can join the waiting list for tickets here.

Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean are headlining the 2020 event

Pinkpop

When: 19 to 21 June
Where: Megaland, Landgraaf, the Netherlands
How many: 60,000

Pinkpop, promoted by Buro Pinkpop in partnership with Mojo Concerts, last year celebrated its 50th anniversary, with founder Jan Smeets receiving a special commemorative coin to mark his achievements.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Post Malone and Guns N’ Roses are headlining Pinkpop for its 51st edition, which also features performances from Twenty One Pilots, Rag’n’Bone Man, Anderson Paak, Nothing But Thieves and Keane.

Artists including Fleetwood Mac, Mumford and Sons and the Cure played the festival’s anniversary event last year.

Tickets for Pinkpop 2020 are available here, priced at €230 (£195) for a three-day pass.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Post Malone and Guns N’ Roses are headlining Pinkpop for its 51st edition

Pohoda

When: 9 to 11 July
Where: Trenčín Airport, Slovakia
How many: 30,000

Pohoda, Slovakia’s biggest music festival, will this year welcome acts including Stormzy, the Libertines, Metronomy, Thom Yorke, Wolf Alice and Floating Points.

The festival, which has sold out for the past two years, won the Take a Stand Award at last year’s European Festival Awards for its commitment to peace and tolerance, with festival director Michal Kaščák winning the prize for excellence and passion.

Pohoda, which means ‘peace’ in English, is nominated for the best medium festival award, line-up of the year and the health and safety innovation award at the upcoming European Festival Awards 2019, taking place on 15 January at Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Tickets for Pohoda 2020 are available here, with a three-day festival ticket priced at €109 (£93).

Pohoda, Slovakia’s biggest music festival, will this year welcome acts including Stormzy, the Libertines and Metronomy

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

When: 11 to 14 June
Where: Great Stage Park, Tennessee, USA
How many: 20,000

Tool, Lizzo and Tame Impala are headlining Bonnaroo, in the festival’s first year under full Live Nation ownership.

Other announced acts include Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Vampire Weekend, the 1975, Flume and Bassnectar.

Live Nation, which had a controlling interest in the festival since 2015, acquired the remaining stake from the event’s co-founder Superfly last year. Fellow co-founder AC Entertainment continues to promote the event alongside Live Nation and C3 Presents.

Tickets for Bonnaroo 2020 are available here, with prices ranging from US$329 (£251) for general admission to $3,275 (£2,502) for a platinum pass.

Tool, Lizzo and Tame Impala are headlining Bonnaroo, in the festival’s first year under full Live Nation ownership

Melt!

When: 17 to 19 July
Where: Ferropolis, Gräfenhainichen, Germany
How many: 20,000

Melt! Festival, one of the biggest open-air electronic music events in Germany, this year features sets from Bicep, Floating Points, DJ Stingray, Marcel Dettman, Nina Kraviz and Helena Hauff, as well as performances from Burna Boy, Little Simz and Woodkid.

Taking place at Ferropolis –‘the city of iron’ –, a former open-cast mine complete with enormous, decommissioned industrial machines, Melt! Last year featured acts including Bon Iver, Skepta, Jorja Smith, Asap Rocky, Four Tet and Solomun.

Melt! Festival creative director Florian Czok, who also works as an agent at Berlin’s Melt! Booking, was named as one of IQ’s 2019 New Bosses.

Tickets for Melt! 2020 are available here, priced at €124.95 (£106).

 


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Summer’s gone: EU festivals talk the season that was

The rising cost of putting on large-scale live events and difficulties in booking top-tier talent were among the challenges overcome by festival organisers this year, according to a cross-section of Europe’s major music events.

Ahead of this year’s festival season, several festival organisers and associations told IQ that 2019 was shaping up to be a slow year. Across the board, they said, sell-outs were down and sales were lower, and many complained of a lack of top-shelf talent on tour. A typical sentiment was that of Jean-Paul Roland, festival director of French rock festival Eurockéennes, who said “the season seems more subdued than last year”, with organisers facing “more difficulties to reach a point of profitability”.

IQ’s annual analysis of Europe’s festival market, the European Festival Report, will return for 2019 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 much more.

But the end of 2019 is (thankfully) still some time away. So, with autumn setting in across Europe, and the International Festival Forum (IFF) fast approaching, IQ conducted an informal festival ‘exit poll’ –interviewing one festival apiece in seven key markets to find out how their events panned out, and whether those early-summer doubts were well-founded. Here’s what we learnt…

 


Hurricane/Southside

2019 headliners: Foo Fighters, Mumford and Sons, Die Toten Hosen, the Cure, Tame Impala
Capacity: 70,000/60,000
Date: 21 to 23 June
Country: Germany

FKP Scorpio managing director Stephan Thanscheidt says he is “more than happy” with the performance of twin festivals Hurricane and Southside this year, attributing a “strong” line-up, investment in the festival grounds and “perfect weather” to the success.

The festivals saw a combined attendance of 380,000 over three days, with around 68,000 visiting Hurricane and 60,000 people attending Southside per day. Next year is looking promising, too: FKP Scorpio celebrated its best-ever presale, selling 40,000 tickets in two days for the 2020 editions of Hurricane and Southside.

Thanscheidt states that bad weather and a higher awareness of the threat of terror attacks have led to a “decreased momentum in demand” across the festival sector over the past few years. The present phase of consolidation, with a few major companies snapping up a majority of events, may leave many “new and inexperienced players” behind, according to the FKP boss.

Rising costs “in all areas” are also affecting the festival and touring sector, particularly in relation to artists fees. “Ticket prices cannot and should not be scaled limitlessly,” says Thanscheidt, “so we need to find ways to optimise and allocate these expenses.”

However, things look bright for FKP, which recently acquired Swedish promoter Woah Dad Live, with Thanscheidt confirming that the provisional results of its festival season “indicate a significant upward trend”.

“Ticket prices cannot and should not be scaled limitlessly, so we need to find ways to optimise and allocate expenses”

Mad Cool

2019 headliners: Lewis Capaldi, the Cure, Bon Iver, the Smashing Pumpkins
Capacity: 80,000
Date: 11 to 13 July
Country: Spain

“This year everything has run smoothly and we are happy about it,” Mad Cool festival director Javier Arnáiz tells IQ.

Live Nation’s Mad Cool festival has seen substantial growth since its inauguration in 2016, increasing capacity by 60%, from 45,000 to 75,000. The rapid growth threw up problems for the Mad Cool team in previous editions.

“Our main goal for this year was to improve on all the incidents that happened in the previous edition, as a result of the massive growth,” says Arnáiz. Thanks to the team’s effort and changes made “through our own process of self-criticism”, the customer experience was much improved this year.

Sales for the festival’s fourth year were lower than usual, which Arnáiz puts down to “the lack of headliners” available. “We have all suffered from this in Europe during 2019,” states the Mad Cool director. “It’s been a tough year for all of us.”

Additionally, last year’s line-up, which featured Pearl Jam, Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age and Kasabian, “set the bar high”, ensuring “it was not an easy task” to produce a bill to rival it.

Looking to the future, the Mad Cool team say they’re concentrating on strengthening other aspects of the headliner-focused festival. “We are already working on the 2020 edition and we hope we can deliver what is expected from a festival like Mad Cool,” states Arnáiz.

“We have all suffered from a lack of headliners in Europe during 2019”

Pukkelpop

2019 headliners: The National, Post Malone, Prophets of Rage, Twenty One Pilots
Capacity: 60,000
Date: 15 to 19 August
Country: Belgium

Pukkelpop promoter and programmer Chokri Mahassine tells IQ that “we can look back with great satisfaction” following a “completely sold out edition”.

Unlike in previous years, says Mahassine, the Pukkelpop team had no problem shifting tickets this year thanks to a “stellar line-up”, with the balance between musical genres, as well as between young and old acts “clearly paying off”.

Two “unique” shows by rock band the National and a “landslide victory” for fast-rising star Billie Eilish were particular highlights of this year’s festival.

Speaking to IQ in 2017, Mahassine revealed that ticket prices for the independently promoted festival had not changed in four years, although the price of food and drinks tokens did rise. Ticket prices for the past two years have seen a slight increase, from €199 for a weekend pass in 2017 to €205 in 2019.

The Pukkelpop promoter admits that rising prices are due in part to the ever-increasing penchant for comfort among festivalgoers and high expectations in terms of food, transport, accommodation and overall experience. Providing this kind of quality proves more and more difficult each year, says Mahassine, “both on a production and financial level”.

The Pukkelpop promoter admits that rising prices are due in part to the ever-increasing penchant for comfort among festivalgoers

Pohoda

2019 headliners: The 1975, Liam Gallagher, Mac Demarco
Capacity: 30,000
Date: 11 to 13 July
Country: Slovakia

“We had the best year in history,” Michal Kaščák, founder and chief executive of Pohoda, or Peace in English, tells IQ. The festival – Slovakia’s biggest – sold out for the fifth time in its 23-year history and for the second consecutive year.

A packed music programme, an accompanying arts and science schedule, “smooth production” and “super weather” contributed to the festival’s strong performance.

Among a list of high-profile artists including Skepta, the 1975, Liam Gallagher and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kaščák states that Zohra – Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra – were the stand-out act.

Having the band perform at the festival “gave us a strong opportunity to emphasise the goals of Pohoda,” explains Kaščák. “Their story is the perfect base for speaking about gender equality, the power of art to change things for the better and how important it is to stay united.”

A last-minute cancellation by Swedish singer Lykke Li gave an opportunity to “unknown artist” Sink Your Teeth. “We decided to take a risk and let them play on the main stage in prime time,” says Kaščák. “And it was super decision, they did very well.”

The booking process in general is “much harder” than it used to be, says the Pohoda boss, with rising artist fees, late confirmations and the need to clarify running times early on being major factors.

At the end of the day, says Kaščák, “we are an independent festival in a small country, with all the difficulties and advantages that come with that.”

“We are an independent festival in a small country, with all the difficulties and advantages that come with that”

Hellfest

2019 headliners: Slayer, Kiss, Tool, Anthrax
Capacity: 50,000
Date: 21 to 23 June
Country: France

French metal festival Hellfest had one of its “best editions ever”, according to the festival’s communication and event manager Alexxx Rebecq.

Hellfest did not experience any slowdown at all in terms of sales, selling all three-day tickets in 90 minutes, in what Paul-Henri Wauters, co-president of festival association De Concert!, pointed to as an exception for its member festivals this year.

The festival had around 200 bands on the bill for one of its biggest years to date. Organisers also added an extra day for its 2019 edition, to host Slipknot-fronted Knotfest within its festival site.

“We were really proud to welcome the Knotfest festival to Hellfest last year,” Rebecq tells IQ. “Four days in a row was not easy, and certainly exhausted our whole crew, but we did it and what a day it was.”

It was not all plain sailing for the 2019 edition, however, with booking also proving an issue. The last minute cancellation of headliner Manowar was “really tough to manage” and resulted in “a lot of wasted time, pressure and stress” for the Hellfest team.

“We had the support of our crowd though, because they have known us for a long time and obviously know we are capable of welcoming a band like Manowar,” explains Rebecq.

“Manowar’s last minute cancellation was really tough for us to manage”

Sziget

2019 headliners: Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Post Malone, Florence and the Machine
Capacity: 80,000
Date: 7 to 13 August
Country: Hungary

Majority Superstruct-owned Sziget festival saw its biggest crowd ever this year, with 60,000 attending Ed Sheeran’s opening-night headline performance.

“Although our overall visitor number throughout the week was a bit less than during the 2018 festival, we still closed our second-most attended festival in the 27-year history of Sziget,” Ákos Remetei Filep, the festival’s sales director, explains.

530,000 people attended the week-long festival, in what was hailed as its most headliner-focused edition yet. Local newspapers reported that organisers spent US$1.7 million more than last year on securing headline acts.

The main stage also became a platform for important topics this year, with talks by the UN Refugee Agency’s Emitithal Mahmoud and former US vice-president and climate-change campaigner Al Gore.

Although attendances have been high in recent years, Filep states that “the biggest challenge is to make [an international audience] aware of the festival and convince them to come”.

“Sziget is a very unique festival experience compared to other events in Europe,” explains Filep, which makes it difficult to sell to international audiences, as “there’s nothing you can really compare it to”.

“The biggest challenge is to make [an international audience] aware of the festival and convince them to come”

Blockfest

2019 headliners: Asap Rocky, Tyga, G-eazy
Capacity: 25,000
Date: 16 to 17 August
Country: Finland

Finland’s largest hip-hop festival, Blockfest, sold out seven weeks prior to the event this year, which saw its largest capacity ever.

“We couldn’t be happier with the turn-out,” Live Nation Finland’s head promoter, Zachris Sundell, tells IQ. “The weather was sunny and all artists – both domestic and international – put on great performances.”

Live Nation took full control of the festival this year, following years of collaboration with the Blockfest team.

Despite concerns regarding the availability of Friday-night headliner Asap Rocky, “everything worked out so he could perform as planned.” The rapper had been forced to cancel multiple festival appearances over the summer, while held on assault charges in Stockholm.

Rocky received the verdict of the trial just days before his Blockfest appearance, avoiding jail time with a two-year suspended sentence.

Taking place in Tampere Stadium in the city of the same name, the “challenges” that go with a city-centre festival are always to be expected, says Sundell. However, all in all, “everything worked out great”.

 


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