fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Unsung Heroes 2020: Bobby Bähler, Gurtenfestival

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Paul Reed of the AIF, who follows AIF’s Paul Reed.


Frustrated by the Swiss government’s handling of the pandemic restrictions, the Gurtenfestival team’s initial interaction with the authorities was to scold them for their haphazard approach, and bemoan the lack of dialogue regarding the live events sector.

However, director Bobby Bähler soon realised that, rather than bad will, the government actually didn’t understand the festival industry; the complexity of building a temporary festival ‘city,’ and the fact that an event that lasts four days can have a planning phase of several months, involving several hundred people.

“We went out on a limb and told [the government] that if they had a problem we could solve it, no matter what it was”

“We went out on a limb and told them that if they had a problem we could solve it, no matter what it was,” recalls Bähler. “A week later we received a request to build a [coronavirus] test centre that could test up to 1,500 people per day. After two meetings and 12 hours’ conception, we had the solution. And after nine days, the first person was tested.”

Bähler and his colleagues used Gurtenfestival subsidiary, EventOn, to build a software package for the test centre, making sure it could map the entire test process and handle everything automatically from registration to reporting the test result.

“We developed the entire medical process, engaged our event physicians, trained laymen to become test persons, and created the entire public and internal communication,” he tells IQ. “Our team at Gurtenfestival has really done a very extraordinary job, and it is an honour to work with them.”

All too aware of the serious strain coronavirus was having on the health care system, Bähler turned to the experts he knows to run the centre.

“In order to not deprive the health care system of specialist staff, we wrote to all of our employees – around 1,900 people – from the Gurtenfestival. Within 48 hours, we had well over 250 applications from people who wanted to work with us,” says Bähler.

“We were able to relieve the burden on the health system and provide jobs for people in our industry and the catering trade”

“In this way, we were able to relieve the burden on the health system and provide jobs for people from our industry and the catering trade, where they could earn good money with a meaningful job.

“All these people were laymen and were trained and prepared for their work by specialised personnel. Now, we have tested almost 10,000 people since 9 November and to date no significant errors or false results have been found.”

For the construction of the test centre, Bähler hired regional companies to deliver tents, containers, heaters, vehicles, etc. “Maybe we were able to save 2020 for some of the suppliers, with a good order before the end of the year, as many had suffered a 90% drop in sales this year.”

At press time, about 150 people from the live events industry remain employed part-time at the test centre. “But what is much more important is that we were able to show that we are professionals and that we can simply create something big and good out of nothing, with almost no time,” states Bähler.

“We are used to creating playgrounds for artists and demanding guests under the most difficult circumstances… this time we created a ‘testival’ instead of a festival.”

“Most likely we will run the test centre until the end of January 2021 and by then we will have tested 20-30,000 people”

The Gurtenfestival staff expects the centre to become increasingly busy as the holiday season rolls around, with concerned citizens anxious to know they are virus-free before attending family dinners and gatherings.

“Most likely we will run the test centre until the end of January 2021 and by then we will have tested 20-30,000 people,” adds Bähler.

But the work might not end there, as the Swiss government has also asked Bähler if the Gurtenfestival crew can assist in creating vaccination centres when the medicines start to become available.

“We must stand together through this time,” adds Bähler. “The virus will pass, but what remains is the deep desire to be together, to enjoy music, theatre and culture of all kinds in one place… When the post-corona period begins, a new and very promising time for us will begin. Society will appreciate that we exist and will take pleasure in compensating for what the pandemic has so miserably forbidden for so long.”

 


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.

Unsung Heroes 2020: Alexandra Ampofo

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with UK-based concert promoter Alexandra Ampofo, who joins the previously announced #feedourcrew in South Africa.


In addition to her regular duties as a promoter at Metropolis Music, Alex Ampofo has won praise from bosses for her consistent, caring communication with colleagues, as well as her tireless work with industry organisations Women Connect, Acoustic Live and Embrace Nation.

Ampofo launched Acoustic Live as an effort to keep stripped back music alive. “Over the last few months, we have been putting together webinars focused on moving the diversity dial in touring, hosting socially distanced music and poetry workshops, and continuing to support up-and-coming musicians with free services,” she tells IQ. “I also now sit on the board of directors for The F List, a directory of UK female musicians. Our mission is to help female and gender-minority musicians overcome structural barriers in the music industry.”

Also a not-for-profit female collective, Women Connect has a remit to create safer, inclusive spaces and equal opportunities for women, non-binary and gender-fluid people in the creative industry. Ampofo reports, “This year we managed to throw a sold-out international women’s party at Sony Music (pre-Covid), hosted themed online events to raise money for different charities, and started our own mentoring scheme with a full house of 20 mentees.”

“Our aim is to bring a new depth to understanding what our privileges are and encourage a safe space for open dialogue”

She continues, “Embrace Nation is also doing really well. We’ve had some great interaction in our company communications, and we’re doing our best to keep the conversations going, especially those about appropriate terminology, background and culture. Our aim is to bring a new depth to understanding what our privileges are and encourage a safe space for open dialogue.”

Also one of IQ’s New Bosses in 2020, Ampofo is inspiring other young people in the industry to engage in extra-curricular activities that, over time, will help make the live entertainment industry a better working environment.

She concludes, “It’s so important to communicate while we are all isolated, I think times like these can really highlight how vulnerable people actually are, and how much we rely on physical interaction in our day-to-day lives. Social media has made it easier to check in on our loved ones, that’s something to take advantage of if extra support is needed.”

 


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.

Christmas has come early this year: Read IQ 95 now

IQ 95, the latest issue of the live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

December’s IQ Magazine is packed with the essential news, features, comments and columns – featuring a spectrum of voices from the international live industry.

The ILMC 33 conference guide gives readers a glimpse of next year’s global gathering of live music professionals, sharing details on how to register, who is playing and what to expect.

While the International Ticketing Yearbook assembles industry leaders from around the world to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business.

Elsewhere, IQ hails some of the Unsung Heroes who have been putting the welfare of others first during this trying year.

This year’s ITY assembles industry leaders to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business

And readers can also expect comments from Iceland Airwaves’s Will Larnach-Jones and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, alongside the second edition of our Covid Kit features and a 40th-anniversary feature on the iconic Resorts World Arena.

That’s in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 95 in full.

 


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.

Unsung Heroes: Nominate your 2020 champions now

This year has been the roughest on record for the live entertainment industry, but as the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going – and amid the gloom and despair, certain individuals have shone like beacons.

Here at IQ, we believe that the hard work that those folk have selflessly committed to during 2020 deserves recognition. That’s why we’re expanding our regular Unsung Heroes page in the magazine into a prestigious end-of-year list that recognises ten of the industry’s most noteworthy individuals worldwide.

There are Unsung Heroes everywhere, so we need your nominations to identify those who have most stepped up for the good of others or the industry at large during the pandemic restrictions.

To nominate an Unsung Hero, email the editor at gordon@iq-mag.net with the name of the person you would like to see recognised as one of our Unsung Heroes and why they should make the list, so we can tell the world about them, and their efforts, in our year-end edition of the magazine.

 


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.

Unsung Hero: Clara Cullen, Music Venue Trust

Raised in an environment where classical music was predominant, Cullen says her introduction to working in music came via Banquet Records in Kingston upon Thames.

“It became my haven and gateway into contemporary music, DIY ethics and independent culture. Through Banquet I discovered their live in-store gigs and records. I remember being genuinely blown away that acts like Bombay Bicycle Club, Ed Sheeran or You Me At Six would come and play.”

She started a music blog and made a deal with her parents: “As long as I kept my school grades up, they were happy for me to go to the in-store gigs at Banquet after school and interview the bands. From that point on I was obsessed, going to stores and spending hours in the record shop.”

Her interests grew, and persistence saw her land internships at Rock Sound and NME. “I remember sending the NME team an email every two weeks until they eventually relented and said I could come in for a two-week internship and I got to be at NME when the amazing Eve Barlow and Laura Snapes were journalists there.”

“Through this, I began to meet people in the music industry; continued going to gigs at grassroots music venues; and getting advice about different roles within the industry. This helped me realise how varied the roles in the music industry actually are. It makes me happy that ten years on there are still people in the industry that I met then who continue to act as mentors to me today.”

“As a music charity that does a lot of government-facing work, MVT really managed to coalesce all my interests into one”

Converting her interest into a paid career was challenging, she admits. “Despite living near London, where most of the music industry opportunities are, and having a supportive, if somewhat bemused, family, I was applying for paid internships with very little success.

“With no longer-term prospects, I decided to put a career in music on pause and go to university. Far from being a step back, this actually turned out to be the best thing for me as I discovered a love for politics and policy, which are topics I have been able to build on at MVT.”

A self-confessed “academic nerd,” Cullen’s main interests are politics and current affairs, hence her decision to study history and politics at Exeter University, before embarking on a masters in international relations at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“Once my course ended, I was at a crossroads between going down a more traditional career path into a job in politics, or following my gut and trying to break into the live music industry. It was at this point I was introduced to MVT. As a music charity that does a lot of government-facing work, it really managed to coalesce all my interests into one.”

Cullen states that one of her biggest champions has been the musician Frank Turner, who she first met as a teenager through an interview at Banquet Records. “Frank has very strong DIY ethics — you can find his email on his website, which he replies to directly. When I was leaving the LSE, I emailed him about not really knowing whether to keep trying to pursue a job in music or go down a more traditional career path.

“It makes me really happy knowing we have helped create a network of maverick and innovative people working in venues”

“Without prompting, Frank introduced me to the Music Venue Trust team. Given my interest in music and policy, he suggested I connect with them and help out at their Venues Day 2017 event. I did this and a few weeks later, a paid role came up as an administrator at MVT, which I applied for. In November 2017, after years of trying, I could finally turn around to 16-year-old me and say I had a job in the music industry.”

Justifiably proud of the work MVT does, Cullen says, “It makes me feel really happy knowing that we have helped create a network of maverick and innovative people working in venues. This is even more apparent during the Covid-19 crisis, with venues working together to share knowledge, best practices and support. In many ways, the crisis has acted to solidify the work MVT has been doing, and shows why having a representative body who can communicate with the government is so vital.

“In a time of crisis, our team has actually expanded, and this has allowed MVT to really rise to meet the challenge of Covid-19. For example, MTV’s Save Our Venues campaign started off as a small idea in one of our team meetings and has now helped to galvanise live music fans to rally around their local venues raising over £1 million in donations.

“Likewise, MVT’s lobbying of the government has, in my opinion, been the most effective of any organisation in the music industry. Getting the opportunity to work with the government, devolved administrations, and the London mayor’s team to ensure that support reaches grassroots music venues, and seeing tangible results in the creation of different emergency funding for grassroots music venues, feels both like a personal win for myself and also for the organisation. I think it shows that the boundaries of what people perceive to be ‘possible’ are never static and can move if you’re relentless in pushing them.”

In her role as venue support manager, Cullen runs MTV’s Crisis Service, which gives practical assistance and crisis funding to venues facing immediate threats of closure. “There have been cases I have dealt with this year where a venue operator also lives in their venue. The biggest challenge is to prevent the closure of the venue as it would also mean the loss of someones home. For many this isn’t just about where they work and what they do, it runs to the very fabric of their life.”

“Seeing tangible results in the creation of emergency funding for grassroots music venues feels like a personal win”

At the beginning of the Covid crisis, MVT predicted that up to 94% of all grassroots music venues in the UK were facing permanent closure within six months. As a result, it launched the Save Our Venues campaign and created a central MVT crisis fund, to which the public can donate. In London alone that fund has amassed £759,000 (€829,800) in direct donations.

“We also have the Passport Back to Our Roots events taking place,” she continues. “The concept is that big acts return to grassroots music venues where they first played when coming up in the industry. The public can enter a prize draw to win a spot at these gigs and they will take place sometime in the future when non-socially distanced gigs are allowed, with a portion of the money raised donated to MVT’s Crisis Service.

“We’re also working on plans to try and revitalise the live industry to get shows up and running again in the grassroots music venue sector. This will require funding support and buy-in from promoters, agents and artists. We hope to have more news on this soon.”

Citing some of the bigger lessons she has learned, so far, through the pandemic experience, Cullen says, “The key takeaway for me has been the need for direct lines of communication with local councils, regional administrations and central government, alongside a strong social media campaign.

“You need things to work in tandem if you want to influence policy at a local, regional and national level: direct conversations with policymakers, backed by indisputable economic analysis, a menu of practical options for them to consider, and a strong public narrative that can push your case, is the winning combination.”

Outside the everyday grind of trying to protect the grassroots sector of the business, Cullen has a passion for old-school film photography. “You can only take 36 shots per roll of 32mm film, so without being able to see the shots before they are developed makes every shot count. I find that this helps me to slow down and re-evaluate everyday scenarios. I am also very big into my Eastern European history and am currently reading Anne Applebaum’s brilliant Twilight of Democracy.”

Ever on point, Cullen concludes that more support is needed for MVT’s Save Our Venues initiative. “Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty, what we do know for certain is that live music fans have been incredible in their support of venues and have helped prevent the complete collapse of the grassroots circuit. We also need the larger parts of the live music industry to continue to work collaboratively with the grassroots sector to help get shows up and running. If we can do all of those things, then I believe our venues will be able to make it through this.”

 


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.

Unsung Hero: Viktor Trifu, Exit Festival

Known by countless touring acts as the technical director of Exit Festival, Viktor Trifu was one of the first graduates of the Stage Light Design faculty at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad Serbia.

Fast-forward a few years, and he is now an associate professor of the faculty, with 30 alumni who have already achieved success as lighting designers in theatres, movies, television and, of course, concerts.

IQ: How did you first get into the production side of live music?
VT: My first job happened by accident. In 1996, I started working as a technician on a major Mediterranean festival, where Toto Cutugno was one of the performers. At that time, the first intelligent devices (scanners, lights with moving mirrors) arrived at the production company I was working for, but they were unable to launch the software for two days because there was no light desk. I stayed up all night studying the software, figured it out, and started the system.

That was my first job where, by chance, I immediately ended up behind the software for lights. At the end of the festival, I was offered a permanent job, and I spent the next ten years working as a light designer.

I travelled a lot and fell in love with this business. It is a dynamic job; the projects are never the same, we are never in the same place, the equipment is constantly improving and, along with it, so are the work processes. When I started working in ’96, many of the things that are normal in our business today didn’t exist – moving heads, DMX signal, line-array speakers, LED lights, LED screens, digital consoles…

Today, at 44 years old, and after a quarter of a century in the business, you could say that I am one of the pioneers and veterans in the region.

How did you first get to work at Exit Festival?
My first encounter with production happened at Exit, and as the festival grew, so did my responsibilities – from production manager of a single stage to the technical director of the entire festival. Exit and I grew together, and I think we’ve both exceeded expectations. Exit was one of my first serious projects.

I also worked on innumerable festivals, concerts and events in Serbia and abroad – both as a freelancer at the time, and now as a director of Skymusic Production, the biggest rental company in this part of Europe.

“Famous DJs can be very demanding … but once they get on stage they ask to perform again next year”

What have been the highlights for you while working at Exit?
It would have to be the very first festival. At the time, our country had just been liberated from years of dictatorship and isolation, so that was our first contact with international stars. At that time even the ‘small’ stars seemed the biggest in the world.

I would have to single out Prodigy as one of the highlights. When I was a kid, I loved their music and always went to their concerts, and years later I got to be a part of them – more than ten times, all over the region. That was a big deal for me.

And what about the biggest challenges?
Every year and every performer is a challenge. We try to upgrade ourselves every year, to make all the stages and performances grander, more spectacular, and it’s an exhausting task.

Famous DJs can be very demanding, and for years we’ve been trying to meet their demands. The Dance Arena, which is the biggest DJ stage at Exit, is thematically designed every year, which doesn’t leave much room to comply with riders of the big stars, and they have to adapt to the theme.

Those negotiations can be tricky, but once they get on stage they ask to perform again next year.

Big stages, like the Main Stage and Dance Arena, never close, so we work in many shifts. There’s always something going on. Once the programme is over, set-up for the next day begins, tone rehearsals follow and continue to the next day.

Exit takes place in a mediaeval fortress, and therefore access for big trucks is impossible. We have a special team for logistics, cross-load, load-in and load-out of equipment, because everything is trans-shipped to small trucks, 800m away from the fortress and then shipped to the stages. It’s a huge headache.

The logistics team alone counts over 100 people during the festival, and they are responsible for all the equipment of all the performers getting to all the stages – and off of them – in time. And they are 100% successful because of the great advance production before the festival.

“Exit takes place in a mediaeval fortress, so access for big trucks is impossible”

Is there anything you would like visiting artists or tour managers to change that would make life easier for everyone?
They have low expectations, but are forgiven for that; they run into all kinds of stuff all over the world and come to Serbia expecting the worst, but they get the best treatment from the minute they arrive.

When it comes to equipment, stage design and staff, they are on the same quality level as in Germany or the Netherlands, and visiting artists always get more than they expected.

How has the coronavirus impacted you?
Skymusic Production is a big company and it was able to keep on all employees (who will work on this year’s Exit Festival). As for the lockdown period we used it for additional education of the Skymusic and Exit production teams.

What do you do to relax?
I really work a lot, both at Skymusic Production and the Academy, so I can’t wait to go to my home – which is out of the city, next to the Danube river – and spend time with my family and my two dogs, and hang out with my neighbours.

We hang out, barbecue and spend time together, like everyone else. I often miss that when I’m working.

 


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.

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.

 


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.