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IFF ’22: The new kids take centre stage

The teams behind the multitude of new companies and events to launch post-Covid took the spotlight on the final day of this year’s International Festival Forum (IFF) in London.

Moderated by IQ‘s Lisa Henderson, the New Kids on the Block quickfire presentation session heard from the key new festival and agencies to have emerged in the last 18 months.

The panel featured FKP Scorpio MD Stephan Thanscheidt, Mother Artists co-founder Natasha Gregory, Barbara Hexges of Goodlive’s Superbloom, Runway Artists founder Matt Hanner and Jess Kinn and Emma Davis from booking agency One Fiinix Live.

Thanscheidt discussed the success of the debut edition of FKP’s new open-air festival Tempelhof Sounds, launched with DreamHaus and Loft Concerts on the grounds of Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in June. The event was headlined by Florence + The Machine, Muse and The Strokes.

“We had strong media partners and huge media reach, so the brand got established really quickly”

“We announced it last October, and four weeks later Omicron kicked in,” sighed Thanscheidt. “But we had a fantastic premiere. We had 40,000 people per day, which made us really happy because we were pretty much restricted because of Corona in Germany until this April. So the first edition went  really well and we had strong media partners and huge media reach, so the brand got established really quickly. The city of Berlin also welcomed us with open arms, which was fantastic for us.

“It was cool to book our new festival because most of the festivals we do were booked the second half of ’19 and then got postponed and postponed and postponed. So we had to wait until this year and there were a lot of bands who couldn’t get the slots at other festivals, so we had a fantastic line-up that was fresh and was really well received by the audience.

“We had a very good audience that was also interested in all of the topics that are part of the philosophy of this festival, like diversity, gender equality and all these kinds of things. We had a huge sustainability programme, and we set ourselves clear goals from the very start.”

Gregory, meanwhile, spoke about the progress of artist management and live agency called Mother Artists, which she launched in 2020 with her brother, music manager Mark Bent. The agency represents the likes of Idles, First Aid Kit, Amy Macdonald, Bombay Bicycle Club and Foster the People.

“It’s just about being honest with each other and realising that you’re dealing with humans”

Detailing the firm’s patented  “no-bullshit” policy, Gregory said: “It’s just about being honest with each other and realising that you’re dealing with humans. When we’re talking about festivals and budgets, we’re having an honest conversation [with promoters] and we come to the same number – there isn’t this working against each other.

“The pride I have in teams like Idles is that I don’t feel like I’m going to lose my job every day and I hope that the promoters feel the same way. We are all the same team, you leave your egos on the side. We’re all in it for the same reason, and there is zero tolerance for bullying. If someone writes a shitty email to someone in my team, we don’t accept it, I support them… That sounds like a great place to work.”

Hexges reported on the two-day Superbloom, which finally launched in Munich’s historic Olympic Park in September after two postponements due to Covid-related restrictions. Calvin Harris, Macklemore, Megan Thee Stallion, Rita Ora, Skepta and David Guetta were among the acts that performed across 11 stages during the event.

Alongside live music, the festival delivered a multi-faceted programme of art, culture, diversity, lifestyle, society, research and development, sustainability and science, with the aim of “redefining the music festival concept”.

“We had 50,000 visitors per day on a huge, historic location in the heart of Munich”

“We had 50,000 visitors per day on a huge, historic location in the heart of Munich,” said Hexges. “It was our first edition and we sold out. It had eight stages, including three main stages – one indoor – and the concept includes 50% music and 50% experience. We had 11 experience areas and it was a tough ride to be honest, but it worked and I was surprised at how well it went.”

Former ATC Live agent Hanner recalled taking a leap of faith and setting up Runway in spring 2020, having been made redundant shortly after the onset of Covid-19. The company made Steve Backman, formerly of Primary Talent International, its first agent appointment last year and expanded its team with four new hires in early 2022.

“The pandemic forced my hand,” he said. “I had a choice to make at that stage. And having spoken to a few artists and knowing that they’d come with me to be part of a fledgling roster, I was made redundant on the Friday and I think Runway began to exist in some form the following Monday. So it was a pretty swift turnaround.”

“We try to get involved building careers, for artists in meaningful ways, not just for the ones who are going to make us a bit of money next week”

He continued: “We are very independent, and we work with a lot of independent managers, a lot of independent artists and that is broadly what ties a lot of our roster together, even more so than stylistically. It also means that we’re pretty involved with our artists and our teams. We like to think of ourselves as boots on the ground, part of a core artist team.

“We try to get involved building careers, for artists in meaningful ways, not just for the ones who are going to make us a bit of money next week, but hopefully the ones that are going to make us some money maybe in eight years’ time. It also means that we’re growing our team organically. We’re not able to throw money at things.”

Booking agency One Fiinix Live was launched by Ed Sheeran agent Jon Ollier following his departure from CAA in late 2020. Davis – who served as Ollier’s assistant at CAA – joined the company from its inception, with ex-Paradigm agent Kinn coming on board in February 2021. The duo debated the benefits of working for a growing independent company.

“One of the most important is that we kind of make the rules,” suggested Davis. “The job is the same and you’re working with the same people but we have the power to go the way we want to, which is exciting.”

“It is also making sure we’re not just putting an artist out there for the sake of it and really sticking to the strategy of only touring at the right time, especially now,” adds Kinn. “Being able to pick and choose helps.”

 


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