Sweden Rock Festival 2019

Ever wondered how a rock music festival works behind the scenes? Having unique access to the Sweden Rock Fest, a long running fest that has been going on in one form or the other for more than a quarter of a century, we asked leading press figure, Sofia Lindqvist Lacinai, as well as booking agent, Martin Forssman, a few burning questions about the inner workings of the festival. Enjoy a rare, behind the scenes view at what makes Sweden Rock... (to quote Hammerfall who performed there this summer)!
Sweden Rock Festival 2019 pic
Give us a profile of the Sweden Rock Festival
Sofia: Sweden Rock Festival has a 28 year long history of offering a great collection of live rock and metal concerts in the small village of Norje in Southern Sweden. Over the years, we have become known for visitor comfort and excellent service, the unique and friendly atmosphere and for taking extra good care of the bands while they visit us.
What are your responsibilities within the festival?
S: I am head of marketing (and vice president), which means that I handle a lot of communication plans and activities. As of lately, I am also in charge of the Sweden Rock merch.
What do you think is that makes the Sweden Rock better, compared to other festivals.
S: Our broad range of genres and bands really enables everyone to find something of their liking. We are also known for a unique reunions and temporary band constellations. Besides the music side of things, I think the unique atmosphere and the great hospitality of our staff are our biggest USPs. Sweden Rock gathers a big family of metal heads, from all generations and all continents. And as most of our festival visitors return year after year, many friends reunite here yearly. This year 88% of the visitors have been here before and about a third of them have been here more than 10 years!
What is the hardest aspect of working at Sweden Rock Festival?
S: Actually, most days working here is much like any other kind of office job. But the most boring aspect for sure, is that we don’t have time so see much of the concerts ourselves.
Is there a ratio of “local” bands that the festival wishes to have featured, or is the amount of Swedish bands a side-effect of Sweden being a hotbed and metal? Is there a format/formula in the band selection?
Martin: We don’t work with ratios of any kind. All we do is to book the bands we think our guests want to see and put together the best line-up we can, subject to limitations of budget and the availability of the acts. But putting together a festival like this in Sweden certainly makes things a bit easier since there are so many great Swedish rock and metal bands around.
The amount of tickets being made available has remained pretty constant at around 35.000 in the last decade or so, which is a perfect amount for the current site. Was there ever a consideration about expanding the fest or changing the site?
S: There has been a continuous growth during these 28 years, but we have kind of grown in steps. During the last decade or so, we’ve sold approximately 33.000 tickets per day, but two years ago we grew into 35.000 tickets (the Maiden-effect). Of course, space is always an issue, and although we do our best to maximize the festival area, we are limited in every direction by the ocean, camp sites, roads and Norje village, so it’s definitely a challenge.
In the last decade or so, there’s been a slight tendency to see bigger “headline type of bands” returning time and again, which obviously makes sense and even an increasing homogeneity over the band selection in European fests, do you think it’s a good or a bad thing?
M: I don’t find this particularly surprising as some of the biggest bands of the past are not around anymore while it has proven difficult for newer acts to reach that main stage headliner level. Booking the biggest acts possible is usually the safest way to maximize ticket sales, so I think we will see the leading European rock festivals doing what they can to keep booking those for as long as they are available and then eventually be forced to start moving away from building festival posters around two or three mega-names. Is this a good or a bad thing? I don’t know. It is the way things are evolving at the moment. People want to see the biggest names, which is why they sell tickets. When they are not around anymore I’m pretty sure people will still want to go to festivals, so we will see what happens then.
With more and more bands announcing “farewell” tours and a lot of Rock Icons departing this mortal coil, the number of able headliners seems to dwindle. Do you think that we’ll see a rise of “tributes”, a succession of the super popular 70/80s artists and bands by younger bands or a bit of both? What is SRFs strategy in this case?
M: I think that the rock business in general is determined by demand first, rather than supply. Simply put, if there is an audience wanting to experience live music, the market will supply one way or the other. My best guess is that there will be lots of different solutions to this in the future. New acts inventing sounds we have never heard before, tribute acts, new acts sounding like old acts, bands without original members, reunions, digital recreations of contemporary and past events. I think all of this and more will be playing increasingly important roles in the future of the genre. Our strategy is simple: we book the acts we think our audience wants to see. This is what we have always done and what we will continue to do.
Tell us a bit about the SR Cruise experiences? How they compare VS the festival?
S: Well, the cruises all happened before my time. As the prerequisites have not being quite right, we haven’t done any cruises for the last five years. Also, the other activities surrounding Sweden Rock – such as partner-activity ventures, branded merch and drinks, etc. – take up more of our time each year.
In your opinion which has been the best year for SRF, during your time with the fest / overall?
S: That’s a hard question. Every year has had its own unique pros and cons! I have been working here full time for five years now, and from year to year I really see the improvements in our implementation of the festival. And I don’t think it will ever get watching this incredible and well-oiled “Sweden-Rock machinery” start rolling in May…
How do you think the festival could improve?
S: It is absolutely necessary for us to develop and improve our festival for each year, and we will never “finish”. We research and analyses customer opinion closely after each festival. For the coming festival year we will i.e. look in to new strategies for chairs on site, credit-card payments and entrances. But exactly which new plans this will lead to is too early to say.