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Pop Music in Europe and the Circulation of European Repertoire

Submitted by on 12 Jul 2012 – 12:32

Peter SmidtBy Peter Smidt, Creative Director of Eurosonic Noorderslag and manager Pop and Rock at Buma Cultuur

Although the recorded music sector is in decline  (to a large part due to massive illegal use) pop music is extremely popular everywhere in Europe. A large audience is listening to and enjoying a great variety of music and musical styles. On radio, live in music venues, clubs, bars and festivals, on cds and through streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer.

Successful artists can make a good living from making music.
But…who makes the music that is played on the radio stations and at all the live music venues around Europe?
Whose  music has access to the European audience and … who in the end gets the money that the people in Europe spend on music?

The European Music Office (EMO) and Eurosonic Noorderslag conference recently commissioned a survey on the circulation of music repertoire in Europe and the outcome was no surprise.

It is mainly US and national repertoire that is used in all European countries.

European music is not circulating in Europe. Music from one European country does not cross over to another European country. With a few exceptions, mainly from the UK, only the US music has access to all European countries. And that is a pity.

Because for European artists it is very difficult to have a healthy career if they just have their own country as a market. If European artists would be able to have Europe as a market for their product, much more artists would be able to make a living with their music.

The US repertoire has the marketing power and, more important the business pipelines for repertoire and marketing. These pipelines start in Los Angeles and New York and go via London to all European countries. Very much like the movie sector.

There are no pipelines between the different countries in Europe. Therefore European artists are stuck in their own country and are not able to have access to the European market, a wider audience and thus more income.

If part of the money that now flows to the US would stay in Europe we would be able to invest this in the development and marketing of new artists.

The situation described above made us create a program called ETEP (European Talent Exchange Program). It is a very simple but effective program where we have asked the most powerful institutions in the European music, the biggest and most important summer festivals and the (public) radio stations to work together on the circulation of new European acts.

Every year in January at the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival we present around 300 of the best new acts from Europe. The festivals and radio stations choose what they like best and what fits their programs. The festival books the act and the radio supports the act on the radio. Hereby we created the most important marketing / promotion for the act in a new territory and the management or record company can release their product in this market.

When we started we thought ‘If we can do ten shows it would be great’. To our great pleasure in the first year we already did about did fifty shows in the ETEP framework. Nowadays we do every year almost 200 shows with around 70 artists from around 20 different countries.

Artists like Kaizers Orchestra from Norway, Selah Sue and Triggerfinger from Belgium, Agnes Obel from Denmark but also Anna Calvi and Franz Ferdinand from the UK benefitted a lot. These artists where offered several shows at the main festivals in Europe like Roskilde festival, Pinkpop, Glastonbury, Printemps de Bourges  or Rock am Ring.

When you are booked at these festivals and radio supports you in all the countries you will have a European career.

Since last year, when we received money from the European Commission to expand, we even developed together with Exit festival in Serbia and Sziget festival in Hungary a special program called CEETEP to create better circulation of repertoire in Central Eastern Europe. With 13 festivals like the 500,000 capacity Woodstock festival in Poland and al lot of media partners like Serbian and Croatian radio we create a pool of acts from this region to play at festivals in others countries with media support. We aim that in five years this action will help the participation from central Eastern Europe in the ETEP program.

The ETEP program has proved to work. Since 2003 we have done 1,359 shows by 495 artists and created several European careers but in order to have a good circulation of the European repertoire in Europe, this program is just a drop in the ocean.

We should work together in Europe to create better working conditions for our musicians and start actions to create a European market for European music.

The new proposed EU culture program ‘Creative Europe’ is a step in the right direction. In comparison with the former Culture program ‘Culture 2007’  I think Creative Europe is a  much better program, much more designed to fit the current culture and creative sector and with better access for pop music.

Eurosonic Noorderslag is the showcase festival and conference for European music in Groningen the Netherlands

Buma Cultuur Is the Dutch foundation that promotes Dutch music in and outside of Holland and is a subsidiary of Dutch collecting society Buma Stemra.

For more info check; www.etep.nl and www.eurosonic-noorderslag.nl