Wide Days' internationalism highlights how 'smaller events can be the bigger innovation drivers'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 10 April 2019
Julie Weir with Olaf Furniss, 2017 / credit: Jannica Honey
Scotland's annual music convention to host European delegation to develop international opportunities
Wide Days, Scotland's annual music convention, has placed an emphasis on internationalism and outreach since its launch in 2010, consistently attracting industry players from the UK, Europe and North America. Now with Brexit weighing heavily on the minds of everyone in the music industry, this year's convention will aim to take a stand against hostility and division by hosting a mini-summit of industry figures from across the European Union to help foster international opportunities.
Delegates from Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, as well as Norway, will attend the event, with visitors including representatives from the Dutch, German, Irish and Austrian music export offices, the French festival association PRODISS and a wide range of promoters.
Ralph Christoph, co-founder of the c/o pop Festival and Convention in Cologne, has been keen to attend Wide Days for some time. 'It's been on my list for a long time, I've heard great things about it,' he says. 'Especially in these pre-Brexit times, it's super important for us as a continental European event to foster our relationship with everyone that still wants to work with us. What will Brexit mean for touring, labels, taxation etc? With all of these things, we don't know yet. So it's important to stay in touch with all the relevant stakeholders of the music industry.'
For Ralph, the landscape of the music industry has changed greatly over the past few decades, which makes smaller events like Wide Days much more worthwhile for cross-border exchange.
'20 years ago, markets were a lot more selective and countries like the UK and France had completely centralised situations, so everything was London-driven or Paris-driven. This has changed and I think this is partly thanks to the EU. We have a much more decentralised eco-system all over Europe. You can see the smaller the city or event, the more interesting it can be. We all know that big oil tankers are really hard to handle and take a long time to change their direction. So for me, Wide Days is a perfect example of how smaller events are maybe the bigger innovation drivers.'
Christoph Storbeck of Linecheck Music Meeting & Festival in Milan is also looking forward to attending Wide Days this year and will be sharing his experience of showcase events, providing insider information about Linecheck's programming.
'The UK music business undoubtedly has a special standing in the international business,' he says, 'but it's not alone out there or just invading the world. There's a lot to learn and opportunities to get inspiration from other countries, their ways of working, thinking, having fun, not only seeing other territories as customers and people you "use", but as fully serious partners.'
'Diversity, inclusion, and gender balance are buzzwords, and quite rightly so,' he explains when asked about the impact of such conventions and festivals. 'Events like Wide Days, Linecheck and c/o pop try as much as possible not only to address these issues, but to apply methods of improvement in their own events, to track how social issues are treated over the years. I think these events have a certain power to inspire and kick off virtuous circles.'
'I'm attending Wide Days this year as a professional visitor in order to expand our contact network and gain some direct insights about the Scottish and the UK scene, which could be useful in the further development of our export activities,' Neus Lopez of German Music Funding and Export Office Initiative Musik notes. 'In a globalised world, it's important to establish strong networks, not only regional or national but also international. This applies also to artists and music companies who can benefit from the international exchange.'
Ingrid Kohtla, Head of Communication & Programme Curator at Tallinn Music Week, another major European celebration of talent and creativity, sees events like Wide Days as key to progress in the music industry.
'Any showcase festival is the backstage of the international music business, the place where artists meet the industry pros. Showcase events that are fragmented by national borders limit the possibilities of global or regional cooperation, therefore also limiting chances for artists, culture workers and people like us to learn and develop.'
The current political climate in the UK is a cause of real anxiety for many, but for the creative industries, the uncertainty not only stifles growth but represents a significant threat to creativity and ambition. For the UK's music industry, Brexit and the effects of a bad deal has the potential to jeopardise the breadth of talent currently coming out of the country, placing a suspension of sorts on an otherwise flourishing scene. While the effects are hard to predict in full, the disruption faced by the music industry could be catastrophic, with questions being raised about everything from distribution to touring.
'No one knows exactly what form the departure will take, should it finally happen (I still hope it won't),' Ingrid adds. 'The greatest impact on music looks likely to be on the live sector, both on the UK's musicians going abroad, and on foreign artists and music fans coming to the UK. If European, including Estonian musicians, start needing visas – the cost of the time spent on administration, the extra charges, would present more barriers to booking these artists. It's a cultural jail!'
For this reason, Wide Days' focus on fostering European connections this year is not just timely, but presents a statement from the Scottish music scene on the desire to move forward. The launch of the Festival Takeover, which sees Tenement Trail, Electric Fields and Kelburn Garden Party each programme a stage, is a further step towards artist exchange, with bands from Focus Wales and Sound of Belfast sharing the bill with over a dozen Scottish acts.
'Since its launch in 2010 Wide Days has built strong ties across Europe and we want to make sure these are maintained and developed further,' Wide Days founder, Olaf Furniss, says. 'This year we are launching the Festival Takeover which will see three great Scottish summer events – Tenement Trail, Electric Fields and Kelburn Garden Party – each programme a stage. At the summit we will be discussing is the possibility of us hosting international festivals in the future.'
For many figures in the music industry across Europe, Brexit presents a hurdle towards advancement but the overall feeling remains one of hope; that relationships can be maintained and strengthened in spite of the political backdrop.
'I think it's fantastic that at the same time as Brexit is happening, festivals like Wide Days are continuing to have this open attitude; it's a great message to send to the politicians in general,' says Aline Renet, Director of Institutional Relations & Strategic Counsel at PRODISS. 'We can't foresee what the consequences will be on a technocratic level, but we have to be extremely proactive in finding solutions beyond that and lobbying together to make things move. Of course we have to work by some rules, but we will work to push past boundaries too. It's not all in the hands of politicians; there are some actions that we can take together.'
Wide Days 2019, Edinburgh, Thu 11–Sat 13 Apr. Showcase gigs are at Teviot Row House and La Belle Angele, Fri 12 Apr. Festival Takeover, The Mash House and La Belle Angele, Sat 13 Apr.
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