Anna Ivanova: ‘Emergenza festival won’t leave Russia. I have called my European colleagues’

Coronavirus and the special operation — what difficulties the international music marathon for independent bands from 34 countries of the world faced and how it went through them

Music has always united people and has been used as the most universal lingua franca around the globe. In 1992, it finally found a way of how to make this union as available as possible, and a kind of Internet and mobile network was held as a festival. Emergenza is a music marathon taking place in 34 countries of the world, from Europe to North America for independent bands. It consists of several stages — from cities and regions to countries and continents. Russia has been participating in it since 2009. The festival’s Producer General Anna Ivanova told Realnoe Vremya in an interview how Emergenza works now and if Russian musicians can leave the country.

“It was hard enough

The coronavirus pandemic significantly hit the entertainment industry: many artists became jobless, events were postponed and establishments were closed. How did these events influence such a big festival that unites tens of countries?

It was a tough time for us too because as you know, Emergenza is an international festival, and everything ends with an international final in Germany where bands from different compete. And this festival wasn’t held for two years in a row — in 2020 and 2021 — but it is held this year. In other words, bands from different countries meet, concerts should be held in every country, every country had its own restrictions. In a word, we haven’t had an international final for two years, while in Russia we put off the concerts. I think we put the final off in Kaliningrad four times, some 3-4 times in Samara too. It was hard enough. Moreover, representatives of the concert industry that organised small concerts suffered much more than festivals. Also, it was about the waiting time when a band goes through a stage but the concert is postponed, some bands broke up because they cannot rehearse, some other interests appear.

“As long as there are musicians who want to play, the festival will exist”

Editor’s note: foreign sound recording labels Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music announced suspension of their activity in Russia on 9 and 10 March. Also, one of the world’s biggest streaming services Spotify suspended its operations on 11 April.

Emergenza is an international festival that was created in Italy. How is it living now amid the special military operation in Ukraine and the pressure of sanctions?

No, Emergenza won’t leave Russia. I can say the festival’s stance is that as long as there are musicians who want to play, who want to perform, who want to spread their art and their music, the festival will exist. When the special operation began, I called my European colleagues and we discussed that music is a universal language and that music should unite people, not alienate them. So this is the festival’s stance, and hopefully, it won’t change.

What await the festival in the future? Are there any forecasts for the next months?

We recently had a national final where bands from Moscow, Petersburg, Kaliningrad, finalists of the Urals, finalists from the Volga met. One winner band was chosen, and we plan to go to Germany in August so that the winner will represent Russian music in the international final. It will be held, visa, flight issues can be the only difficulty. But I hope we will sort it out.

“If there are not rehearsal sites or nowhere to buy instruments, it means there will be fewer musicians

How important is Emergenza for Russian music?

Emergenza is the world’s biggest and oldest festival for independent musicians, for musicians who are yet popular only for their mums and their friends. It is the only festival welcoming the bands playing music in a foreign language. As you understand, there are a lot of groups of this kind. Bands want to play something trendy, something promising. Many really write songs in English. But where to go? To Dobrofest, no. Our Radio, no. I don’t know where they can go, where they can perform at a large event. In fact we don’t really have a lot of popular bands singing in a foreign language. Emergenza is a chance for bands who want to cross the borders of one country, the festival gives them such an opportunity.

I don’t know how things will unfold here, but I hope that for us, for music, the borders will be open to exchange experience because an international festival is not only an opportunity to show off. A festival is important, but I’d say it is more important where to perform. We held a festival in the same Kazan at Big Twin bar. Yes, now it is closed, but we need small places with good sound. Clearly, no-name musicians won’t fill Big Twin Arena. In other words, sites are important, but unfortunately they close. There were difficulties even in Moscow. We held a final at RED club but it closed. Then we were going to hold a final at Moscow club. It is also a big cool club. It survived the pandemic but didn’t the special operation and the cancellation of concerts because it is not only distributors and bookers’ money but also the club’s money. There aren’t sites, the festival has no place to be held. If there are not rehearsal sites or nowhere to buy instruments, it means there will be fewer musicians.

Emergenza is simply a kind of one of the stairs to allow them to develop. In general any festivals are important, but Emergenza has such a peculiarity that we welcome bands performing in different genres. Even if the genre is complex, some heavy metal, noise or something else, a specific genre you won’t hear at an open air. People will unlikely play heavy music in a park. They have get-togethers. But the scale isn’t large, while Emergenza welcomes them. Play heavy music if you wish, play electronic music, doom metalcore if you wish. Most importantly, it should be done well, with talent, with taste, with some uniqueness.

“This can be made profitable, but it is not oil”

Speaking about concert sites and equipment. Do you think there have been serious changes among them now?

It should be reminded that in early March a number of the largest music equipment producers such as Fender, Electrovoice and Yamaha announced the suspension of supplies of their products to the Russian market.

“I don’t yet feel a deficit of instruments and equipment. I am sure that there will be some illegal supply schemes probably because this is not purchased in wagons. Moreover, we have a community of people from the concert industry and they say how good it was during the pandemic. Everything was clear, predictable, while now it is on the contrary. Distributors, for instance, are raising the price for equipment rent because they don’t understand where they will get consumables. As for the sites, if we take Volga cities, in general if you are a good musician, you start playing covers at a pub and make money this way. If you are a bad one, it is hard for you to have an audience, and everything ends bad.

I think there will be some redistribution of equipment. Say, some club closed, equipment has to be placed somewhere, and it will be transferred from one club to another. Perhaps, there will be some supplies through other countries. It isn’t such a huge market, and I wouldn’t say it is a very profitable market.

Dealing with concerts is rather devotion and enthusiasm. This can be made profitable, but it is not oil. Whatever influences

I understood all this was unreliable as early as 2014, and somebody can call and cancel a concert. I hope we will develop somehow. And if even the borders remain closes, this will certainly be an impulse to stimulate import substitution, the domestic market will bring up cool artists in the country. Perhaps, this will happen one day like it happened to Ukraine in 2014. They started to bring up their own artists because Russian artists stopping coming. Maybe the same will happen to us.

Maxim Kokunin