European Music Council
June 10, 2021
Recap of the European Forum on Music 2021
"Music is at the centre of our well-being"
Photo by Nabil Elderkin
“Music is at the centre of the well-being of our spirit, of our body and mind. It’s not only entertainment, it’s more than that!”
With these powerful words, Angélique Kidjo opened the 10th European Forum on Music on 2 June 2021 in her keynote speech. The theme for this year’s EFM was “Claiming a front row seat. The place of music in society” which was reflected in Angélique Kidjo’s words: “Through music we are able to find common ground and solutions to problems that are out there, that sometimes cannot be fixed through politics or policy. We bring another way of talking to the table.” In her speech, she outlined what effects the pandemic had on the music sector, socially and economically – in particular the mental health of adolescents and the income of musicians by raising the question “How do we find a way for arts, for music to really continue with the right remuneration for our work? Because the young generation coming, they might not be able to make a living out of it”. She also talked about working on her new album Mother Nature during the pandemic together with young African artists which addresses social issues such as climate change and police brutality.

The passionate words by Angélique Kidjo resonated throughout the entire conference taking place from 2-5 June online. The first day focused on the place of music in society, with the opening panel bringing together policy makers from the European and national level as well as representatives of the cultural sector. Tere Badia (Secretary General of Culture Action Europe) and composer Moritz Eggert (President of German Composers' Association) appealed to the political representatives to take the warning of Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights seriously, who stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a global ‘cultural catastrophe’ with severe, long-lasting consequences for human rights”. Consequently, they demanded that in all EU member states and beyond, politicians must understand their respective responsibilities and commitment to culture and the arts. It is urgent to ensure funding for the arts and culture and to acknowledge the role of arts and cultural education for our societies.  
“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are about a social contract between people across generations and between our planet, which we share and need to preserve for ourselves and our future generation. Music can help to give us the vision, to give us the energy, it can unite us and inspire us. This transformation is possible, it's possible now and can start from each one of us.”  With these words Marina Ponti, Director of the SDG Action Campaign, opened the second forum day and outlined the importance of music for the SDGs. The panel “Weighing out Values with representatives from different art sectors highlighted some aspects from the Erasmus+ co-funded SHIFT project and took a critical look at seemingly conflicting goals and values that the music sector is sometimes faced with, e.g. between putting into place environmentally sustainable practices and implementing inclusion which was further discussed in a panel discussion and in break-out groups.
The third day started with looking at music as the “new villain on the block”. Especially formats where many people come together to enjoy music were (and still are) marked as dangerous in the pandemic – from children’s choirs to techno clubs. Although technology can make music more available and accessible, it cannot replace the live experience and it must be ensured that there are no gaps because of lack of access to technology.
The Forum provided many more sessions, e.g. on the working conditions of artists (esp. freelance musicians and collective bargaining), the implementation of the EU Copyright Directive and future funding for culture in the EU funding programmes (Creative Europe, Horizon Europe).
With all the different networking options (wonder-meetings, one-on-one options, virtual booths), the conference platform provided the feel of a “real conference community” despite taking place online only. The rich artistic programme on-demand highlighted the conference topic providing a fantastic mix of diverse musical genres ranging from the Piccolo Pastorale performed by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and produced by the Deutsche Welle, to the “Living in a box” concerts of Berlin based bands Wanubalé, Lord of the Amazing Panther and Fabiana Striffler to an exclusive show of the movie “The Great Green Wall”.
At the end of four days filled with great speakers, debates, informal networking and artistic programme it became very evident what Angélique Kidjo mentioned at the start of the EFM: “Let’s make music and arts and culture the centre piece of economy, of everything because we need it. We can’t just live on money, we need culture!”
Photo by Josh Appel
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