In 2008 we witnessed an interesting situation in Estonia – there was a lot of good music being created – new albums, club shows – the underground scene was interesting, vibrant and diverse. As none of it was getting any international attention, we had to ask ourselves the question why. The answer we came to was shockingly simple. There was simply nobody working on it. So a very simple rule:
If you feel something needs to change, there has to be someone to change it. Things do not happen on their own, there needs to be the will, the plan and the leadership.
We started Tallinn Music Week festival in 2009 with a very clear and concrete mission – to fix music industry in Estonia, to create better international opportunities to our musicians. There was no proof on offer that it would work, all we had was the determination and faith to guide us. Already at our first year we were quite amazed how many people within international music industry were genuinely interested to find something new from a totally new country. Years went by and the snow ball effect was in full motion. More interest created more interest. More and more Estonian artists were playing international festivals, touring, having recording deals. The festival, that we started as local and then regional, became European and is now international.
Soon we also discovered the there are many more things we could do for Estonia – lead the policy making process within the creative industries and also – help the tourist sector on how to fill hotel rooms in a low season. How? Very simple – by creating a reason for people to travel to Tallinn. Today we are a widely international city festival that besides the extensive music programme (just today we announced 237 artists from 33 countries!), offers a well curated mix of design, arts, food, craft beer, talks and debates on topics from science to space technology. In 2015 we had 25 000 people going to our events and 2000 tourists traveling to Tallinn to be at the festival.
Technology has brought us on the verge of the 4th industrial revolution. Everything will change.
It has changed the way we consume music, it will change the kind of festivals we go to, what our interests are, why we travel, where we live, how we work. Talking about music, I think we’ll soon witness something I like to call music democracy – better opportunities for more. Certain markets like USA, UK or Germany will no longer have clear privileges, countries like Slovenia and Estonia but also Lebanon and Taiwan will have better chances than ever to introduce their talent world wide.
Maybe this will not create huge global superstars who play enormous stadiums, but it will surely create and encourage a load of unique and interesting talent from very difference cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
I believe creativity will be the main key for success in the future, but in order to nurture the talent, values like tolerance, equal opportunities and diversity will be essential.
Estonia is a small country, so being able to do it all in there, has been kind of a privilege – but it has really taught me to understand that things you do, have a direct impact. I think its time for citizens and conscious companies to take much broader initiative in reshaping the kind of societies we want to live in. These are not governments who run the countries, its the people who do.
Author: Helen Sildna, founder and organizer of Tallinn Music Week. Helen has been a music promoter and events producer for 15 years. In 2009 she established her own music promotion company Musiccase, which has promoted Morrissey, Air, Sigur Ros, Patti Smith, Feist, Swans, etc. Helen is the founder and owner of Tallinn Music Week, a showcase festival and music industry conference, set up in 2009. The event has grown into one of the biggest city festivals in the Baltic-Nordic region (around 200 artists, 900 industry professionals and over 25,000 festival visitors each year).
Helen is a board member of Music Estonia, currently also a member of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ Think Tank. In 2014 Helen was awarded the Tampere Music Award at Music & Media Finland’s industry gala for Exceptional Achievements in Music Business, and in 2015 she was nominated the Citizen of the Year by the Estonian Ministry of Culture.