Q&A With Harry Jenner

The song “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish is an enormous hit, listening to the track, you can’t help clicking your fingers, while the video features some cool looking bad guys. But is this song a soundtrack for Harry Jenner, one of three Austrians ruling the concert market in the alpine republic. Going by the lyrics “So you’re a tough guy, Like it really rough guy” maybe, perhaps definitely, as an article in Thegap.at refers to him with the headline “Buhmann with Success.”

Harry Jenner is the founder and inventor of the Frequency Festival and according to Thegap.at a highly successful but nevertheless pretty much straight forward live music entrepreneur . Besides this, Jenner is also responsible for deciding that the Austrian music festival became an early adopter of ETEP, from the early days when the programme was first launched.

Jenner started in the mid nineties as a DJ and local concert promoter . Meanwhile, together with his business partners  Ewald Tatar und Martin Vögel he became a stake holder of Barracuda Holding, by far the biggest concert promoter in Austria, presenting festivals such as Frequency Festival or Nova Rock,  as well as arena shows and small club gigs. 

ETEP.nl: FM4 Frequency has been part of ETEP since the beginning in 2003. Do you remember what convinced you to join the programme?

Harry Jenner: Tough question 16 years on… I guess it was my second or third Eurosonic and I loved the idea of seeing new talent and supporting them in a simple way, also the financial support of the ETEP programme was an extra persuasion to get involved.

ETEP.nl: Do you have any personal highlights concerning ETEP-artists that still stand out for you?

Harry Jenner: Well I guess I saw about 60 artists connected to Frequency Festival  and with Novarock probably around the same, so it’s really hard to tell. Mostly I liked seeing them getting bigger and bigger… 

ETEP.nl: ETEP receives funding from former and current EU-programmes for culture. Should the EU expand its support schemes for popular music and if so, what kind of support is needed?

Harry Jenner: In my particular case it is good that the EU supports this, as the “official” Austria music support only recognises Mozart and traditional Austrian local music. I guess Austria is the only country left in Europe where national TV (or any other TV) doesn’t  broadcast any parts of the festival… 

ETEP.nl: ETEP is focused on European artists and festivals. Wouldn’t it be good to have a kind of ETEP-programme dedicated to attracting European audiences to festivals?

Harry Jenner: Well from a promoter point of view yes of course!

ETEP.nl: Have you increased promotional efforts for your events in other EU-countries over the years? And if so, what territories and efforts were these?

Harry Jenner: Well, we tried several options and ways, but for Austria it always comes down to Germany, Italy and some UK people. I know a lot of countries where the beer price is very low and, for some unknown reason, they have huge numbers in foreign audience…  Just kidding!

ETEP.nl: For
 decades Frequency and Nova Rock have served new generations of festival goers. What kind of changes in terms of audience preferences have you discovered over the years?

Harry Jenner: Well, Novarock has been very stable in its audience structures which is a huge part of its ongoing success, but we’ve always been open for some new music styles besides rock or metal and opening for new genres … which works very well and ticket sales are very strong.

Frequency recently had  a big change in its audience structure and even more in its musical direction, as indie and alternative acts don`t pull as many as they used to do over here and we had to change more towards Hip hop, electro, rock, pop and only a very few indie and alternative acts … so this is a huge crossover mix these days, and it works very well since we started the change in 2017 and from 2018 Frequency Festival has been sold out well in advance. Which is new for the Austrian market, normally we sold out in the week of the festival (if we sold out at all)… but I’m certain this will change in the next 5 years back to more guitars …

ETEP.nl: Austria , like Germany, invested heavily in the support of classical music. Do we need a new generation of politicians to reconsider the imbalance of funding for music, serving all kind of music genres more equally than it is currently the case?

Harry Jenner: This is a very good point and I guess in Austria the situation is without any doubt fully on the classical side, not only with funding, but as mentiond before, also with media. Especially with national media, who should support all kinds of national culture and strong events. You can watch 4 hours of Nordic cross country skiing through the woods with round about 100 people as audience, but you can not watch Frequency Festival or Nova Rock with more than 50.000+ people attending daily. Or in short: Yes, we need them.

ETEP.nl: The live music sector has absorbed the ‘corporatisation’ of companies for almost two decades. Recently, loads of fresh money has come into the market from external investors via the financial community. Leading to new and bigger networks of concert companies. Is this a positive development for this business or is it one that rather raises your concerns?

Harry Jenner: The future will tell, but from my point of view, for the customer this is not a good development as the ticket prices will rise and rise,  for example Frequency Festival and Nova Rock both are still well below 200 euro per ticket including camping and parking, the same applies to our stadium shows or greenfield shows. 

ETEP.nl: Which other festivals and events you will go to this summer?

Harry Jenner: Electric Love Festival, Frauenfeld Festival, Wacken, Airbeat One, and almost Burning Man (but had to move this to 2021). 

Text: Manfred Tari