'Being human is to come together. So the live scene won't disappear'
EVAN MURRAY in conversation with PETER ASTEDT of Live at heart festival, Sweden.
Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He started his own record label, Dead Frog Records, at the age of fifteen in 1990. The label is still running and is one of the oldest in Sweden.
In 2008, he started the company Musichelp Sweden AB which is a service company for people/artists in the music industry. In 2011, Musichelp expanded into the export of Swedish music by working with leading showcase festivals all over the world.
In 2015, Musichelp became part owner of Live at Heart, Scandinavia’s biggest showcase festival which is held in the first week of September in Örebro since 2009. Over the years he has started several companies in different fields. The newest company is Discover Sensation 2019 under Musichelp's umbrella.
Peter has spoken at the biggest and the most influential international music conferences around the world. Songs he has worked with having over a billion streams on Spotify alone. He manages 3 acts (including Pop sensation The Magnettes), he looks for talent to his publishing agency and book artists to over 15 different stages around the world.
Peter also writes the popular music blog musichelpblog
Can you tell us what the status is for LIVE AT HEART at this time? Give us an inside idea of how things have been shaping up for the festival.
I can probably feel blessed since the Corona issue hasn’t struck me hard personally. But, I can see many friends struggling. One thing that I have observed is that the businesses that were already struggling are disappearing the fastest in a crisis like this. Times like this, you need good leadership, and if it’s not there, the whole ship sinks.
Live at Heart is still up in the air. We have a couple of different scenarios to work from. It depends all on when and how the government releases the epidemic control.
Right now, Sweden allows holding 50 people together with some restrictions. We have seen that some other countries now release to 100. This will affect the festival. If it’s only 50 still, in September, we need to do it as an online event. If the number is much higher which we hope, then we can do a smaller but good festival. But even if all restrictions were lifted in august, it will be too little time to make it as big as it used to be.
One big question is how traveling is going to be now. Which airlines are still open? Which hotels are operating? And, finally, which venues are still there?
The festival must be done in a very fast way with a short time to make decisions and not so much planning. Okay, that is how we did the festival through the first four years, so we can do it. But, it will be smaller than usual. Both bands and speakers. One thing we did new is that we kept the submissions open longer.
At the same time, I just got involved with starting up a new showcase festival in Sweden. It has no name yet, but will be in Norrköping, 18 to 20 of February 2021. Even with that amount of time to prepare we also need to have different planning for a different outcome of restrictions. Here though we have updates that are like thresholds of different scenarios.
What are the biggest challenges the festival is facing right now?
Staff reduction. We need to see what is essential for the festival to operate. As I mentioned, it's the same as the knowledge of which venues that will survive. And, what the travel restrictions will be like. But, it really depends on the festival. Live At Heart sells a lot of tickets before x-mas and then a lot a month before the festival. We are not in the ticket sale frenzy right now.
But, many festivals have a problem to get the tickets sold, people are more or less just waiting. Also, a problem is, if you have bands from abroad on the line-up. Is it even possible to travel to your country at that time? Will the restriction ban of the country be opened? The biggest problem is that we lose time that we need for planning, and we don't have it.
Any plans in place, in case the scenario repeats?
No, my guess is that it will be later. It can’t be implemented until you really see the whole picture of what an epidemic can do. To see how everything that will be affected, you have to see it afterward. It’s too early to know otherwise.
What do you see changing in the music industry with the impact of the virus?
My guess is that quite a lot of alliances or patterns will be broken. Big companies will lose staff. The staff will open new companies and more festivals, live venues, you name it. Eventually there will be more opportunities. At the same time, these same people that walk away, they walk away with a lot of network possibilities and knowledge. This will affect big companies hard. Small companies might have the effect that they have to close since cashflow is bad.
It will work in a way that the people who can wait out the epidemic will end up with a lot of opportunities. Then, we will need to be flexible to be able to grab the new opportunities to make them fit into your agenda.
You have to be flexible since I think the audience might change some of their patterns of consuming music. Which is hard to tell right now.
From your point of view, where is the live music industry headed?
A journalist in Sweden wrote that the music industry was too dependent on the live scene and thought it should be solved by the streaming companies. It’s like saying that the restaurants are too dependent on people who want to eat or barbershops are too dependent on people who need a haircut.
The live scene is the one that has been on the longest. If you look at how long people have loved music and played it live, compared to how long we had recordings, yes recordings are a very, very short period. The live industry aspect is more than 50% of the revenue stream in the business in all countries, in some much more.
Being human is to come together. So, the live scene won’t disappear. It might transform a bit. But it will still be there. The digital solutions you see that people are pointing at, like doing streamed shows or similar. Yes, they are good, but just a complement to the already existing live scene.
My guess that the live scene will be adding smaller venues to complement the bigger ones. Same with festivals.
EVAN MURRAY is Event Co-ordinator at Live at Heart, Newfoundland, Export Development Officer at Vision 360 (Canada) and Canadian Coordinator at Live at Heart, Sweden. He is also International Music Consultant at Wonderwall Media, India.