Why the European music industry should focus on collective distribution channels not separate live bands

The best bands in every country should have the chance to tour Europe.

That’s why many countries have set up export policies to help promote the best local bands. There’s a whole network of European showcase festivals set up for that reason. Showcase festivals are basically a live catalogue of bands so international bookers can discover what’s on offer.

And in theory these bookers will then invite the best bands to their venue.

But there’s a flaw in that logic.

Venues cannot book bands out of the blue.

For a band to draw a crowd, there needs to be a story and ‘here’s an unknown Finnish band’ is just not good enough. Smaller bands don’t draw crowds to venues abroad. And most venues will choose not to book them for that reason.

So a lot of the effort of showcase festivals is in vain.

I’ve written about this before: for historical reasons every European venue knows every detail about American and British bands but no one can name the top three bands in a neighbouring country. It is this lack of knowledge that makes it harder for non-Anglo band to tour Europe.

Instead of promoting individual bands, European export policies for live music should therefore focus on building distribution channels.

Instead of investing in showcasing separate bands, it is far more worthwhile to actively build touring networks in neighbouring countries. This means setting up international collaborations between venues, booking agents and media with the specific ambition of promoting bands from the neighbouring countries.

Give a band an international show and they get to play for one night.

But teach the European industry how to set up international tour circuits and bands can tour for a lifetime.