Following the dissemination of a press release from a group of eight reggae festival promoters across Europe, which painted a grim picture of Jamaican music being beset by declining attendance and unrealistically high artiste fees, one promoter has broken ranks.
The board of the Uppsala Reggae Festival has taken serious issue with the release and has since issued its own statement. The Uppsala board said the September 23 press release “was shared with Jamaican media prematurely” and did not fully represent the view of all eight reggae festival promoters who met last month in Benicassim, Spain, to “share some of the common challenges reggae festivals across Europe are facing today and how we can tackle these together”.
The eight reggae festivals which met in September are: Rototom Sunsplash (Spain); Summerjam Festival (Germany); Reggae Geel (Germany); No Logo BZH (France); Reggae Sundance (The Netherlands); Reggae Lake Festival (The Netherlands); Uppsala (Sweden); and Uprising Festival (Slovakia).
According to the press release, “audience attendance at dedicated reggae festivals is declining”. “Outside the festival season, there are fewer venue shows played by reggae artistes. They don’t tour as intensively as they used to,” the release said. It also pointed out that “the fees proposed have skyrocketed and don’t reflect the potential audience attraction artistes generate”.
“As a result, promoters are obligated to pay fees that are not proportionate to ticket sales, resulting in exploding artistic budgets and increased operational costs.”
But Uppsala, in a separate release this week, stated, “We unequivocally disagree with the points concerning artistes’ fees and distance ourselves from those comments, and we from Uppsala take a firm stand against it. The statement was not finalised and was not approved by us. So, it was sent to the media without any mandate.” ?
In a brief interview, Yared Tekeste, founder and promoter of Uppsala, explained that he was in transit and unable to speak on the phone. But he urged The Star to “quote extensively” from the release which he sent to the media this week, and which also appears on his and Uppsala’s Instagram pages.
The Uppsala release stated, “We want to make it clear that the views about a 50 per cent drop in attendance and doubled, or tripled, artiste fees are Ms [Danielle] Pater of Reggae Geel’s views alone and does not represent all eight festivals.”
The Star reached out to Pater, artistic director of Reggae Geel, who sent out the first press release. She declined to address the matter, simply stating that, “We as festivals will come together first before further speaking to the press.”
The Uppsala release stated that on September 6, they were a part of “a very fruitful and lively meeting with seven other European reggae festivals hosted by our peers at Rototom”. It noted that while artiste fees were on the agenda, there was no general agreement.
The highlight of our meeting was the birth of the idea to create a European reggae festival association to strengthen the European reggae scene and provide a platform for [up-and-coming] artistes and also legends. This is the direction we believe in and would have wanted the initial press release to focus on,” the release stated.
Uppsala is already promoting its next staging which takes place July 26-27, 2024.