ESNS-Exchange 20 Years of Boosting Talent


In the very early years it was called the European Talent Exchange Program, now known more familiarly as “ETEP”, it celebrates its twentieth-anniversary edition in 2023. A programme with a European focus, that evolved and became a power booster for European Talent. A kind of masterpiece of a combined effort and based on a made to measure mechanism tailored towards the needs of the European music sector. This programme indeed supports and enables artists’ careers, whilst simultaneously feeding the exact demand of music festivals and media players for new and upcoming talent.

To cut a long and successful 20 year story short: The ESNS-Exchange programme is exceptional as it combines artists, festivals and media players on a European scale. Ordinarily, a list of headline artists would appear here but perhaps this anniversary is a good opportunity to highlight some of its godfathers and spin doctors: Ruud Berends and Peter Smidt, who diplomatically placed the pieces of this puzzle together in order to receive official recognition by institutional power players in Brussels and the Netherlands.

As dedicated A&R Managers, the booking team at ESNS have an impressive instinct of annually placing artists on club stages in January that end up appearing on larger festival stages later in the year. They are namely: Igor Mönnick, Joey Ruchtie, and Robert Meijerink.

The open-minded early birds at Yourope such as Rikke Oxner, Gunnar Lagerman and Christof Huber, who have paved the way for the European festival community as the driving force of live music to convert talent into artists or eventually even into proper popstars. Laurent Marceau at EBU and all these journalists as music-multipliers by European radio airwaves and music magazines must also be mentioned here.

Yes, there are so many more to be mentioned. So many artists, agents and managers, folks in record and publishing companies, even those in record stores and online-outlets, music support bodies and PR-wizards such as Nikki McNeil. Included as well are all the ones along the value chain for popular music, who contribute and in the best cases benefit from what is now called ESNS-Exchange.

It is true to say that for ESNS-Exchange it is fore-mostly the artists who appear in the shopping windows, since they are usually the ones who swallow all the fame. It is however time to highlight the efforts of those invisible stage-hands that keep ESNS-Exchange going. Those often nameless officials in the offices of the institutional backyard of this project supplying funding and grants. There are also the number crunchers in the back offices and festival production crews, accommodated in containers and tents. All of them are somehow involved in this somewhere along the way, often not even realizing that they are part of this European music puzzle.

The fine art of ESNS-Exchange could be described as celebrating ‘understatement.’ The more realistic version of it is that the complexity of ESNS-Exchange is a miracle all on its own. Just ask one of the many artists when they have played one show at ESNS at the beginning of the year and then later go on to play the European festival season. It is almost taken for granted that they will praise this as being the result of their musical genius or their outstanding ability of how to perform live. Instead, it is often the unseen ‘persona’ of ESNS-Exchange as a unique, but very wide ranging collective effort that enables the success of this project.

What happens at the beginning in one of the concert venues and clubs of Groningen is sort of the integrated ‘Butterfly Effect’ of ESNS-Exchange. The spin off-results are manifold and magnificent. This congratulation is therefore very far reaching and goes out to so many people who are not aware of how meaningful their contribution towards this anniversary is. You guys made it, very well done, keep on and thanks very much for making ESNS-Exchange possible.

Written by Manfred Tari