4 things you didn’t know about Flemish musicians on tour

Ah, musicians. We all fantasize about — one day — trading in those grubby mattresses on the tour promoter’s kitchen floor for a nice double bed in a mediocre motel room. But until that day we’ll put the € 5.000 worth of gear we own in our € 500 van and do it ourselves.

That was one of the first impressions to arise, when we took a look at the data in our directory of Flemish bands, musicians and ensembles.

We’, that is: the research team over at the Flanders Arts Institute (the support organisation for visual arts, music and performing arts in Flanders). ‘Our directory’ refers to a dataset compiled by the former Flanders Music Center over the course of 2013 and 2014. For the sake of completeness, I’ll add that these data are — for the time being — far from exhaustive. But there are several interesting findings we can’t wait to share with you guys.

Altogether we have so far acquired detailed information about 3.503 concerts performed by 223 bands or ensembles in 2.270 venues outside of Belgium (covering 1.226 cities in 63 countries). That’s not enough to provide a complete list of all international concerts by Flemish musicians. But it does allow us to highlight some remarkable trends we will investigate more thoroughly in the near future, as additional data reach our mailbox on a daily basis.

And now… let’s feast on some delicious data!

The US is one of Flanders’ top 5 five export markets

At the top of the list of countries where Flemish musicians played most of their shows, we encounter the usual suspects: The Netherlands (894), France (682), Germany (624) and the UK (223). It struck me, however, to find that the USA (200) outranks other European countries by a long shot.

The top 5 venues that line up Flemish bands are Dutch

The football fans amongst you already know it: the Dutch love Belgium. And whereas at the European Cup they kind of have to, with regards to our music we can quite safely assume their love is sincere. TivoliVredenburg, the tremendous culture temple in Utrecht, booked over 40 Flemish bands and ensembles in 2013 and 2014. Paradiso, Mezz, Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Effenaar complete the top five. Moreover, 88% of the venues that booked (over) 15 Flemish concerts were Dutch.

The average venue only books 1 or 2 Flemish artists a year

The average number of Flemish shows per international venue, however, is a mere 1,6. And that is not that big a number. On the one hand, it’s great that there are a lot of different venues that are — occasionally — interested in Flemish music. On the other hand, it means that only few of them engage in more structural collaborations with Flemish managers or intendants. It seems like Flemish musicians can be considered the Don Juans of international touring: we easily make new friends, but it rarely leads to something serious.

Pop & rock music is by far the most popular genre

Although there are some differences between countries (Germany and Austria for example seem to offer more opportunities to classical ensembles), more than 60% of the concerts are pop, rock, electro or hip-hop shows. Classical music ensembles have also clearly established their place in the international context. Whereas Flemish folk & world music groups and especially jazz bands have the largest margin of growth.

As we noted before, we’re still gathering extra information about international concerts of Flemish musicians as we speak. So it’s important to bear in mind that the results of this sneak preview are indefinite. Nevertheless, it seems highly unlikely that our final conclusions will completely contradict these remarkable initial findings.