Tilburg’s Incubate Festival has been celebrating the diversity of independent culture since 2005, with an electric array of music, film, visual arts and dance. Barry Spooren, one of the festival’s co-ordinators, had some wise words for M3…
M3 - First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Barry Spooren – What I’m working on most these days is the Incubate festival, the annual celebration of indie culture, including music, theatre, film, visual arts and debates. For the festival I’m working on finances/funding – I put the fun back in funding – and organizing our DIY Conference. We want to stimulate audience activation & participation and meaningful cooperation within independent culture. Yearly, we have around 250 artists within one week, we like black metal as well as free jazz as well as indie as well as folk as well as electronic/dance music. A lot of work goes into that but it’s also great fun, as you can imagine.
Other than that, I’m blogging on Dutch music website Kicking the Habit. Just writing about music I genuinely enjoy, pushing music I think is worthwhile.
What inspired you to get involved with Incubate? What is your own musical background?
Well, I studied Arts & Economics at the Utrecht School of the Arts and have always made music myself. With our band, Silence is Sexy, we did a lot of shows in The Netherlands. That’s where I first got a taste of the music business. Not all of it tasted too sweet, but I did really like seeing what was happening behind the scenes of music venues and festivals. When I had to do my final internship, Incubate seemed like one of the organizations I would really fit in. Over the past few years, we’ve been steadily growing, getting more and more attention from outside of the Netherlands and organizing new events like our monthly Incubated-evenings. What I really like is the fact that Incubate is still a way of discovering new music for myself as well.
How has the internet affected what you do? Would you say it’s made your job easier, or more difficult?
It’s kind of difficult to say, because my work has always involved the internet. It certainly hasn’t felt like an obstruction, that’s for sure! I just can’t imagine how people in Ye Olden Days would have done this though, kinda feel sorry for them, haha!
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
I always think that’s a kind of funny question, that whole focus; ‘where is the money?’, it’s kind of strange isn’t it? For a part, it shows people’s view on the music business as an easy way to make money while hanging around clubs at night. The contrary is true of course, but the ‘golden years’ of the business still seem to dictate people’s view on this business; eating lobster and drinking champagne for lunch. Of course it’s necessary to earn some kind of living, but the focus should be on creating great music with heart, and finding new ways of sharing that music with your audience. But even artists who do that really well, don’t always make money with it.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Mostly I listen to MP3’s nowadays, because it’s just the easiest way for me. For Kicking the Habit, I receive a lot of music digitally and still carry my MP3-player around wherever I go. If I buy a physical copy, it’s mostly CD’s to be honest. My parents mostly had CD’s around the house, so I kind of grew up with it. Also, it’s just cheapest – especially shipping on vinyl can get quite expensive. If I really like an album though, I still tend to buy vinyl.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I don’t really see that happening. I’ve heard this discussion for a couple of years now, but still believe a lot of people like to listen to albums. Let’s not forget: there have always been periods where releasing singles was the main operating mode, like in the ‘old’ music business, where producing and distributing entire albums was still very expensive. But all the while, the album-format stayed alive. I’m sure it will. It’s the same discussion as vinyl presumably disappearing.
Similarly, do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has led people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
I think it has, people seem to be very interested in the whole experience of live shows. Just look at how fast some shows and festivals are sold out within moments. But what I really dislike is how some festivals and shows seem to be a way to chat up with friends for some people. And it becomes the experience of a party with friends instead of giving the artist some well-deserved attention and respect.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up and coming concert promoter in the 21st century?
Basically: showing people the value of arts and culture – financial as well as social, and getting the audience involved in special art projects. This means: getting out of their ‘comfort zone’ and finding different ways of communicating. It’s not just about selling shows, it’s much more about getting people connected on the long run.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
To me, it feels to me like a lot of time, effort and money put in trying to prevent something that won’t go away. Time, effort and money that should be invested in creating new business models and new ways of distributing new content. As an artist, I have only benefited from file sharing. It has certainly got my work to a wider audience.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Incubate?
The next couple of years will be very important for us, I feel. We have some great ideas for the festival, hopefully we’ll be able to keep fulfilling them. I have good faith in that. Or, like The Dude says: ups and downs, strikes and gutters. That’s life, man.
For more information about Incubate Festival, you can vsit their website and follow them on Facebook. This year’s edition of the festival is shaping up nicely, with Damo Suzuki, Ramesses and the Buzzcocks already confirmed, and is set to take place between the 10 – 16th September in Tilburg. Tickets are available now.