Festival Summit: Talent & tastemakers
Chair: Greg Lowe, United Talent Agency (UK)
Jonny Dawson, ATC Management (UK)
Sophie Lobl, C3 Presents (US)
Stephan Thanscheidt, FKP Scorpio (DE)
Tom Windish, Paradigm Talent Agency (US)
All panellists were in agreement that festivals provided a great way to establish new talent. “Especially if you also tour artists [like FKP does],” said Thanscheidt, adding that “it can be a fertilising combination.” He recalled the first Hurricane Festival, when the smallest band on the bill was Muse.
The panel talked about the fact that festivals are booking their line-ups so far in advance now that it can become difficult assessing the state of an artist’s career at the time of the actual event. Lobl pointed out how important relationships with agents were in that regard. Promoters could trust them with pushing new talent.
Windish said he didn’t try and convince festivals to book bands that hadn’t played any live shows yet. He said he was happy signing a band that had no live experience (“sometimes a good song is enough”) but that he would first have them play a variety of shows to hone their craft and become relevant for festivals.
Thanscheidt talked about another consequence of the fact that the bookings for the upcoming festival season are now completed as early as Christmas of the previous year, which made it difficult to keep a lot of slots open for new talent that may pop up in spring.
The panels also addressed the question of whether artists could play a festival too early, thereby killing their hype. To which Windish replied that “they could.” There may be festivals that made more sense a year later. On the other hand, festivals paid premium fees, and it was cool to have a band’s name on a poster.
Thanscheidt said this was an ongoing discussion. Communication with all parties involved was key in finding the best strategy. Windish added that festivals could be a great way to drag out album campaigns. Combined with radio appearances and club shows, it could create a good buzz.
Dawson took Reading and Leeds Festivals as an example of those that did a great job of booking artists year over year and have them progress through different stages. Lobl also had examples of artists that played a small stage at Lollapalooza Chicago and headlined it the following year.
In conclusion, the panellists agreed that festivals were part of the story. The fact that more music than ever could be discovered through streaming services made festivals as platforms for seeing new talent play live, even more important. Dawson, however, warned that there were currently too many intermediaries involved in the value chain, causing not enough money to reach the artists.
And Windish pointed out that the “rapid fertility” of festivals could become a problem. At the same time there was more good music out there than ever. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe I sign 100 bands and one becomes a new Lorde. Maybe my head’s just going to explode.”