2018-03-14 14:02

Groningen pop sector ambition leaflet, January 2018

Dear reader,

The time has come for a new and comprehensive approach for the Groningen pop sector. This is why we, the members of Popstad BV, are presenting new recommendations and focus areas to enable us, together with you, to raise the Groningen pop sector to a higher level and enhance its position in the city.

This leaflet is a call to action to put this vision into practice. No change, no progress. And it will be wonderful, both in the short term and the long term, to be able to look back on this change with satisfaction. Wouldn't it be a waste if you did not take action now and make use of the positive energy of the sector and our joint ambitions?  Consider the 2011 pop policy memo No Guts No Glory, which received far too little attention and follow-up from the municipality.

Our ambition to become Pop Capital of the Netherlands is stronger than ever before. But without your support and action, we cannot be certain to attain and maintain this position. The sector and its representatives harbour a huge potential which remains to be tapped and transformed into opportunities. This potential has rightfully made Groningen a City of Talent and garners continuing appreciation, worldwide, of our city.

Together with you, we want to draw up a clear vision and policy that will also inspire other cities and that dovetails with the three broadly defined themes from the Culture Note: ‘A lifetime of Culture’, ‘Lifelong Learning’ and, mostly, being a ‘Vibrant City’.

 This leaflet is a first step in that direction.

  1. Talent Development & Professionalization

There is much more we can do, as City of Talent, to foster talent in our city. Of course, our pop organizations facilitate and support talents in various stages of their development, including becoming acquainted with pop music, learning how to play and perform and, ultimately, embarking on a professional music career. Opportunities to become involved are plentiful in Groningen, with POPgroningen, Urban House Groningen, the Mobile Pop School (Rijdende Popschool), for example, and ample playing venues. But the step towards a career in pop music seems too big for many musicians.

Our aim for the upcoming policy term is to invest in the continued development of top talents into semi-professionals and, if possible, professionals. Northern cooperation is essential to this end.

The sector has taken a good first step with Hit The North, a programme aiming to foster the development of top talent – a collaboration between Eurosonic Noorderslag, the three northern pop umbrella organizations, record label Excelsior and the Into The Great Wide Open festival. We aim to further consolidate and expand this northern collaboration in the coming years. This is in line with the policy goals of We The North, which unites the three northern provinces in terms of their ambitions and their cultural interests. Up North also deserves mention in this context: a project still in the making, for new northern cross-disciplinary productions.

Finally there is Popgala North, the first edition of which will take place next year right before Eurosonic Noorderslag, a pillar of great importance to the northern pop scene. Targeted small-scale investment in these areas can go a long way, and the spin-off advantages for other sectors in the creative industry must not be overlooked. 

Aim: Encourage pop institutions to coach top talent. The more top talent succeeds in reaching a national or international audience, the more Groningen will be recognized as City of Talent.   

Policy intention: To support or facilitate northern collaboration initiatives to promote the development of top talent. We are investigating the possibilities of establishing a northern production house from which to further flesh out this collaboration and launch concrete project proposals.


  1. Promotion & Growth

In the pop sector, we are accustomed to working independently and being creative with limited budgets. But every entrepreneur, both in and outside the pop sector, can use a helping hand from time to time not only to be able to get started in the first place, but also to boost a good idea to a higher level. One-off financial injections can enable new initiatives, so that Groningen can continue to attract young and creative entrepreneurs and avert a brain drain to the Randstad region.

We therefore propose the allocation of a small annual budget for incidental support to new initiatives in the pop sector. We can draw up an application form ourselves that the municipality can use to assess applications. We recommend that an independent committee assess more substantial requests for funding. Such a committee could assess applications as to their added value to the environment for pop music, entrepreneurship, talent development, promotional value and any other criteria to be formulated in more detail in consultation.

Aim: Encourage new initiatives in the pop sector, allowing Groningen to remain an attractive location for entrepreneurs and musicians. A promising pop sector will in turn attract new audiences.

Policy intention: To create a budget for small grants (up to EUR 1000) for incidental support for activities within the City of Groningen that promote entrepreneurship in the pop sector. To form an independent committee for subsidy provision.. 


  1. Vision for the sector & Infrastructure


Most larger cities in the Netherlands have formulated a well-defined vision on event and culture policy. Despite its strong cultural profile, Groningen lacks such a clear vision and policy. Ad hoc decision-making and the fragmentation of activities are the result, and the limited financial resources for cultural activities are fragmented as well. This is a regrettable waste.

We advocate a clear vision to replace the current ‘first-come-first-served’ principle and promote our shared focus areas: City of Talent, becoming and remaining a sustainable city and Pop City of the Netherlands. A vision that is not afraid to make choices and enhances the city's well-deserved, unique reputation.

A good example of a city with a clear vision is Eindhoven. This city focuses on design and attracts related events to the city. At the same time, it has the guts to turn down events which are unlikely to underscore the profile of the city but cost a lot of money, such as the performance of The Passion or charity Het Glazen Huis.

The Groningen vision should not be limited to events but also include dealing with the space, whether empty or not, that the city has to offer. Creativity literally and figuratively needs room. We therefore advocate making use of vacant real estate and we recommend permit policies which encourage thinking along with applicants. The old grain mill on Helsinkistraat and the redevelopment of the Suikerunie site are good examples of this. On a somewhat smaller scale, we perceive a need among musicians for space to reside, rehearse and create. Good examples of such spaces are Kytopia in Utrecht and Kalamiteit in Dokkum.

We welcome the digital initiatives supported by the municipality, such as the Here & Now cultural overview website with events aimed at international students and expats.

Aim: To strategically focus, streamline and anchor the programming and events in the city and to proactively use empty city space.

Policy intention: Developing a clear vision on events, making use of vacant space and supporting initiatives that strengthen the cultural profile of the city. Incorporation of this last point in the development of a breeding ground policy. Confusion can be cleared up by offering guidance and optimization.

By actively working together on the above focus areas and recommendations, we can ensure that Groningen rightfully becomes and will remain Pop Capital of the Netherlands.

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