Making it to Eurosonic is only half the battle – if an act is going to walk away with the right deals, they need to be prepared. Rob Sandall finds out what it takes.
Eurosonic Noorderslag, the four-day showcase and conference held in the Dutch city of Groningen, has built a reputation for itself as a crucial gateway for emerging acts hoping to conquer Europe.
Savvy managers, agents and labels can take advantage of the industry gathering to secure touring deals across the continent, but only if their timing, talent and support are a cut above the rest.
Co-founder of the event, launched in 1986, Ruud Berends believes that the real draw for the 4,100 attending delegates is the opportunity to find themselves surrounded by the best of European talent, for one weekend, in one easily navigable city.
“We have 350 relatively-unknown European artistes performing, and I think that in itself is quite a unique concept,” he says.
“There’s a broad spectrum in terms of background, experience and expectation among our delegates, and that’s fun because regardless of whether they’re from independent set-ups or heading over from majors, it’s still a people business ultimately, and a chance for great discussion within the industry.”
Berends says that the focus this year has been on nurturing that communicative side to the event, and notes that great pains have been made to help people connect.
“The networking element is what people want most, and that’s been something we’ve been really happy to refine over the years,” he explains.
“We want to make sure that the entire experience and conference is tailored to reflect the needs of those attending – that includes understanding trends in gender and age and so on – and making sure that within half an hour of being welcomed there’s a real sense of hospitality.
“We’re a non-profit, so we tend to judge our successes by the number of acts that have picked up deals through the event [monitored via the European Talent Exchange Program] – we want to make sure that our delegates are benefitting, and that their acts are too.
“If you’re a relatively unknown artiste and you pick up several touring offers in one weekend, it’s safe to say that you’re on your way up.”
Booker Robert Meijerink says that the acts that see the most benefit from performing tend to be those that already have a strong team around them.
“It can be hard sometimes, when an act clearly has the talent to play Eurosonic, but haven’t got the support they’ll need – from radio, an agent, a label, or indeed financially – to get them there and get them enough attention,” he says.
“We try to prevent acts essentially turning up for a ‘fun trip to Groningen’, and that means making sure that they’ll be able to make the most of their exposure to the industry.”
Meijerink adds that the ‘readiness’ of said acts, along with their country of origin, has a strong bearing when picking out the 4,500 submissions they receive each year.
“Obviously it’s quite tricky getting the turnaround fast enough – we don’t have too long to make sure not only of the quality of those who are playing but also that each country is well represented,” he says.
“The UK is typically well represented in that of course, it’s just a case of deciding which acts are going to have the best chance of securing bookings, in the right stage of their career.”
Coda Agency’s Natasha Bent feels that Eurosonic has become a particularly important point in any agent’s calendar.
“All the acts that have been picked to play Eurosonic get great reactions from it,” she says.
“A lot of my acts have benefitted in the past including CHVRCHES, First Aid Kit, IDLES, Superorganism, YOUNGR – if they play at the right time, it’s incredibly effective, and it’s yielded opportunities which I’m very grateful for.”
Alongside the promotional possibilities, Bent notes that the event is as much a useful networking event as it is a chance to go to the live shows, which don’t necessarily hold as much potential for acquisition as one might think.
“I primarily go to support my acts and meet all key promoters, but it’s such a small network in this industry, you will hear about what’s worth seeing,” she says.
“The tough bit is that the majority of ‘hot’ acts usually already have an agent in place.”
“In terms of promoting my own acts, I will send a solid update in advance to my network of industry promoters, labels etc that I already have long standing relationships with.
“Usually, I have been updating them already for months on said acts and it becomes a must-see show for them.”
Chief executive of MMF Annabella Coldrick agrees that Eurosonic is a unique opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
“It’s an excellent chance to be able to take in a huge number of acts at once, but at a pace that’s still manageable,” she says.
“I consider myself to be slow and I get to say six or seven bands in one night – some people are scouting acts incredibly quickly, listening to two songs per act, then on to the next one.
“It’s a good and slightly odd experience seeing acts that will go on to be future festival main-stage acts in a small pub in Groningen.”
Coldrick adds that despite not being a booking agent, the event still holds significant value to her, especially in comparison to equivalent events.
“People tend to obsess over SXSW [in Austin, Texas], but the comparative hassle involved is worth considering,” she says.
“Eurosonic is a fantastic networking event for me with very little difficulty involved in the logistics of getting and staying there, and I’ll be able to meet European managers of the various acts there, so it’s a place to make connections and form alliances.”