There was a time when an artist was mainly a live performer. Before tape recorders and vinyl pressing plants, back when no physical means of transporting music were available. Well, in many ways we’re back to that point in time. Physical sound carriers are rapidly diminishing. At the same time the music industry is not embracing new and revolutionary technology that has the potential of unlocking bounteous amounts of revenue. This leaves artists once again in a position where they’re primarily relying on live income. So, how about looking into ways of getting your name among the European festival scene?
While we’re generally skeptic about funding programs, there is one out there that stands out: the European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP). The program not only gets you gigs at some of Europe’s finest festivals but also airtime on radio stations across the continent. My Baby, Aurora, Benjamin Clementine, Birth of Joy, Coely, Ewert and the Two Dragons, Hozier, Ibeyi, Jungle, Milky Chance, Seinabo Sey, SOAK, Vök and Years & Years are just a few of the names that got a career boost from ETEP. We spoke to a couple of them, as well as some of the promoters of the festivals taking part in ETEP as partners. They benefit from new talent just as much as new talent benefits from playing at festivals. In the following post you’ll learn all about entering the program and getting your band onto some of Europe’s greatest stages.
100 Partner festivals
It all starts each January, at Eurosonic Noorderslag in Gorningen, Holland. Actually it already starts a couple of months earlier, when bands start applying for a showcase slot at the talent festival. We already told you how to approach showcase festivals here. So we won’t talk about your game plan in this post. We’ll assume you have a good band, a manager and, most importantly, a strategy available. If you do, chances are you’ll land a slot at Eurosonic (its makers listen to every entry period). And once that happens, you’re on the radar of promoters from around 100 partner festivals from more than 30 countries, who come to Groningen each year to find acts for their upcoming events: Paléo, Gurtenfestival and OpenAir St.Gallen in Switzerland, Chiemsee Summer, Melt! and Rock am Ring in Germany, Frequency in Austria, Open’er in Poland and many more.
Their promoters roam the clubs of Groningen each night during Eurosonic Noorderslag and immediately book acts they like for their festivals. This led to a total of 2690 shows by 972 European artists from 31 countries at 95 festivals between 2003 and 2015. This year, Aurora is the most successful act with 13 festival bookings in total, followed by Blossoms with 11, Soom T and Liima with eight each, and Nothing But Thieves, Mura Masa and Amber Arcades with seven each. Artists selected for ETEP not only get festival requests, but also requests by radio stations. You have to be ready for this.
Said Aurora: “For me, nothing is more important than spreading my music through live performances. I think what ETEP does is brilliant! Helping artists get booked at festivals all around Europe, and also on radio and media. Especially in the start-up-phase when artists need it the most. Considering that I have performed at quite a lot of festivals with an ETEP program this year I definitely think I have benefitted from it. I've been able to visit so many different countries, and actually have people coming to see us in every single one. I am very grateful.”
Cato van Dijck, singer of Dutch band My Baby, who stand at six festivals booking in 2016, said: “We are very happy with the support of ETEP. We feel they have contributed to our success by placing their trust in us. They can convince the festival partners to book us. They are giving this extra push in a natural way, so we will keep our credibility and at the same time raise our chances of playing.”
And it’s not just the artists that are happy with the program, but festival promoters too. Live hasn’t just become the main income stream for artists, but for the entire industry (that, of course, depends on the artist). Festivals have been sprouting like weeds over the past years. The competition is insane. And good acts to fill the bills are wanted. Smart festivals have long started developing a unique profile so as not to be dependent on big-name headliners anymore. They benefit hugely from a program that basically serves them some of the greatest new acts in Europe on a silver platter. All they need to do is pick their favorites.
Chokri Mahassine, organizer of Belgium’s Pukkelpop, said: “I think, over the years, the European Talent Exchange Program has proven its value to the European music scene. We honestly believe in a well-balanced collaboration with ETEP. After all, supporting new talent has been part of our DNA since the very beginning in 1985.”
Dany Hassenstein, of Paléo, who has been an ETEP partner since the program’s inception in 2003, said ETEP is “the only funding program we’re participating in. It’s the ideal platform to catch the latest music trends in Europe and share them with our audience. More and more festivals are joining, the exchange among ourselves is intensified. What is more, the quality of the bands to choose from is getting better and better. This has to be the safest proof that the program is worth something.”
All around Europe
By the way: artists that are selected for ETEP also increase their chances of being nominated for the European Boarder Breakers Awards (EBBA). Not just because they have proven they can play proper festival stages, but also because their music has been aired by European radio stations, which are both requirements for an EBBA nomination. Previous winners include Adele, Mumford & Sons, Kodaline, Woodkid, Disclosure, Nico & Vinz, Selah Sue, Damien Rice, Agnes Obel and Caro Emerald.
You won’t just find promoters you can impress at Gorningen in January. There’s The Great Escape in Brighton in May, as well as Reeperbahn Festival in September in Hamburg. PrimaveraPro in Barcelona and Bime in Bilbao have also been increasing the amount of time they dedicate to up-and-coming bands from all over the world. There’s Tallinn Music Week, By:Larm in Oslo and Mama in Paris (the latter even pays the performing artists). We probably left out a few, but the point is: now is the time to perfect your live skills and present them to an international audience, preferably composed of professionals working in this business. We gave you some inspiration. The rest is on you.
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