Romania’s Saga festival draws 45,000 for debut
Leading dance music promoters Insomniac and Alda welcomed 45,000 guests to the inaugural edition of Saga, Romania’s first large-scale music festival since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The electronic dance event took place between 10–12 September in the Romanian capital of Bucharest and drew both domestic and international guests.
The three-day event featured some of the biggest names in electronic music including Don Diablo, Carl Cox, Tiësto, Topic, Allan Walker, Fisher and Sigala, who performed across four stages.
Alda and Insomniac, based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles, respectively, have been partners since October 2018, when majority Live Nation-owned Insomniac acquired a 50% stake in Alda.
“We found a place we can call home… Saga has Bucharest and Bucharest has Saga”
Insomniac has produced more than 2,000 events since 1993, including Electric Daisy Carnivals in North America, Japan, China and Mexico, and Nocturnal Wonderland, the US’s longest-running dance music event.
Alda, meanwhile, is behind events including A State of Trance in Utrecht, New Horizons in Germany (a JV with CTS Eventim) and Amsterdam Music Festival, the Netherlands’ largest indoor music festival – which was cancelled yesterday.
Following the event, Alda said: “We found a place we can call home… Saga has Bucharest and Bucharest has Saga. During the past three days, we have all seen the beginning of something that goes beyond our imagination. We’ve shared our energy and vibrated together for the first time, all in the name of electronic music.”
Saga was set to debut in 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. The festival will return in 2022 at the earlier date of 3–5 June.
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EEnlarge Europe launches with SOS campaign
A new, partially EU-funded association of grassroots music venues, EEnlarge Europe, has launched in eastern Europe with its first five members.
EEnlarge Europe, described as both a “community of venues” and an “educational project for the grassroots scene”, aims to bring together venues in the region to support each other and share knowledge and best practice.
At launch, the association comprises Channel Zero (270-cap.) in Ljubljana, Slovenia; Nappali (200-cap.) in Pécs, Hungary; Moszkva Kávézó (300-cap.) in Oradea, Romania; Kvaka 22 (250-cap.) in Belgrade, Serbia; and Zentropia in Senta, Serbia, with support from Budapest-based journalist and artist manager Eszter Décsy (Now Books & Music).
EEnlarge Europe’s first campaign, ‘SOS: Save Our Sources’, aims to raise awareness of the plight of grassroots music venues, which it says are in urgent need of more financial help and to be allowed to reopen as soon as possible.
we strongly hope that the decision-makers will finally realise they need to act now, before it is too late,”
Ana-Marija Cupin from the Serbian band Repetitor, one of several artists backing the campaign, says: “All the legendary gigs have happened in a small venue. A warm and relaxed atmosphere […] is something you do not experience in the arena.”
“I’m still crazy for club gigs – that’s where we started everything from,” says Hungary’s ‘Apey’ András Áron (Lazarvs, Apey, Trillion). “It’s really good to keep those gigs in mind. If these places disappear, I can’t even imagine how hard that would be for an emerging band to start – not that it was ever easy.
To spread the world about SOS, EEnlarge Europe has asked local musicians describe in their own words what small venues mean to them, both personally and professionally. Their responses can be found on EEnlarge Europe’s Facebook page.
“By this, we strongly hope that the decision-makers will finally realise they need to act now, before it is too late,” says the association.
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ARTMania’s Codruța Vulcu honoured in Romania
Codruța Vulcu, owner and CEO of ARTmania Festival, visited the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest on National Culture Day to receive Romania’s Order of Cultural Merit.
She was awarded the prestigious medal on 15 January by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in recognition of her services to the arts.
Vulcu is the director and founder of ARTmania Festival in Sibiu, the East European Music Conference and Showcase Festival, BlajaLive Festival and Romanian Music Export, as well as vice-president of the Romanian Association of Promoters of Concerts and Cultural Events (Aroc). In 2019 she also organised the official ceremonies for Pope Francis on the Field of Liberty in Blaj, Romania.
“This distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career”
“I am honoured to receive this special distinction, unique in the life of a professional,” she says. “It is an acknowledgement that belongs to all those who believed in me and taught me; a distinction that belongs to each colleague and collaborator that has been by my side during my 17-year career in the music sector.
“Developing and launching international projects like ARTmania or BlajaLive, establishing a musical export bureau, and successfully organising the ceremonies during the official visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, are the results of not just one individual but of an entire team.”
ARTmania, Romania’s longest-running rock festival, won best small festival at the European Festival Awards in 2019, while Vulcu won the award for excellence and passion last year in a personal capacity. The 2021 edition of the festival takes place from 23 to 25 July.
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Romania drafts plan for reopening live sector
A plan for reopening Romania’s live sector is being hatched by the Romanian Association of Concert Organisers (AROC), the Ministry of Culture, and the National Institute of Public Health.
Last week, representatives from each organisation participated in the first working group dedicated to the cause, which was led by deputy prime minister Raluca Turcan.
Top of the agenda was discussing existing safety measures for outdoor and indoor shows with a capacity of up to 500 people and drafting a staged reopening plan.
“AROC is glad to have found in the Romanian government a receptive partner”
“AROC is glad to have found in the Romanian government a receptive partner, willing to understand the problems of this sector and to offer support to the entertainment industry,” says a statement from AROC.
“The government has been open to productive cooperation with the authorities and association members so as to provide support for all categories of events, from low-capacity indoor performances to high-capacity outdoor performances and festivals.”
The AROC now plans to collaborate with authorities and event organisers on a document which will identify the best solutions so that events can take place in optimal conditions, from a sanitary and cultural point of view.
Representatives from Sublime Events, BestMusic Live, Transilvania International Film Festival, Sunwaves festival and ARTmania were present on behalf of the AROC.
Romanian festivals offer tix for plasma donations
The organiser of Romania’s biggest dance music festival is offering free 2021 tickets to recovered Covid-19 patients who donate their blood plasma.
Untold, the company behind the 70,000-capacity Untold Festival in Cluj-Napoca, will give free day tickets for either Untold Festival or beach festival Neversea (60,000-cap.) to those who donate plasma, either at a hospital or via one of the Blood Network vans set up in major Romanian towns and cities. Those who make a donation through Blood Network will also receive 100 lei (€20) worth of supermarket vouchers.
“The medical system is currently facing an acute shortage of blood, but also a very small number of plasma donations from former Covid-19 patients,” explains Untold, reports Business Magazin. Plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19 contains blood antibodies which may be useful to those still sick with the virus.
Those who make a donation through Blood Network will also receive 100 lei in supermarket vouchers
The Blood Network vans will be in Timisoara and Craiova on 22–23 August, Oradea and Targu Mures on 29–30 August, Brasov and Ploiesti on 5–6 September, and Iasi, Sibiu and Bucharest on September 12–13.
The 2020 editions of both festivals were called off in early June. Marin Garrix, Iggy Azalea, David Guetta, Alesso, Afrojack and the Pussycat Dolls were confirmed for Untold 2020, while Black Eyed Peas, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Tyga, Passenger and Nina Kraviz would have played Neversea.
The festivals previously provided equipment including flooring, other geotextiles and mobile lighting rigs to the Romanian health service as the coronavirus spread in April.
Green Guardians: Artists and activists
The Green Guardians Guide, spearheaded by the Green Events and Innovations Conference and IQ Magazine, is a new yearly iniative highlighting some of the work being done around the world to reduce the carbon footprint of the live entertainment business.
The inaugural list features 60 entries across ten categories, selected by the Green Guardians committes, which includes representatives from some of the sector’s most respected bodies, such as A Greener Festival, Go Group, Green Music Initiative, Julie’s Bicycle and Vision:2025.
Following on from the event infrastructure pioneers featured earlier this week, this edition of Green Guardians looks at the artists and acvtivists doing their bit to make the world a cleaner and better place.
Artists and activists
Norwegian artist Marte Wulff was originally driven by a simple desire to make sustainability and environmental issues more mainstream from an artistic perspective.
“My ethos is that we need to speak up about what we can do as individuals and as an industry, even though it’s hard and uncomfortable,” she tells IQ. “We have the possibility right now to go ahead and define our own industry before nature or someone else does it for us.”
Wulff tours mainly by train or boat, and focuses on quality and sustainability before quantity. She asks all venues for low-carbon solutions in every part of the production, from food and drinks to transport, accommodation, promotion, etc. She makes and releases carbon neutral music videos, and when making physical albums, she puts pressure on suppliers to offer the most ethical products with the lowest carbon footprint, all the way from the paper used on the vinyl, to cutting out plastic and avoiding unnecessary or unethically produced merchandise.
“My ethos is that we need to speak up about what we can do as individuals and as an industry, even though it’s hard and uncomfortable”
Greenbelt believes passionately in the ability of individuals to come together and make a change – hence winning the 2020 International A Greener Festival Community Action Award.
Committed to halving its carbon footprint by 2025, Greenbelt continually examines all aspects of sustainability within the festival, while also sharing lessons with the wider industry to inspire others to also make changes. Greenbelt’s activities range from halving fuel usage, to introducing bamboo wristbands, and even discovering the success that Bin Fairies can have on recycling rates.
Greenbelt 2020 was planned single-use plastic free (apart from cable ties, which it is still working on) and this is ambition will be retained for 2021 when fully electric crew and artist buggies will be onsite.
“If you’re looking to improve your green credentials, focus on just a couple of things at a time – you can’t fix everything in one go,” says Greenbelt’s Mary Corfield. “Transport is a great place to start – how festivalgoers, artists and kit get to site, is a huge part of the emissions from every event.”
“If you’re looking to improve your green credentials, focus on just a couple of things at a time”
MaiNoi is a Romanian NGO that specialises in sustainability, environmental communications and education campaigns for youth, at national and international level.
It has successfully pioneered sustainable events management at music festivals in Romania, through a five-year environmental programme developed at Electric Castle festival, which reduced the carbon footprint of the event and created thousands of agents of change from the audience, artists, and the festival’s ecosystem.
Other notable projects initiated by MaiNoi are the Music Drives Change campaign, which encouraged musicians to act as sustainability champions; as well as the “eco-ambassadors” behavioural and policy-change campaign to promote cycling as an alternative means of transportation and to push for the adoption of a cycling law in Romania.
The advice MaiNoi gives to those who want to improve their green credentials is to believe in their power, to make an impact at their scale, and to drive all their energy towards this objective: walking the sustainability path pays off sooner rather than later, and opens up wonderful opportunities for personal and collective evolution along the way.
Walking the sustainability path opens up wonderful opportunities for personal and collective evolution
RAW Ltd exists to do one simple thing: help create a world free of pointless plastic, one stainless steel bottle at a time. The organisation intends to help make this happen while having a lot of fun along the way. Every bottle sold not only tackles single-use plastics, but also makes partner brands look amazing. Whilst also helping to fund RAW Foundation’s campaign work globally on this critical issue, and supports its aim of eliminating single-use plastic by 2030.
RAW was co-founded by campaigner Melinda Watson, the founder of sister organisation RAW Foundation; the folks behind Shambala Festival; and Ed Gillespie, founder of global sustainability consultancy and creative change agency, Futerra.
RAW bottles are made of stainless steel, which will not leach, stain or react with the bottles’ contents. The vessels are durable, reusable, light, easy to carry and virtually indestructible.
The company has already eliminated the use of countless plastic bottles and is busy persuading others, to help it toward its 2030 goals.
RAW Ltd exists to do one simple thing: help create a world free of pointless plastic, one stainless steel bottle at a time
In the late ’90s, a group of like-minded people met and bonded over a shared love of music, good times, and a thirst for questioning the world. They threw a lot of parties, including Afrika Jam – a regular live African night, which they took on national tour in support of charity People & Planet.
Shambala quickly followed with 100 folk, a couple of toilets, and a farmer’s trailer for a stage. There was no real plan for the future, but people had a good time, so it was repeated again and again. Twenty years later Shambala is still going strong.
Shambala is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible. The carbon footprint of the festival has been reduced by over 80%, achieved 100% renewable power, become meat- and fish-free and has eradicated disposable plastics. The organisation is more than five times carbon positive, and it works with a large network of charities to generate income.
Shambala is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible
Sebastian Fleiter’s grandfather taught him to use things up to the very end, and then try to repurpose them, “Later on, while staying in the US as a teenager, I learned about a first nations ancient language. This language had no word for ‘trash’… Everything used was part of an everlasting circle. That blew my mind.”
One of Fleiter’s best-known projects is The Electric Hotel – a recycled, 1960s Airstream trailer capable of mass-charging over 1,000 mobile phones simultaneously, with energy generated on-site at music festivals and other events all over Europe. The installation can provide enough power for small bands to perform in the middle of nowhere.
“I ask myself two questions when using something – the clothes I wear, electricity I use, the melon in the supermarket, a smart phone, a hairbrush, a search engine, pens, my knowledge, fossil fuel, the keyboard I am writing this on, or the coins in my pocket. The questions are very simple: Where does it come from? Where does it go?”
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Festival bosses talk cash flow, artist fees
The second IQ Focus festival panel, Festival Forum: The Next Stage, saw festival leaders from around Europe discuss the thorny issues of refunds and insolvency, as well as the outlook for 2021, in what should have been the halfway point of the 2020 season.
Hosted by IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson, the panel welcomed Mad Cool’s CIndy Castillo, Isle of Wight Festival/Solo Agency’s John Giddings, ARTmania’s Codruta Vulcua and Goodlive’s Stefan Lehmkuhl, two months on from the initial virtual Festival Forum session.
The current situation, said Giddings, has made it “blatantly obvious” that the business has an issue with cash flow and that many promoters don’t have any kind of “war chest to go forwards”.
“I don’t understand how you bankrupt companies by refunding tickets,” he said. “You shouldn’t be spending the ticket money on costs – you need to be in the position to be able to refund all the money. We have a responsibility to the audience.”
Giddings noted that some promoters have got into the habit of “taking money from the future to pay the past”, and it has become clear that this doesn’t work.
“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business,” he said.
The other panellists agreed to an extent, but noted that a lack of support and clarity from the authorities has complicated matters in a lot of cases.
“This may teach people a lesson on how to run a business”
“Our government hasn’t even declared force majeure yet for live events”, said Castillo, who promotes Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. “This has put us in a very tricky legal situation.”
The Mad Cool team only started its refund period last week, explained Castillo, but is allowing people to make the decision on whether to hold onto tickets for next year or refund them until after the full 2021 line-up is revealed.
In Romania, said Vulcu, an immediate reimbursement “would have bankrupted many organisers”, as the government is implementing new restrictions every two weeks.
“There are companies with shows built up, everything ready and paid for, and then suddenly it had to be cancelled,” she said. A voucher scheme implemented by the government, allowing promoters to offer credit for shows or merchandise in place of cash refunds, has been a lifeline for many.
ARTmania did choose to offer refunds, but only received 43 requests. “Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us,” said Vulcu, adding that this tactic may “work for rock and metal audiences perhaps more than for others.”
“So far, we have been able to spend our own money,” he said,” but the next step would be to touch the ticket money, then to get low-interest credit from the government in case it takes longer.
“What happens if it takes longer than a year?” he asked. “Few companies will be able to survive for longer than a year.”
“Our decision to trust our audience really worked for us”
Mindful of cash flow, Goodlive has asked for deposits back from acts it booked for this year. “There is mutual understanding there,” said Lehmkuhl. “We are trying to rethink our festivals for next year, adjusting dates and concepts. We will start from scratch in some ways next year.”
As the promoter of Isle of Wight Festival, Giddings said he also asked for deposits to be returned. “We are doing contracts going forward for next year and will pay the deposit then.”
In terms of being an agent, Giddings said he is not going to take a fee reduction for artists. “I would rather they didn’t play than take a reduction on my act,” he said.
“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money,” he said, “and we’ve done the same thing as a festival.”
Ticket prices will also have to stay the same, as so many fans are rolling over their tickets to next year. “Anyone raising ticket prices is insane,” said Giddings. “We need to get an audience back first before charging more.”
Vulcu, who said she left the money with the agencies when rescheduling, agreed that she will not be paying artists less money, “but we will definitely not pay more”.
“Romanian audiences will have a lot less money and the priority will not be going to festivals,” she said.
“As an agent I wouldn’t book an act for festival next year unless they’re going to pay me the same money, and we’ve done the same thing as a festival”
Castillo said her experiences have been “positive” with every agent. “We are looking out for each other to prevent the industry collapsing,” she said.
The Mad Cool booker admitted that it will be “really hard” to get the same audiences next year, “so we need help with fees to make things happen”.
“We are running a big risk with the festival next year”.
The recovery of the music business in Spain “hasn’t event started yet”, said Castillo, as “you first have to understand our business model, identify problems and offer solutions – and we haven’t been offered any solutions yet.”
Giddings replied that, although the recent culture funding package announced by the UK government is sizeable, “we have no idea who it’s going to go to and how it will work”. He added that it was more likely to benefit venues than agents or promoters.
Sponsors are another issue for 2021. “Investing in events is risky now,” said Castillo, “and this is definitely affecting us.”
Vulcu said that, while ARTmania has secured its main sponsor for next year, “it is very difficult to get new sponsors”.
“Investing in events is risky now, and this is definitely affecting us”
Most Isle of Wight Festival sponsors have also “stuck with us” said Giddings, who believes that sponsors will start to come back in once it’s clear the event is going to happen, although they may be “different kinds of sponsors relating to our changing normal”.
Giddings added that he is “praying” for some direction on what will happen next year by Christmas, with clear information needed by March at the latest.
For Lehmkuhl, the key for the “new normal” is a high level of flexibility and an ability to keep running costs very low.
The Goodlive co-founder said that the idea of testing at festivals “is one of the few realistic plans [for getting event up and running] nowadays”, provided that the government is able to provide tests for free.
“It is hard for me to imagine that we will be able to do festivals as normal next year,” he admitted, “but one thing’s for sure, I will not be doing them with social distancing.”
IQ Focus returns with ‘Festival Forum: The Next Stage’
After a week’s break, IQ’s virtual panel series – IQ Focus – is back with Festival Forum: The Next Stage, which sees representatives from a handful of European festivals give an update on the state of the sector.
The ninth panel of the popular IQ Focus series, the session will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 9 July at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET, building on a previous Festival Forum panel almost two months on.
Midway through what would have been this year’s festival season, it’s a summer like no other. But are we midway through the crisis, or is there still further to go before the festival sector can confidently progress into 2021?
How confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?
With a number of government support packages in place, and much of this year’s line-ups transplanted to next year, how confident are promoters feeling about next year, and are artists and audiences ready to return?
IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson hosts this IQ Focus discussion with panellists Cindy Castillo of Spain’s Mad Cool festival; John Giddings of the Isle of Wight Festival and Solo Agency; Stefan Lehmkuhl who promotes Splash, Melt, Superbloom and With Full Force festivals at Germany’s Goodlive; and Codruta Vulcu of Romania’s ARTmania Festival.
All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including diversity in live, management under lockdown, the agency business, large-scale and grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.
European metal festivals form new alliance
Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance, which is hosting a virtual event in August to raise money for the independent festival sector.
Unveiled today (17 June), the European Metal Festival Alliance (Emfa) is a joint venture between Alcatraz in Belgium, Romania’s ARTmania, Bloodstock in the UK, Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault, Dynamo and Into The Grave in the Netherlands, Spain’s Leyendas Del Rock and Resurrection, Slovenia’s Metal Days, Midgardsblot in Norway, France’s Motocultor and German events Party.San and Summer Breeze.
The alliance is putting on a streaming event from 7 to 9 August with exclusive live performances from artists chosen by each festival, as well as a selection of interviews.
Thirteen independent metal festivals from around Europe have joined forces to create a new alliance
Viewers will be asked for €6.66 for a ‘full festival pass’ to raise funds for the independent festival sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. The pass will give fans access to three days of performances from over 35 acts, as well as a discount on a Emfa ‘Rebooting for 2021’ t-shirt.
Throughout the summer, the newly launched Emfa website will host a range of footage from its founding festivals, including many sets that have not been previously broadcast.
The line-up and schedule for the streaming event will be announced in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale on 10 July here.
Bloodstock director Rachael Greenfield was among festival heads to take part in the IQ Focus panel Festival Forum: Here Come 21 last month. Set a reminder for this week’s panel, IQ Focus & The MMF: Managing the Crisis, on Facebook or YouTube.
Romania’s Saga postpones as lockdown lifting nears
The inaugural edition of Insomniac- and Alda-promoted Saga festival has been postponed to September, as the Romanian government prepares to begin a staggered easing of lockdown restrictions in mid-May.
Organisers of Saga, which was originally set to debut from 5 to 7 June in Bucharest’s Izvor park, state the postponement is “the best option for Saga festival with the health and wellbeing of visitors a main priority”.
Although the line-up for the rescheduled event on 11 to 13 September “may be slightly different due to artist scheduling”, organisers assure fans the billing “will be up to [the] standards” of dance music giants Insomniac (Electric Daisy Carnival) and Alda (Amsterdam Music Festival, New Horizons).
Saga joins fellow Bucharest festival Europafest, a multi-venue jazz, blues, pop and classical music event, to change its 2020 dates in view of the coronavirus crisis. Scheduled for May, organisers say they are now planning for Europafest to take place in the second half of July, with dates depending on the evolution of the situation in Romania and at European level.
Other major festivals in Romania, including electronic music events Untold and Neversea and European Festival Awards 2019 winners Electric Castle, Jazz in the Park and ARTmania, have yet to announce changes to their 2020 editions. The government expected to give more details on the future of public events when it begins to ease its stringent lockdown laws – which have seen citizens collectively fined up to €78 million for flouting restrictions – on 15 May.
“Large-scale events are unlikely to take place given the announced and forecasted restrictions”
Although Emil Boc, mayor of the city of Cluj-Napoca where Untold, Electric Castle and Jazz in the Park take place, has said that large-scale events are “unlikely to take place given the announced and forecasted restrictions”, he notes that “difference and diverse ways of organising these events can be found”.
Festival organisers in Romania have also found diverse and different ways of helping the fight against coronavirus in recent weeks.
Promoters in Cluj-Napoca are selling “solidarity tickets” as part of the A Single Cluj (Un Singur Cluj) campaign, which brings together event organisers and others in the region to synchronise relief efforts and pool resources. By purchasing a solidarity ticket, fans can make direct donations to hospitals and other public institutions. “Ticket” prices range from RON 10 to RON 5,000 (€1,034).
Money raised by the campaign has gone towards buying surgical masks for help workers and supplying food to frontline staff. Members of the initiative have also helped to construct emergency triage centres.
The team behind Untold festival, currently set to take place from 30 July to 2 August with acts including Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Pussycat Dolls and David Guetta, launched the United Romania initiative, which aims to “bring together the good in Romania”.
So far, the campaign has helped supply six trucks with equipment such as portable flooring, geotextile and lighting from Untold and Neversea festivals for a field hospital in the city of Constanta and has provided 12,000 tests and other medical materials to hospitals in Cluj.