Off The Record: Sziget Festival
18th July 2019
World - World Team
The 2019 event runs from 7-13 August and is packed with heavyweight acts from across the world, from Ed Sheeran to Post Malone, from The National to The 1975. Scrolling down its line-up is a mouth-watering teaser, with every style of music catered for across its many stages.
ibis MUSIC is proud to be part of the ibis presents Europe stage, hosting a one-day celebration on Wednesday 7 August with nine up-and-coming acts from around the world that our team of judges hand-picked from our 44 global ibis MUSIC gigs. Across the other days, from Thursday 8 – Tuesday 13 August, the ibis presents Europe stage will host a selection of the finest new European acts, from Spanish flamenco to Swiss pop.
With such a colossal music schedule to program, how does the team at Sziget select its line-up, and what can up-&-coming acts do to increase their chances of joining the party? To find out more, we spoke to Márk ‘Marka’ Bóna, who joined the Sziget team in 2004 as a Program Coordinator and who now programs the Europe Stage. Over his years at the festival, he’s worked with many superstar acts including Wu-Tang Clan, 30 Seconds to Mars, and David Guetta.
How do you select the artists to play Sziget?
There are various parts of this process. We have an international booker who’s in contact with the larger agencies and starts on the line-up very early to negotiate the best date, slot and (of course!) fee for the desired artists who’re on tour. On my side, the booking part of the Europe Stage is a longer process as I’m in contact with the various international offices of Sziget, which propose bands with a solid fanbase in their country and who’re keen to play abroad. As well as being great live performers and a great fit for the festival, it’s important they must be active on social media in order to generate buzz around their performance, which helps promote Sziget around the world. The other vital phase of my job is research as I visit showcase festivals across various countries and keep my eyes and ears open all the time.
What advice would you have for artists looking to get booked for festivals?
I’d suggest participating at showcase festivals, which can provide a very mixed overall experience for any performer but are very useful as there’ll likely be a mix of new people they’ll reach as a participant, as well as the networking opportunities if there’s a conference element to the event.
Advice for your first time
What advice would you give bands who’ve never played a festival show?
Always be professional and well-prepared, and communicate promptly. It’s important to have a good rider [the documentation listing your band’s requirements] and try to arrange your show as thoroughly as you can with the production team in advance. For the performance, not only rehearse your show but also your sound-check so that everything works properly… and it’s important not to stress too much if things aren’t working out right away!
What can up-&-coming bands do to make their sets as engaging as possible for a festival audience?
To play a festival as an up-&-coming band is unique; it’s closer to a showcase. You have to really perform to the best of yourself to draw in and engage the audience in front of you. Your song selection needs to be a ‘best of’ and don’t talk too much in between songs… well unless your singer is the coolest cat around! :)
How does playing a festival differ from a normal gig?
The main difference is that bands play in front of ‘strangers’. It’s not a standard show with their existing fanbase but performing to a mix of music fans who might not be familiar with the artist. Playing to a new audience can be a great feeling for any artist, and we really enjoy it when they perform on the Europe Stage and visitors from their country appear to support them even if they’re not all fans. That’s a great feeling!
Keeping it fresh
You have hundreds of artists play every year at Sziget - how do you keep the line-up fresh?
There’re so many new bands that appear every year, which makes it easy in one respect though it always means more acts to check out! It’s an easier, faster process for artists to become well-known nowadays so it’s even more important for our team to listen and filter them as many acts are only popular for a very short time.
Do you use Spotify to identity acts to play Sziget?
Absolutely. I’m always using Spotify to find new music using its various recommendation tools. I’m always using the app to make playlists, and checking out other key playlists too.
Which new acts playing this year are you excited about?
There’s always plenty but most likely I’ll miss most of them unfortunately! Some of the new acts playing the ibis presents Europe Stage I’m excited about are Sophie Hunger, Ivan Dorn, Naaz, and Anya, but there’re also many more established acts I’m also hoping to see.
Discover more about Sziget Festival at szigetfestival.com.