Much of the joy at festivals comes from discovery: whether that’s meeting new people and making friends for life (or, at least, a night) or stumbling on a brilliant new band you’ve never heard of before. But how do those bands and artists end up on your favourite festival bills every summer? Well, ESNS Exchange, the European Talent Exchange Program has a large part to do with it.
The famous ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) festival, which traditionally takes place in the Netherlands every year, invites festival bookers and promoters across the continent to feast on new talent, and start amassing their lineups for the following summer. Several of the acts who’ve succeeded through the ETEP program – the winners are based on the number of festivals they were subsequently booked by – have gone on to become huge stars across the globe, primarily from their domination of festival appearances.
As the festival returns for 2022, alas in an online capacity one again, NME reflects on the artists that used ESNS as a stepping stone to even greater successes.
Midway through her 10-song set, AURORA deployed a breathtaking rendition of David Bowie’s seminal ‘Life On Mars?’ for the first time, which showed off her nimble, powerful vocal. As the Norwegian singer-songwriter and producer’s career has progressed, the cover has become a staple of her incredible live shows, and she has even performed it on The Howard Stern Show, which marked her US TV debut.
With the buzzy level of hype that surrounded this Stockport gang at the start of 2016, their appearance at Eurosonic kicked off what would quickly become their breakout year. Performing with the same confidence and finesse as headliners, the strength of their live sound was cemented as the band aired material from their eponymous debut album, which shot straight to Number One in the UK Albums Chart seven months later.
As energetic and versatile live as he is on record, Rejjie Snow’s Eurosonic show served as a launchpad for the Dublin-born rapper to hit up even bigger festival stages in the years that followed. He toured his flawless debut album, 2018’s ‘Dear Annie’ – which saw him explore a colourful mix of jazz and neo-soul stylings – throughout that summer, appearing at the likes of the mighty Pukkelpop, Sónar and Spektrum along the way.
The Bristol punks went on to have a monumental year, dropping their celebrated debut album ‘Brutalism’ and delivering explosive sets at the likes of Roskilde and Dour. The band have crafted their chaotic early sound into a further three remarkable records, and have appeared on three NME covers that have explored their thrilling trajectory. 2022 will mark the culmination of their journey so far, with four sold-out shows at London’s O2 Brixton Academy in the diary.
With her empowering pop anthems, slick choreography and crystalline live vocals, Sigrid’s set was fun-filled and uplifting. The recent NME cover star went on to build a loyal, adoring and international following, which propelled her 2019 debut album, ‘Sucker Punch’ into the Top Ten of the UK Albums Chart. Its follow-up is due in 2022, and the 25-year-old will support her forthcoming record with a huge UK and European arena tour in the spring.
Up until Eurosonic 2018, Altin Gün were a relatively well-kept secret. The Amsterdam-based band – who met by chance in 2016 through social media – had only been playing live for just over a year prior to the festival. The four-piece’s lush and expansive blend of traditional Turkish folk sounds with elements of psych, G-funk and rock made for a captivating performance, and they’ve continued to build on their live reputation via a wealth of high-demand headline shows across Europe.
By the time of their appearance at 2019’s edition, the Amsterdam gang were starting to hit the right notes with listeners all across Europe, particularly in the UK, where they landed frequent plays on BBC 6 Music. Six months later – and following the release of their cracking debut album, ‘Boat’ – the band opened the legendary John Peel tent at Glastonbury with a fizzing set of indie-rock goodness. A dream start for any band.
London band Black Midi were still an unknown entity when they hit Eurosonic in 2019; the buzz had been established, but releases and live shows were still rather sparse. Whatever they showed at the festival worked, as the band have since garnered regular bookings for both tastemaking festivals and rock music’s most beloved gatherings. Their dizzying two albums – 2019’s ‘Schlagenheim’, 2021’s ‘Cavalcade’ – owe themselves to the experimental early shows at festivals like Eurosonic.
Los Bitchos were perfect for a festival like Eurosonic when they performed in 2020; much like the audience in front of them, the band had convened from countries all over the world in the pursuit of making and sharing their diverse tastes and inspirations. They’ve since landed in London for their home, and enlisted Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapronos to produce their slick debut album, out next year.
No two Squid shows are ever the same, and therein lies the appeal of such a creative, confounding group. In spite of the pandemic, their post-Eurosonic career has seen them land a Top 5 record with their debut ‘Bright Green Field’, their first NME cover in May and toured extensively in the UK, Europe and recently the US.
For the first time, Eurosonic’s 2021 edition took place entirely online, with free virtual sets available for fans to scratch their new music itch during difficult times. Alicia Edelweiss, however, used the new circumstances to put on a bewitching set from her home in Vienna, Austria and managed to land four festival bookings in spite of a thoroughly wonky year.
The Dutch artist similarly knew how to harness the power of live streams for her own gain, landing several bookings following her appearance. Much of it will be down to her performance of ‘Groter Dan Ik’ (‘Bigger Than Me’), in which she makes an impassioned plea for people to put aside their fears and tackle the climate crisis we find ourselves in.