MXD continues to explore the music environments outside of the big and most obvious export markets. The time has come for Belgium and we asked Jochen De Vos from Cutting Edge magazine to give us a little insight into the Belgian music market.
Jochen is a music management graduate and the chief music editor at Cutting Edge magazine since four years. Cutting Edge is one of the biggest music media outlets in Belgium. Jochen also does PR and promotion for Belgian, Dutch and international artists and music organizations entering the Belgian market. We thought he would be the perfect person to ask a few questions about the Belgian media field and gigging opportunitites in the area!
The Belgian market (and country in general) is characterized by the fact that it’s split up in the North-Western Flemish part (Flanders) and the South-Eastern French part (Wallonia) – with a very small German minority in the far east. According to Jochen, this is also reflected in the relatively small media field, mostly because of the language barriers: ”There are probably about six popular music websites or blogs in Flanders, including Cutting Edge, Indiestyle and Disco Naïveté.”
Also the radio field is separated into two major parts. For rock- and indiebands Studio Brussel is the most important radio station in Flanders. In Wallonia the equivalent would be Pure FM. Other important national radio stations are Radio 1 (folk, singer-songwriter, classic rock), Q-Music (pop, “commercial” music) and MNM (pop, edm, etc). All three of them are Flemish stations.
To add to the mix there are several student stations operating from different cities, of which Jochen mentions Urgent.fm (Ghent), Radio Scorpio (Leuven) and Stereo03 (Antwerp).
Jochen also suggests it’s not only the language that is dividing the Belgian music market.
”Musicwise, there are generally more opportunities in Flanders. But Wallonia has been developing a lot the last years – the city of Luik in particular. New venues are opening and more bands are going to play over there, which is a good thing.”When entering the Belgian market as a newcomer, Jochen recommends a step-by-step approach to promotion.
”Just start with research and have someone explain the Belgian market to you. After that, speaking in terms of promotion, try to build up a portfolio to convince the bigger media. Start with the Belgian blogs and websites and go to the student radios. Use the coverage to go to the magazines and newspapers afterwards and then national radio.”
A key issue is being present and having a story to tell, he says. ”We love stories, so do something with that! Something about why you’re in Belgium playing shows and why you’re around. People need to see you, hear you and know about your story!”
Jochen says it goes without saying that hiring local PR will definitely have huge benefits, especially when pitching your music to labels and booking agencies and when trying to get booked at bigger venues.
How do bookers book in Belgium? Where should you play?
”When you come to Belgium you should definitely try to play in one of the bigger cities. Probably Brussels is still the best place to play since that’s the center of Belgium and people from both the Flemish and French parts of Belgium are able to come to the show. If that’s not possible, try to arrange something either in Antwerp or Ghent. Other valuable options are Leuven, Hasselt and Luik.””Since Belgium is a very small country, all cities are very close to each other, but there are definitely more options in the bigger
cities. Try to play shows in both the Flemish and French parts!”
“It is very common that booking agencies are booking for both Belgium and The Netherlands. But maybe it’s more common for international artists than for Belgian or Dutch artists. Some important agencies in Belgium and The Netherlands are Belmont Bookings, Friendly Fire, Peter Verstraelen and of course… Live Nation.”
Many people tend to see Nordic and Scandinavian artists as something special. Jochen agrees that also in Belgium, there’s a special haze surrounding Scandinavian artists.
”In many cases it will be an advantage for a band to be from Scandinavia since it has became a quality label over the last years in Belgium, mostly thanks to artists such as The Knife, Lykke Li, Mø, The Radio Dept. and Mew. The Nordics are also famous for the metal music, thanks to artists such as Finntroll, Turisas, Sabaton and King Diamond. A lot of them are always playing yearly at Graspop, our biggest metal festival.”
A great place to start getting introduced to the Belgian music industry is Glimps Festival.
”Glimps is the national showcase festival in Belgium. It takes place in December in the centre of Ghent. It is similar to Eurosonic and many other showcase festivals, but the real difference is that the whole Belgian music industry is attending the event. Each year there is a central theme and country, and yes, this year the focus country is Denmark. So a lot of Danish bands will be coming over to Belgium this year! Playing at the festival might be the easiest way to introduce your band to the Belgian music industry.”
Find Jochen on Twitter: @jochendv