Eurosonic Noorderslag

To celebrate Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2020 kicking off today, we take a behind the scenes look at the showcase festival and music conference.

Bekki Bemrose
  • By Bekki Bemrose
  • 15 Jan 2020
  • min read
To celebrate Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2020 kicking off today, we take a behind the scenes look at the showcase festival and music conference.

Founded in 1987, ESNS take place in Groningen, Netherlands and attracts over 4,000 professional delegates, including 400 international festivals, and showcases around 350 European artists for over 40,000 visitors total.

The first three days are referred to as the Eurosonic festival and features artists from all over Europe.

The last day of the event is referred to as the Noorderslag festival and takes place in De Oosterpoort, featuring only Dutch artists. The day also includes the announcement of the winner of the Buma Cultuur Pop Award.

Over all four days the conference is held with 150 panels, keynotes, interviews, workshops, dinners, pitches, parties, presentations and meetings on the latest developments in the European and international music, media, production and interactive industry.

Here, ESNS’ head of program and booker Robert Meijerink and head of conference Ruud Berends give some insight into how the festival is curated, what they hope to achieve with the event and advice for budding Eurosonic performers…

Booking a diverse lineup and curating an innovative conference…

Robert: ESNS works with submissions: Artists can apply themselves via the website – – from 1 May onwards until the deadline of 1 September.

The booking team reviews and considers all the applicants and books the festival until mid-November. Besides the applications, Eurosonic Noorderslag closely works together with the individual members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in order to have around 35 acts from different countries in Europe.

The acts are chosen and booked in cooperation with the individual members, for example, Studio Brussels (Belgium), BBC Radio 1 + BBC Radio 6, 3FM (Netherlands), 40 Principales (Spain), Radio France etc.

Apart from our collaboration with the EBU partners, we closely work together with Export Offices and the partners of ETEP. Their information is important to the bookers. We use this information as a resource, but the partners are also actively involved in order to promote the confirmed acts.

The aim of ESNS to give an overview of different music styles from Europe and connect this to the buyers/media. The bookings of ESNS are diverse: from the underground to mainstream and back. From acoustic/fok, pop/rock, neo classical/ambient to loud and from electronic/dance to soul/urban and hiphop/jazz.  It’s all about music from the Conference during the day and the live shows in the evening.

Ruud: The conference programme is curated in close cooperation with all our European partners; a.o. Yourope, EBU, IMMF, Impala, EMEE and is based on a mix of input and suggestions of the wider music industry, delegates data and the current status and issues of the international music industry. The ESNS conference discusses industry topics including ESNS Tech, EPIC (European Production and Innovation Conference), ESNS Loud and of course the wider general topics.

Offering artists an unrivalled platform and unique insight…

Robert: The main mission of ESNS Conference and Festival is to promote and stimulate European repertoire inside Europe and outside Europe. ESNS artists play in front of professionals and delegates who are active in booking festivals and venues. Besides live bookings, it happens that managers use ESNS to get the team together (promoters, agent, publishers, record deal etc).

Acts like Dua Lipa, Christine and the Queens, Calvin Harris, Royal Blood, Nils Frahm, Batida, Sigrid who all played ESNS in an early stage of their career. Last year we had successful and exciting acts like Fountaines DC, Girl In Red, Flohio, 5KHD, Pip Blom, Iris Gold, Black Midi, Mavi Phoenix, Yegor Zabelov, Rendes Vous, Whispering Sons and The Murder Capital.

Ruud: ESNS is a not-for-profit Foundation and a 100 percent showcase Festival with music from Europe. That’s is unique. The Conference is one of the largest in Europe and consists of around 130 panels, keynotes, workshops, open and closed meetings, dinners, presentations and pitches. Our around 4000 delegates are all under 1 roof, in 1 building and besides the fact that most of our panels are very well attended the delegates take networking and doing business to another level.

Helping build careers across Europe and internationally…

Ruud: The European Talent Exchange Programme (ETEP) is an initiative of the Eurosonic Noorderslag Foundation to stimulate the circulation of European repertoire on festivals, radio, and media in Europe. Together with 130 main music festivals from both inside and outside of Europe, 27 European public radio stations united in the EBU and supported by the international music press, we help emerging European artists to cross borders in Europe and build international careers.

Since the start of the ETEP programme in 2003, a total of 4001 shows by 1445 European artists from 34 countries were presented at 122 ETEP festivals (2003 – 2018). In 2018, the ETEP has generated a record-breaking number of shows by European artists on festivals across Europe – a total of 441 shows by 161 European artists in 2018. ETEP continues to stimulate cross-border success of European artists and helps build artists’ European and international careers.

The ETEP together with their partners and supporters, like the European Commission, Sena Performers, and Buma Cultuur, play an essential part in the European festival industry. In the network are included also European export offices which together with Eurosonic Noorderslag and Yourope create a link between ETEP and festivals across Europe.

In previous years acts like Ásgeir, Aurora, Benjamin Clementine, Birth of Joy, Coely, Ewert and the Two Dragons, Hozier, Ibeyi, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Jungle, MØ, Milky Chance, Seinabo Sey, SOAK, Vök, Years & Years played ‘or will play’ at a lot of festivals, kick-starting their European careers with help from the ETEP programme.

To play Eurosonic, you need to be prepared…

Robert: Please make sure that you’re ready to play live shows. Gain live experience, try to get local and national attention and/or maybe some success before you apply. Ideally, you are in the process of releasing music as this always helps to promote your band/music. Hopefully ESNS is the kickstarter of a (long) and successful career.

Ruud: Artists should understand that they sell a product and run a company and should be very careful of how they build (hire) their team.

Challenges the music industry is currently facing…

Ruud: A mix of making sure that the artist is getting paid way better, the increasing and alarming takeover of the live music industry by huge investment companies, and the fact that we are getting too expensive for younger and poorer parts of our audiences.