Ahead of this month’s Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) in Groningen, the Netherlands, AAA spoke to the European conference and showcase platform’s head of programming Robert Meijerink.

A key annual event for festival operators across Europe, ESNS is a multi-venue festival and conference that brings together artists and industry executives from across Europe.

Taking place on 18-21 January, the not-for-profit event is designed to give European artists a steppingstone to international success. It includes the ESNS Exchange initiative, which was launched in 2003 to help European acts get booked for festivals outside their home countries. Last year it resulted in the booking of 149 acts for 357 shows across 86 festivals in 28 countries. Among the most booked UK acts were Wet Leg, Yard Act, Holly Humberstone and Wu-Lu.

I will have the pleasure of speaking at the conference this year, along with an array of key industry executives including  A Greener Festival CEO Claire O’Neill, Lowlands Festival director Eric van Erdenburg and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd. Among those giving keynote interviews are Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt.

How does it feel to be delivering a physical event for the first time since the pandemic struck, and what has the reaction from the industry been like?

Tickets are selling well; the reaction has been very positive. Eurosonic has always been a physical event so after two years of delivering online events we are very much looking forward to returning to the physical world. It has always been the event that brings the industry together, in person, and kicks off the year.

Great, so how many industry delegates are you expecting at the event this year?

We are expecting at least 3,500, maybe 4,000 professionals from all corners of the world. Around 65% of them are from outside Holland. The event underlines the need for industry professionals to meet each other in the real world; to touch base with each other, discuss topics and do business. This is what we have seen at Eurosonic for almost 30 years before Covid, and so it’s great to be back again.

What are the key topics and focus points for the conference this year?

There are many different subjects to be discussed. I think we’re facing very challenging times from the live  perspective; not only the economic crisis but also the other challenges for festival and concert promoters such as what’s the future of live music? green topics, and higher ticket prices.

When it comes to the festival, how large is it in terms of the number of acts playing and venues involved?

Eurosonic takes place across four days, three days are focusing on European music with live showcases taking place downtown in around 30 venues. On Saturday, the fourth day, it is Noorderslag which involves a focus on Dutch music.

How important is the event as a platform for grassroots talent looking to get booked at festivals around Europe?

We have built a solid track record in terms of presenting good artists to industry professionals. The main goal of Eurosonic is to give them a platform in front of the right people, including festival and venue bookers, promoters, agents and other industry professionals. If they discover an artist, it can be a proper start for them or maybe the next step in their career, whether it is being represented by a manager, an agent or a label. The exchange programme plays a key role in this, it’s all about creating awareness and making sure that people understand what’s going on in other countries. That’s the way Eurosonic started 30 years ago and one of our main missions is still to help enable people to see what is going on beyond their own back yard.