The history of the iconic Eurosonic Noorderslag conference
Within the electronic music industry, the Netherlands is famed for being the home of many of the biggest artists in the world, but also for playing host to some of the best events year-round. Artists such as Tiësto, Armin van Buuren and Hardwell have all emerged from the country, illustrating why it is viewed as the hub for electronic dance music. In the Netherlands many festivals take place across the year, welcoming talents from every sub-genre of the electronic music industry, with Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) dominating as perhaps the most globally-known of them all. But, now that ADE is over, all eyes are on the next huge conference set to take place, Eurosonic Noorderslag.
Eurosonic Noorderslag is an annual four-day conference/showcase held in Groningen, Netherlands. Separated into two parts, the Eurosonic part of the festival focuses on artists from all across the European continent. Every year the event chooses one European country to focus on specifically for the first part of the conference. The second part of the festival, Noorderslag, takes place on the very last day and focuses specifically on Dutch artists. The event itself plays host to a number of awards shows where artists are rewarded for their outstanding contributions. A few of these awards shows include European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA), European Festival Awards, Buma Cultuur Pop Award, Pop Media Award, The Feather and more. With so many award ceremonies taking place across the four-day conference, it is unsurprising that the event is a major highlight on the calendars of rising stars within the music industry.
As well as award shows, the conference also plays host to performances from artists at some of Groningen’s best venues. This year’s event will see a number of global stars perform, from Sam Feldt to Elderbrook. One of the best aspects of the event is its diversity, attracting artists from every genre under the sun. The electronic music industry can often feel like a bubble that is very separated from the rest of the music industry. The Eurosonic Noorderslag conference is a great opportunity to mix with artists from other genres and make connections. Any connection you make may evolve into a collaboration in the future.
Like ADE, Eurosonic Noorderslag offers a number of exciting panels that are great learning opportunities for artists looking to expand their industry knowledge. The benefit of the Eurosonic Noorderslag conference, however, is that it focuses on the music industry as a whole rather than one genre alone. For this reason, it focuses on the bigger picture rather than just the electronic music industry. The panels focus on important subjects such as ‘how to survive from touring financially’, ‘how to grasp market trends in Europe’s music sector’, and ‘the European Union’s new policies for music’. The huge variety of panels on offer are ideal opportunities for artists to educate themselves on a range of subjects, some of which they may not have even heard about before. But how did the conference start, and when did it develop into the event we know today?
Eurosonic Noorderslag has a great history, and was first formed in 1986 under a different name, ‘The Holland-Belgium Festival’. The event was originally formed to serve as a battle between Dutch and Belgian pop bands. In 1987, following an incredibly successful 1986 edition, the festival returned, now under the name ‘Noorderslag’. However, in the 1987 event, the focus was simply on a battle between artists from the northern area of The Netherlands and the rest of the country. In 1990 the event includes a seminar for the first time, which was the first step in creating the event we know today. In 1992, the Buma Cultuur Pop Award ceremony takes place at Noorderslag, bringing even more publicity to the already notable event.
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In 1999 the event is given the name ‘Eurosonic’, and around 1800 attendees visit to watch artists from 12 different countries perform across 10 different venues in Groningen. This is when the event really hit the next level, in 2000, the event sold 2200 tickets in the pre-sale alone, selling out the event straight away. That year, 50 artists performed across 13 venues. The exponential growth of the event serves as a testament to its popularity and validity as one of the world’s best music conferences.
By 2002, over 100 artists performed across 19 venues and 25 different stages as the event grew once again. In 2007, the Grunnsonic aspect is added to the festival, allowing artists from Groningen itself to share their talents with a much bigger audience. In 2009, the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) is added to the event, with the awards ceremony taking place on the opening night. This was also the first year that the event officially became ‘Eurosonic Noorderslag’.
In 2011, the 25th anniversary of Eurosonic is celebrated by the event ‘Eurosonic Air’, with the event now lasting 4 days. In 2012, tickets for Eurosonic Noorderslag sold out within just ten minutes, an unbelievable achievement for a festival and proof that it was already globally famous. In 2013, 35,000 people attended the event, in 2014, 38,500. In 2015, 41,200 visitors of 42 different nationalities attended the event, illustrating how far and wide the event’s influence had spread. The event continues to expand with each edition, and this year it is set to take place from 16th-19th January.
Over the years, many notable acts have performed at the event, many of whom have gone on to grow into major stars. A great example of this is Dutch DJ Don Diablo who performed at the event in 2004 and has gone on to become one of the most popular artists in the electronic music industry, having hit 7th place in the DJ Mag top 100 poll in 2018. Laidback Luke is another notable inclusion, having performed at the event in 2003 and spiralled upward in popularity ever since.
Across other genres, the festival has also played host to Franz Ferdinand, Crystal Fighters, James Blake, White Lies, Jessie Ware, Bastille, Jake Bugg, Hozier and Anne-Marie, who just recently became a major vocalist within the electronic music industry after collaborating with Marshmello. With so many major artists performing at the event, it is evidently clear just how well-respected it is within the music industry. But why is it such an important conference?
The event has founded itself upon being a platform for aspiring talent to truly shine. Most other festivals around the world focus predominantly on providing a lineup filled with artists who have already reached their peak. Eurosonic Noorderslag has always prided itself on not conforming to the norm and focusing on artists’ talent rather than their reputation. As well as elevating rising stars, the conference also provides an abundance of opportunities for artists to learn more about the music industry. Many artists fall into the trap of thinking that their focus should only be on the creation of music. For artists in the early stages of their careers, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Early on, artists need to function in a variety of roles in order to succeed, from social media marketing to PR.
The event also provides a lot of invaluable networking opportunities. Industry professionals from some of the world’s most influential brands assemble at the annual conference, providing the perfect opportunity to network and connect. As an artist, being seen is much more important than many realise, so making sure to attend events like Eurosonic Noorderslag is vital in order to gain relevancy.
This year the Eurosonic Noorderslag is set to take place from 16th-19th January in Groningen. Tickets for the event are still available, so make sure to secure yours in order to be a part of the legendary event. This year’s festivities will include performances from Sam Feldt, Elderbrook, B-Complex and many more. Plus, once again there will be a number of stellar panels featuring a number of the industry’s leading figures. Find out more here.