Haarlem Vinyl Festival: Organising the world’s first city-wide vinyl festival

By in Features





Haarlem Vinyl Festival runs from September 29 to October 1.

This September, for the first time, “the world’s first-ever city-wide vinyl festival” will take over Haarlem, Holland.

Read more: Watch DeWolff break the world record for the fastest “studio-to-store” vinyl pressing

With a programme including a multi-day vinyl fair, talks from the likes of Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and Coco Maria, live acts, listening sessions and exhibitions, the inaugural Haarlem Vinyl Festival is set to be a paradise for vinyl lovers all levels.

We caught up with Haarlem Vinyl Festival board member Anouk Rijnders (Record Industry) to find out more about the birth of the festival and the event to come.

Where did the initial idea for Haarlem Vinyl Festival come from? 

The initiative came from Director Richard Zijlma, who was at a talk show about Harlem’s night scene with Nadieh Bindels, another person who’s quite busy in the Harlem scene. They just discussed that there’s not a lot to do in Haarlem and that it could use a new activity or festival or something like that. Then, combined with the fact that Richard noticed that even his kids had started buying vinyl, he was like, “Hey, there’s something with vinyl”.

Vinyl has always been quite an important thing in Haarlem because we’ve got quite a lot of history. Richard came up with the idea of organising a vinyl festival and then approached some people. He came to me and asked if Record Industry wanted to participate in the festival and we were very enthusiastic about it and said yes immediately.

From the beginning, the idea was to make it a broad festival, not just about live music, but also having talks for music lovers, vinyl lovers, and a record fair. We even have a hiking tour through Haarlem, with some vinyl stops during the festival, so it can be as broad as that.

Talk me through some of the organisations involved with the festival.

There’s the board led by Richard, who’s been director of the Amsterdam Dance Event for 20 years, so if someone knows how to organise a festival, it’s him. We’ve got Jolanda Beyer, who’s the director of the Patronaat, which is a big venue in Haarlem, and Edwin van Balken, who’s the director of the Philharmonie, and the City Hall, in Haarlem. Then there’s me.

We’ve got a great team of people involved in the production and the marketing. It’s a young team, mostly, which I really like to work with. Dresden Leitner [Love Is The Message] is part of the team, doing international promotion. A lot of love and dedication is being put into it from many sides.

We’re just starting. We’re quite ambitious and as a result, we just work a lot for love, so to say. It’s going to be an amazing festival after what was quite a difficult start, to be honest, because you people are enthusiastic about the idea of a vinyl festival, but to get everything moving and get people to understand what it’s about–that took some time. Now it’s rolling though and we’ve got a great programme put together.

I was wondering about the decision to create a festival. A lot of folks see collecting vinyl as quite a personal, solo activity. Is one of the goals to solidify a community around vinyl in a more public way?

It’s funny you say that because my experience is going to record fairs and talking to people about vinyl. There’s the social side of sharing your collection, displaying it, and inviting people to play records together and also within the collecting community. There’s quite a lot of togetherness. 

People share their treasures on special Facebook groups and Discogs is about a community. I think although collecting is something you do on your own, it’s also about a collective thing that people have in common–a love for music. 

So in my experience, it’s already a community. What we do focus on, and that’s why, for instance, the record fair is free to attend, so people can just go there and instead of having to pay 10 or 20 euros for admission for the fair, they can buy a record with that money.

What role do you think record fairs play in the industry, especially when so many people buy online or directly these days?

It’s about meeting other people. If you go to a record store, you mostly go to one record store, and then the collection they have is what you can choose from, but if there’s a record fair, you can just hop from one store to the other and perhaps bump into things you otherwise wouldn’t have found or you can talk to people you meet there who’ll tell you about a great record or tell you about the store they just visited. 

The other day, I was actually on a panel about record fairs and we discussed the fact that if you go to a record store that has been there for ages, and you’re a young kid entering the doors, it might be overwhelming because you have no idea what you’re looking for.

It’s really important for the record store owners, especially the smaller stores, to welcome people who are new to buying records or collecting. At a record fair, I think it’s all a bit more low-key and perhaps a bit more open to questions and discovery.

With a lot of music festivals, there’s a specific genre focus. However, vinyl enthusiasts are such a broad range of people–from younger kids stanning pop stars to more traditional ideas of a crate-digger. What considerations did you make around reaching different demographics within the community?

It’s never been a concern because the idea from the start was to have a really broad programme–from jazz and classical music to techno and electronic music, blues and more. Vinyl is about all types of music and the programme is as diverse as that.

A big part of vinyl culture is high-fidelity audio. How does the festival interact with that?

It’s interesting that you mention that, to be honest, as a vinyl pressing plant, we’re pressing records not to be heard on what I call picnic turntables [suitcase turntables]. Having said that you have to start somewhere. I understand that for people who are new to buying vinyl, especially with a small budget, we’ll probably start with buying such a record player. At the festival, we have Marley on board with a record player for starters, at a bit of a higher segment. 

It’s important that you educate visitors or consumers about how they can listen to the records, but as a festival, we’re not focusing only on the high-end, because that’s impossible. There are not that many people who can afford a high record player, to be honest.

We do have the opportunity at the festival to listen to a record, perhaps a record you just bought, on a really, really high-end set-up. So that experience is there. Most people won’t be able to buy a $10,000 record player, but we’ll have listening sessions on several types of players, as a bit of like introduction that says this is something that’s available. There’s no prejudice about a certain quality because it’s so personal. For some people, playing records is all about the audio experience, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be high-end.

What are you personally looking forward to at the festival the most?

I’m personally excited about the release of my book Passion For Vinyl during the festival–Coco Maria and Cosmo Murphy are in it. In terms of talks, we have talks with musicians sharing their inspiration and bringing the records that changed their lives and I always find that so interesting. We also have a legendary Dutch band, Nits, and all three members will be discussing their classic album, Dutch Mountains–how it was made, and the story behind the recording.

I guess you’ve heard stories about what record buyers for stores find in sleeves when they buy collections–there’s a story about a promotional letter from The Pet Shop Boys which was still in one of the records when someone bought it. We’ve got two buyers from big record stores in the Netherlands who will be sharing their stories about what they’ve discovered.

If someone was in two minds about going to the Haarlem Vinyl Festival, what would you say to them?

I think it’s an excellent opportunity to buy records at the record fair, listen to music, hear interesting stories about music in general and vinyl in particular, and meet people who are like-minded. It’s a great combination of all those things. You can also pay a visit to the great city of Haarlem, which is like a petite, but very sweet version of Amsterdam. Right in the city centre, there’s this vinyl festival happening with all kinds of people, from young to perhaps very old, all with one thing in common.

Haarlem Vinyl Festival runs from September 29 to October 1. Find out more here.