CHRISTOF HUBER from Switzerland is the director of OPENAIR ST. GALLEN, booker of several other festivals and general secretary of YOUROPE. As one of the most important personalities in the European festival scene, he answered the questions of Daniela Derntl from FM4 in a pop-up session at WAVES VIENNA CONFERENCE 2017.
Asked at the beginning about the continuing success of OpenAir St. Gallen, Christof Huber replied that the festival brand had to be created first. But it should be one of the big goals. He emphasized the importance of creating “his” regular audience, which required a lot of communication with the festival guests. Interestingly, Huber believes that it was the existence of this regular audience that explains why this year’s festival was not sold out. If you have been sold out for years, you are in a closed loop, because you assume that the same people will come back again and again. If, for whatever reason, they suddenly come in smaller numbers for a year, it would be difficult to start conventional advertising outside the loop.
Presenter Daniela Derntl was visibly pleased to see that more than 50 percent of the guests in St. Gallen were female. This is a situation that is unthinkable at larger Austrian festivals. Huber explained that the right priorities had to be set so that women would come to festivals; for example, a focus on security, offering different products, or booking more female headliners.
„GREAT ROLE MODELS FOR BEING A STRONG WOMAN“
He would prefer to book more female artists as headliners, since he believes that this would create great role models for young audiences. But the tour schedules of the already rare female acts makes it difficult. The situation is similar with the lineups that can be offered at festivals. These always depend on the availability of a band at a certain point in time and the number of times a band appears in general.
Christof Huber was able to provide a perfect example of this: Die Toten Hosen are constantly on tour, which is justified by their continuing popularity, but that also means that they often perform as headliners at festivals. A band like Arcade Fire, on the other hand, disappears from the market again and again and then shows up with a completely new program, which creates more enthusiasm. Newcomers are indispensable for ensuring that festival lineups don’t repeat themselves, and they are an extremely important part of the curatorial process. In other words, ”The absolutely best thing for me would be for people to come to St. Gallen to discover new bands.”
THE FUTURE OF FESTIVALS AND YOUROPE
When one participant of the conference inquired about the future of festivals in general, Huber replied that the major fears weren’t terrorism or bad weather, but the loss of headliners and more and more new taxes. Since safety plays the most important role at festivals all over Europe, cooperations such as the festival association Yourope, which he himself manages, are all the more important. In this forum, operators of major festivals share their experiences regarding safety, sustainability, and other important factors. The aim is to improve the experience for visitors in general and to increase the quality of the participating festivals.
Christof Huber also thinks that festivals can and should be political. As soon as you have to deal with such a large number of visitors you take on a certain responsibility and it is all the more important to convey the right values, he said. Yourope’s take-a-stand campaign, involving more than 60 festivals, is committed to upholding European values. It is a campaign to convey respect, openness and other social liberal values to festival guests. According to Huber, this is the duty of every festival and is more important than ever. Especially in view of current political developments in Europe.
Sebastian J. Götzendorfer