TALLINN - What are the chances that Her Majesty, the Queen of England would officially open Reading Festival? Slim. And President Obama, Coachella? Probably less again. So, what does it tell you about Tallinn Music Week, that Estonia’s president opened the festival last year? The first assumption should be that Tallinn Music Week is not your typical festival.
How is the Tallinn Music Week different from others? Well, it is one of the biggest indoor music festivals in the Baltic-Nordic region, but equally, it’s one of the most important annual music industry conferences in the region.
The festival fulfills two invaluable functions: it is both an effective networking platform for industry professionals, and an opportunity for musicians and bands in the line-up to be noticed by international and local talent-spotters and media. Although it’s described as a week long festival, the entire array of events is set to take place over a three-day period.
Tallinn Music Week brings together around 800 key music industry players; the artist line-up presents more than 200 Estonian and international acts from diverse musical genres, attracting an enthusiastic audience of nearly 20,000 music lovers from Estonia and its neighboring countries.
TMW is primarily a multi-genre festival. Performances are set to include virtually anything, from underground and avant-garde to pop, rock, classical music and every sub-genre between. Now in its sixth year, the festival will present 200 cross-genre bands from Estonia and across Europe in Tallinn’s best music clubs and concert venues.
The two-day music conference promises to address the industry’s pressing issues, including a wide range of topics, from local cultural policy and regional cooperation to hands-on artist management tips and global music industry business models.
Since 2012, conference has included a pitching session for innovative music products and services to an international jury of specialists and potential investors.
Each year’s conference also hosts a “celebrity talk” with a music industry legend.
And, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ traditional opening speech of Tallinn Music Week is always a treat to look forward to.
The festival makes a point of appealing to, and appearing for Tallinn’s population through a series of open and available events. They include: the citystage program – free intimate pop-up concerts and special sets from festival acts in cafes, galleries, bookshops and other public places; TMW Talks – a series of public interviews and discussions around music in Tallinn’s cozy cafe’s; and Tastes – a handpicked selection of the town’s best restaurants, cafes and eateries that offer special menus and discounts to festival guests.
The success of the festival is easily gauged from the figures. TMW 2013 featured: 33 stages, 233 artists from 19 countries, 17 038 festival visitors, 748 delegates, 367 Estonian delegates, 381 foreign delegates, 65 043 unique homepage visits from 122 countries.
New and promising Estonian artists make up the majority of the acts. Although a significant proportion of the line-up is from neighboring countries, Scandinavia and elsewhere. At least 30 percent of the programming is international.
The festival has never planned on only putting on unsigned and unestablished acts; its priority is to put on acts who are interesting and current, both for the Estonian and Baltic music industry.
Interestingly, TMW does not pay performance fees or cover travel costs to any of the local or international acts. Within a festival that has no headliners, but attempts to create equal opportunities to all the approximately 200 acts, it believes the same conditions should apply to absolutely everyone. TMW believes it should pay exactly the same amount to every single artist in the program. Paying any sum to every band would instantly mean it could not afford to make the festival happen at all.
The festival has attracted the attention of Tiit Paananen, CEO of Skype in Estonia and critics from major international publications. Helienne Lindvall, Swedish song-writer, wrote for the Guardian that “It was clear right from the start that last week’s Tallinn Music Week was not your ordinary music festival – and Estonia not your average country.”
The showcase festival begins on Thursday, March 27. The conference program runs Friday and Saturday, March 28-29: seminar panels 10AM – 5PM, festival 7PM – 03AM. TMW is organized by the privately owned company Musiccase. The event is financed with a help of various public supporters and private sponsors.