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Music Market Check – Czech Republic

Linus Lassus
Stepan Suchochleb

Štěpán Suchochleb, managing director at Nouvelle Prague.

Czech music industry festival Nouvelle Prague was arranged for the first time back in 2013 as the first ever Czech showcase festival for music, and the event is now in its third year with the 2015 edition kicking off on 6th November.

We got in touch with Štěpán Suchochleb, managing director for Nouvelle Prague, to check what’s going on in the Czech music field at the moment. According to him, the Czech live sector is taking big steps forward, increasing and refining the collaborations with sponsors and brands. Interestingly, media turn to the UK and US for news and trends, while the industry itself looks to other Central European markets, such as Germany, for best practices and market development.

The Czech Republic is about twice the size of Denmark with a population of over 10 million, of which ca 1.2 million in Prague. The Czech Republic is very well connected to other parts of Central Europe, like Austria, Germany and Poland which are all important markets for international music performers.

Who are you Štěpán Suchochleb, and what do you do?

I am a promoter and booking agent working in the music business since 1996 for Capricorn Promotion. We do various shows ranging from small clubs to arenas, from jazz to blues to pop. However, what I like the most are singer-songwriters, Americana and blues shows in smaller clubs.

I have been involved in booking various festivals such as Rock for People and Blues Alive, and for the last three years I am also the managing director of Nouvelle Prague Festival. Besides the music career I’m also a keen beekeeper and amateur ice-hockey player!

What is Nouvelle Prague? When was it founded and why?

Nouvelle Prague is in its third year now. It was founded by a good friend of mine and seasoned festival promoter – Michal Thomes. There were several reasons for founding the festival. We basically thought it was time for Czech music industry professionals to get together, stop fighting and at least once in a year sit around the same table and talk about the things that we’re sharing – such as legislation, punters, business partners, etc. We also wanted to introduce the concept of a showcase festival to the Czech Republic and organize a music conference with strong international participation that would be a hub for Central European knowledge exchange.

Nouvelle Prague Panel

Since 2013, Czech and international music industry professionals gather at Nouvelle Prague, the first Czech music industry event. Photo by Pavla Ortová.

What will Nouvelle Prague focus on this year?

As far as music go, we focus mainly on overseas bands. This is the first year we have a band from India, called Studmuffin, playing. It was selected by our partner festival Mood Indigo/Livewire from Bombay. Of course we have a very nice selection of other artists as well.

The first year we didn’t have any Czech bands, but foreign delegates asked for Czech talent. So later we decided to showcase four Czech acts too. This year I think we have a good lineup that definitely will generate some interest!

As far as the conference part go, we have fine-tuned the format since last year and added one more panel. This year we do traditional panels focused on booking, festival organization and other usual topics, but we are also bringing in new topics, such as marketing on social media and cashless systems.

What should an artist looking to play in the Czech Republic be aware of?

Well, they should be aware of the fact that the Czech Republic is a small country and tours are not done with nightliners. There are around 600 clubs and venues in the country and a pretty good network. Artists should be aware of the local income per capita, which is still lower than in the former western part of Europe. But after all, it’s business as usual. It’s all about communication, both in terms of booking a show and doing promotion.

How much does Czech industry and media look to the big Central European industries Germany and Austria?

I think media looks more into what happens in the UK and the US. Those markets are considered to be reference points for Czech media.

The industry looks into Germany a lot as that’s a strong market and it’s really close. From Prague it might even be easier tor each some of the places in Germany (like Dresden, Berlin, Nürnberg, Munich…) than other cities in the Czech Republic. When you know there is such a strong market right behind your door, you look for opportunities of course. And sometimes we also look for suppliers in Germany – sometimes it’s cheaper to order stuff from Germany than from the Czech Republic, and sometimes you might also get better quality.

What would you say is the strongest sector in the Czech music industry? Live, recorded music, radio? Any trends going on or specific genres that are on their way up?

Live is strong. There are many new promoters, many new festivals and a lot of energy in general.

I hink mainstream radio stations seem to live in their own world and it seems like they play music for some other people than the ones that come to shows.

There are still are a few old fashioned recording companies but I think they need to change their ways of thinking quickly. New companies are also being established and some are really interesting and doing great stuff, but generally speaking the recording part of the industry is not too strong at the moment (which does not mean that there are no great releases out there!).

I wouldn’t say there’s any really strong genre at the moment. Promo is moving more and more into social media, so every genre eventually finds its audience. Ska was big a few years ago, but I think that fashion is slightly out. Any good music can be played and promoted successfully these days.

One of the seminar headlines at Nouvelle Prague is ‘Brands & Events’. Are brands key players in the Czech live industry or is it something you start to explore just now?

This is a very interesting subject as it’s become obvious that the situation with sponsors has changed recently. A few years ago when you had an event or a concert you basically approached somebody with lots of money and asked them for a “sponsorship” – it was really a question of your good luck or good connections. These days if you ask for money you really need to deliver some value on your end too. And that’s how this topic came to our minds – as a promoter you need to come up with more than “give me money, I will put your logo on our artwork”, you need to be more creative and make sure you interact with brands and that you actually deliver some value to them, of course without annoying your partner.

Interaction between brands and events becomes a really interesting subject. You definitely cannot look at them as your enemy, as they are giving you money, neither can you accept everything that they want as your event would then become too “branded”. Brands are not the key players – I think the key players are those promoters who know how to work with brands.

How do you look at Danish and Scandinavian artists in the Czech Republic?

They’re as good as any. I worked with Thorbjørn Risager last year, really good artist and band. There are quite a few Scandinavian artists coming in and we are also connected with Music Norway, great guys and great inspiration – we had them at Nouvelle Prague in 2013!