IFF You Know You Know – Greg Parmley talks about the 2022 International Festival Forum
There is an island in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that is uncharted and can only be found by those who already know where it is. In a way, that goes for the International Festival Forum in London.
If you’ve never been invited before, you won’t know when or where it will take place. Chances are you’ve never heard of it, but it seems to be the biggest booking event for festivals and agents outside of the US.
ILMC director Greg Parmley, who also runs IFF, is aware of this: “Given the number of artists who get festival bookings from there, I think it’s the most successful, even that no one knows about. It’s a really weird thing.
This is largely by design. Parmley and his team are not inviting any press (apart from Pollstar). And while he would never share the monetary value of bookings made at the IFF, one can see a lot of business being done at the annual gathering in London’s Camden area just by looking at the list of promoters and agents from the festivals present.
The agencies showcased their hottest talents on the night – Parmley was particularly impressed with The Stickmen Project (One Fiinix Live), flowerovlove (Wasserman Music), THE GOA EXPRESS (ATC Live), Panic Shack (UTA) – but the most deals are made during the day in the countless conversations that take place around the IFF.
This year in particular, delegates seemed to have piled their schedules with back-to-back, full-day meetings, and Parmley thinks “it reflects the fact that people know that next year we’re not going to go out of wood. . We are going to be in a global recession, touring is going to remain difficult and difficult for certain artists and markets. From the number of tours being canceled right now, to the rising costs for international artists to tour and come to play at festivals, the need to secure programming for next year is probably more pressing than ever.
It may also explain the record number of 800 delegates, who traveled to London from some 40 countries for the eighth annual IFF, September 27-29. Parmley said the general mood was “super positive”. That’s usually the case, but the fact that many promoters have arrived fresh after hosting their first festivals in three years, combined with a determination to make 2023 a great year for live, has created a particular buzz.
“IFF has always been a very effective way for buyers and sellers to meet at the right time of year to start planning the summer season for the coming year,” Parmley added. “It felt like the pace of this process was amplified even more than in a normal year.”
Parmley also touched on some of the key takeaways from this year’s IFF, starting with an understanding that seems to have been common among delegates, namely to play it safe and schedule visits selectively.
“Pricing was definitely another key topic, as well as mental health. The number of artists who have recently given up touring, citing mental health reasons, shows the pressures of touring. And it’s not just artists, it’s everyone in the industry. The whole industry has gone from 10 miles per hour in January, February to 150 miles per hour for the whole year, and no one has made a pit stop yet. There are a lot of really tired people who have been working really hard to get the industry back on its feet this year, to meet the demand that is out there. There were questions about whether this is sustainable for another 12 months without companies being able to turn over staff and retrain to a point where others can take breaks.
Coming out of COVID, it would have been nice to have a clear trail for a few years, time to lick the wounds and recover. Instead, this industry is now facing an energy crisis, rising costs and a crippled supply chain “with a lot missing down the road,” as Parmley put it.
“Having said that,” he concluded, “I think the festival industry is one of the most creative industries on Earth. If you look at what’s being done in various pristine and urban venues, it’s often a source of inspiration. This industry offers experiences that you can’t get anywhere else in the market, putting artists at the top of their game in incredible places. It’s not going away. Caution is definitely the key watchword – it won’t be the easiest of years next year, but I don’t think anyone thinks otherwise anyway.