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How a niche festival became one of the most popular in our country

2019-07-11T22:16:34.296Z

With 75,000 visitors, North Sea Jazz, which takes place this weekend, is one of the largest and most popular festivals in our country. This high number of visitors in the niche market of jazz, soul and world music raises the question: what is the secret behind the success of the Rotterdam festival?


With 75,000 visitors, North Sea Jazz, which takes place this weekend, is one of the largest and most popular festivals in our country. This high number of visitors in the niche market of jazz, soul and world music raises the question: what is the secret behind the success of the Rotterdam festival?

Months before North Sea Jazz starts in Rotterdam Ahoy, there is no longer a ticket for the festival. And that for the eighth year in a row.

Festival director Jan Willem Luyken believes that the basis for the current success was already laid during the first edition in the mid-1970s, when the festival was still located in the Concertgebouw in The Hague.

North Sea Jazz (Photo: Stijn Ghijsen)

First festival with multiple music genres

"Founder Paul Acket was a very smart man, creatively and professionally," he explains. "He was a real 'jazz cat' with a history in the rock 'n' roll world and he was the first in the Netherlands to dare to program several music genres together. This happened already abroad, but because the climate here is often erratic , he decided to turn it into an indoor festival, which was completely unique at the time. "

Acket mainly booked jazz, swing and rhythm and blues acts, but supplemented the line-up with world stars such as Ray Charles, Van Morrison and James Brown. It turned out to be a golden handle.

Decline in ticket sales

But when the festival moved from the Hofstad to Rotterdam in 2006, there was a kink in the cable "That was just as exciting", Luyken looks back. "Our number of visitors declined by ten thousand and the decline continued in the crisis years. But in the end the transition did us good. We were forced to reinvent ourselves as a festival."

North Sea Jazz certainly did not undergo a metamorphosis, but focused more on booking upcoming talent. Kanye West, Adele, Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monáe were already on the festival poster at an early stage in their career.

Kendrick Lamar at North Sea Jazz in 2013. (Photo: North Sea Jazz)

Balance between depth and entertainment

"We have very good programmers who know the market and always look for the perfect balance between depth and entertainment. North Sea Jazz stands for quality and I think our visitors appreciate that the most. Many of them blindly buy a ticket because they know that programming always works out well. "

In addition to a diverse line-up, North Sea Jazz also has a very mixed audience. Something the festival director is also proud of.

"We are an event for all ages and the most colorful festival in the Netherlands. That's because we have fourteen stages with one hundred and fifty artists, so there is always something going on that appeals to you. You can move from an intense free jazz concert to a singer-songwriter and from a classical jazz trio to world acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire or Toto. "

Pay extra for a 'plus concert'

The large number of artists and stages does entail a considerable cost. A three-day ticket for the festival costs 230 euros without camping possibilities and if you want to go to a 'plus concert' there is an additional 20 to 30 euros.

"This is purely because they are seated concerts, where we expect large crowds and so the real fans can guarantee a place. In addition, these are exclusive artists that we cannot program without the surcharge."

Music journalist Gijsbert Kamer has been following the festival closely for thirty years. He thinks that the transition to Rotterdam in particular has contributed considerably to the growth of North Sea Jazz.

"The location in The Hague was difficult to reach and really only suitable to go by car. In addition, the halls were small and very busy. In Ahoy, it simply feels a lot more pleasant and you can easily get there by public transport. transport."

According to Chamber, the festival is also taking part in the crossover wave that is currently flooding the musical landscape.

Janelle Monáe at North Sea Jazz in 2012. (Photo: North Sea Jazz)

Success through fading musical genres

"Musical genres are fading, making jazz, hip hop and pop increasingly intertwined. You now also see real jazz artists such as Kamasi Washington and Ezra Collective at pop festivals such as Lowlands and Down The Rabbit Hole. As long as this development continues, North will Sea benefit from it. "

The music journalist sees the future of the Rotterdam jazz festival in a bright light, although he hopes that pure jazz will always hold its place.

"It would be nice if acts like Snarky Puppy or Robert Glasper come up with even bigger projects, so that they also become real crowd pullers. Then you no longer need a band like Toto to sell tickets. In addition, I think the audience always wants to be surprised North Sea Jazz does it well every year and I hope that this also remains the ambition for the future. "

Source: nunl

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