Q&A with Andraž Kajzer

When being asked by musicexport.at, why Ljubljana needs a music conference, Andraž Kajzer answered: “Our goal from the very beginning was to educate and inform the domestic scene and to connect with other scenes in Europe.” Adding: “A conference with a festival seemed like a great starting platform to.”

With its first edition in 2015, MENT meanwhile evolved and became an established hotspot for bands and music professionals in Slovenia and its neighbouring countries. MENT 2020, which took place on February 5 -7, hosted evening concerts by more than 70 artists  in 15 locations, also featuring  art projects and exhibitions. Not to forget a daytime conference programme with 40 topics, all English spoken, covering those subjects and issues that matter for the professional delegates.    

Andraž Kajzer is the artistic director of MENT, his c.v. is multilayered, indicating the working experience of somebody who must have a distinct passion for music and the music business. Kajzer previously worked as a sound engineer, a music journalist, radio programmer, concert agent, film producer, ran a record label and worked as a music producer.

Somewhere on the Internet it is also mentioned that he once served beer. In total a solid and holistic employment history, that goes even further than a 360 degree business model experience.

And now there is even something else very notable that speaks for the competences of Andraž Kajzer and MENT Festival. Amongst the first ETEP Artist selection results for ETEP 2020 it was revealed that MENT (for the moment) took the lead in terms of the number of bookings.  This suggests a good question to start with, whilst additionally asking Kajzer about the booking philosophy of MENT and audience preferences.

Text: Interview Manfred Tari, backed by Andras Berta
Photo: Andraž Kajzer at the official opening of MENT 2020 at Kino Siska – Photo Credit Ales Rosa

ETEP.nl: With 11 bookings MENT is scoring high in the brand new ETEP 2020 festival chart. What are your comments on your current selection of ETEP artists?

Andraž Kajzer: As we’re the first ETEP festival after Eurosonic we’re in a different position to others. Our booking process happens before Eurosonic and we don’t know which acts we’ll share on the line-up but I’m happy that such an amount of great artists have the chance to evolve their careers. The 11 mentioned artists are strong and I hope they will be able to make the most of the ETEP opportunities with their music. 

ETEP.nl: What is the artistic philosophy of MENT festival?

Andraž Kajzer: We’re focused on the local, regional acts and artists based in Europe as we want the festival to be as useful as possible for the artists and the professionals coming over. We think there’s a lot of amazing artists in Eastern Europe as well as in other European countries though the American and UK markets still prevail, so we want to highlight artists coming from countries less known for being strong in the European music market as we think they have a lot to offer. We take a lot of time researching the acts we invite and we try to find artists that we think present something special, different, move borders and are able to offer a great live experience to the audience. 

ETEP.nl: MENT also features a conference programme. Are the preferences by professional delegates for your conference programme different than for instance for those professionals attending Eurosonic?

Andraž Kajzer: A lot of professionals regularly attending MENT say they’re coming back because of the laid back atmosphere at the conference where you can easily meet anyone attending and because of the music programme that offers a strong live experience of acts you don’t necessarily see at other events. Of course bands that play MENT perform at other festivals as well but maybe there’s more focus on them at MENT as we’re a small festival. I think a lot of professionals coming over have a preference for meeting professionals from the region as well. 

ETEP.nl: When taking a look on the line up of artists for MENT it is quite obvious that the number of acts from the UK is limited compare to other showcase festivals. Instead MENT much rather features more artists from various other European countries. Is there a bigger demand for these artists in your country than perhaps in bigger European countries?

Andraž Kajzer: I wouldn’t say so. I think the most wanted acts for the general public are still from the more known music territories and from the region of course. The artists from strong music markets prevail, they’re better equipped, a lot of labels, music magazines etc. that are known worldwide are based in UK and we’re on a mission to highlight the fact that there’s a lot going on in other countries as well. This doesn’t mean we ignore the UK acts, we had 5 at the festival but we take time to explore further. 

ETEP.nl: In many of the bigger European countries, concert and festival promoters mostly take on only artists that have record releases out or at least to a certain extent a meaningful media coverage. Would you say this is different in Slovenia and its neighbouring countries?

Andraž Kajzer: No, I’d say most of the Slovenian promoters and festivals work with established acts as well but MENT serves as a platform where acts that don’t necessarily have a label or media coverage can be exposed. 

ETEP.nl: How do you promote MENT abroad and what does this means in terms of the

numbers of foreign visitors coming to MENT?

Andraž Kajzer: We promote MENT abroad on 2 levels. We visit a lot of other festivals during the year and promote MENT to professionals but we see there’s more and more audience coming to MENT for the line-up itself. We work with some foreign media, especially in the ex-yu region and we invite media outlets we think can make an impact on the bands we host. There’s also a strong word of mouth as we see that a lot of professionals are already aware of the event as they’ve heard good stuff from people already attending. And they see results as well. 

ETEP.nl: A couple of years ago there was an extra edition of ETEP named CEETEP, focusing on the needs of artists and festivals in Central Europe. Is there still a need of something like CEETEP that perhaps meet the needs of artists and festivals better than just ETEP in its current format?

Andraž Kajzer: I’m not sure. I’d say there’s a lot of great music in the CEE region and people just have to discover it. This kind of platform can help but money shouldn’t be the only reason promoters are interested in bands from a certain region. 

ETEP.nl: Which festivals and music conferences do you intend to visit in 2020?  

Andraž Kajzer: I already confirmed the Sharpe festival in Bratislava, which I really like because of the size and enthusiasm of the team. I’m thinking of visiting Pohoda (Slovakia) and Kontakt (Serbia) again. I definitely want to go to Tam-Tam festival in Hvar again in the summer. Pop-Kultur in Berlin has strong curating as well. Our team visits Waves Vienna every year and I’m interested to see their expansion into film. Le Guess Who and Womex are on my bucket list and I think this might be the year for both. I also want to visit some events in Ukraine, I hear great things about Bol Festival in Moscow and I want to explore more of the smaller ex-yu festivals like Indirekt. 

ETEP Artists booked by Ment: Molchat Doma (by), Anger (at), Balkan Taksim (ro), Black Country, New Road (gb), Bratři (cz), Buč Kesidi (rs), Eugenia Post Meridiem (it), Evija Vebere (lv), Fvlcrvm (sk), My Ugly Clementine (at), The Qualitons (hu).