'We're all in this together'
Organisers of 8 European reggae festivals meet to discuss future
Representatives from Rototom Sunsplash (Spain), Summerjam Festival (Germany), Reggae Geel (Belgium), No Logo BZH (France), Reggae Sundance (the Netherlands), Uppsala Reggae Festival (Sweden), Reggae Lake Festival (the Netherlands), and Uprising Festival (Slovakia) who attended the meetings in Spain.

Tackling challenges, finding solutions, and a common approach to safeguard the future of reggae music on the European continent were the agenda items for a recent round of meetings of organisers of eight European reggae festivals in Benicassm, Spain.

The call to dialogue was issued on September 6 and the industry players gathered to discuss their mutual vision and future in the post-pandemic entertainment world.

After being struck by the pandemic, and currently hit by the economic crisis and the increase in costs caused by the war in Ukraine, the group of attendees looked for ways to strengthen each other and provide the European reggae scene with high-quality and authentic festivals.

"We can't ignore the elephant in the room: Audience attendance at dedicated reggae festivals is declining. Outside the festival season, there are fewer venue shows played by reggae artistes. They don't tour as intensively as they used to. At the same time, the fees proposed have skyrocketed and don't reflect the potential audience attraction artistes generate. As a result, promoters are obligated to pay fees that are not proportionate to ticket sales, resulting in exploding artistic budgets and increased operational costs," read a joint statement issued by the festival coordinator hailing from Spain, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, among other European states.

Since the pandemic, new styles like Afrobeat, trap, and urban are conquering the new generation audience with strong marketing campaigns and replacing, in many countries, spots historically belonging to reggae and dancehall. This formed part of the raison d'être for the conference.

"We had many lively, productive, and positive discussions rooted in a joint commitment to build a European reggae scene for the future," read the joint statement, which announced the foundations to form a European Reggae Festival Association.

"This association could be an idea-sharing platform, focusing on shared challenges [such as] promoting dialogue between festivals and artistes on the current market situation; facilitating collaborations between Europe's reggae festivals; helping artistes to build their live audience more actively, instead of only their online following, by joint support; designing specific joint actions to support reggae music; and finding agreements, settlements, and regulations with major principles with artists/management and festival/promoters, based on professionalism, quality, and liability, and to share the principles of unity, solidarity, and respect," the group shared.

By coming together to discuss shared challenges and the future, the group wish to to set a higher bar and give reggae music the future and audience attendance it deserves.

"We're all in this together; we're working hard to promote the music we love dearly, and we are sure addressing these issues is the way forward in the years to come. We're confident that other reggae festivals in Europe will be ready to join in," the group agreed.

Better organisational capabilities, working together more closely, and professionalising the reggae music scene in Europe are crucial for future success, the group concluded.

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