How to improve sustainability for small and independent classical music festivals

One of the biggest challenges for classical music festivals nowadays is to reach audiences for live performances. “Festivallinks 2.0” is a European cooperation project in the field of European classical music that seeks to contribute to greater sustainability for small and independent classical music festivals in Europe through artistic collaboration, audience research and development and capacity building.

It brings together 5 partners from 4 different countries. They are 4 small and independent European festivals: Classical Beat (Germany), Silence Festival (Finland), Sansusi Festival (Latvia), Bach Festival Dordrecht (Netherlands). The project is coordinated by LUSTR (Netherlands) -a cultural agency specialized in audience development. The festivals all share featuring characteristics: their size (<8 permanent staff), audience reach (<5.000 tickets sold), structure (not publicly funded and managed, based on an artistic identity) and their location (on the periphery of cultural hubs and capitals.

Festivallinks 2.0 builds up on a first successful iteration of the project funded by Creative Europe (2018-2020). The previous project generated substantive results for participating partners, through a peer-to-peer exchange of Good Practice Concepts and the creation of a pilot audience research tool: ARTSCORE. The tool was devised to overcome the audience information vacuum. It is a tool which gives (classical music) festivals vital audience insights with fully customizable audience surveys. The current project aims at building on and expanding the results of the previous project with a renewed European consortium.

Artistic collaboration, audience research and development and capacity building.

Capacity building
The first objective of the project is to enhance the capacities of small and independent organisations’ team in facing common challenges and difficulties throughout peer exchange and access to specialized expertise. It consists of a preparatory activity and two meet-ups in Dordrecht and Latvia. The six topics that have been pre-identified have been clustered in two main strands: sustainability and diversity. The first will be tackled during the meet-ups. Following consultation with partners, these topics will be further developed with the identification of key issues, questions, needs and examples (positive and negative). The partners will identify and invite the experts on these matters and will devise the workshops programs.

Artistic creation and collaboration
The second objective is to enhance artistic collaboration and stimulate joint creative processes and decision-making combining own-identities and community-rooted initiatives with common and shared values. It consists of artistic coordination and networking amongst the festivals’ artistic directors. They will jointly select four composers to create compositions that can be performed in multiple ways. After the compositions have been completed, the artistic directors, in dialogue with the respective composers, will make the compositions to be performed in their festival by selected local performing artists, leading to a total of 16 performances in four countries. All performances will be recorded and curated (160’ footage) into an online concert that will be streamed by all festivals at the same time and can be viewed by audiences throughout Europe.

Audience development and communication & dissemination
The third objective is to accelerate the shift towards more audience-centric organisations upgrading the methodology for audience research which is suitable for small and independent festivals. The ARTSCORE Impact Dashboard, will house festival and audience data that will be combined and analysed, year over year. The resulting insights will be available on-demand in user-friendly, visual reports, supporting festival organizations’ efforts to:

  • Manage and steer on audience participation, development and experience;
  • Better engage stakeholders and raise funds with professional, data-driven reporting, and;
  • Learn from their own experiences as well as industry and peer benchmarks.

Ultimately at the end of the Festivallinks 2.0 project the ARTSCORE tool will be made available to peer organisations with similar needs and ambition of becoming audience-centric organisations.

Festivallinks 2.0 Partners

LUSTR (project coordination, NL)


Dynamic cultural agency advising cultural and social organizations and organiser of festivals, conferences and cultural events. It has built great knowhow in different corners of the cultural field, and is well-experienced in managing large-scale as well as small cultural projects both nationally and internationally.

The company was founded in 2013 and quickly built up a reputation and a substantial portfolio in The Netherlands before it started working on projects and programs outside of The Netherlands. The LUSTR team consists of 10 mainly young professionals, a trainee and two interns. The company has a marketing&communication department, a production department and a concept&strategy department. In 2013, LUSTR took the honorable responsibility for the music performance during the coronation of King Willem Alexander of The Netherlands. In 2018, LUSTR managed Seaside Celebrations, a 4.5 million project on stimulating seaside tourism in the city of The Hague through a year-round (cultural) program, (inter)national marketing campaign and interventions in public space. LUSTR was project coordinator for Festivallinks in 2018 – 2020. LUSTR organises projects such as: Componist des Vaderlands: a project to bring contemporary music to a wider and younger audience; Festival Classique The Hague: a 10-day music fest with live television broadcast and 40.000 audience; The Hague Highlights: a 5-day open-air light art route; Nationale Kinderherdenking: yearly commemoration of WWII created with and for children, including educational projects; Little Amal in The Hague: an international art project designed by Good Chance Theatre (UK) to raise awareness of the large numbers and difficult situation of child refugees was brought to The Hague, City of Peace and Justice. LUSTR built a community of partners in order to make this possible, consisting of both cultural organisations, humanitarian organisations, the local government and educational institutions.

Silence Festival (FI)


Artists Association Silence organises the multi-art festival concentrating on the combination of contemporary circus and contemporary (classical) music. It is built around a very active group of young volunteers and 80% of its audience is 40 or younger.

Silence Festival consists of about 10 events, including concerts, performances and seminars. There are no performing spaces but they use the barns and houses of a small village in Lapland as venues. The average audience capacity for one event is about 70 spectators. In 2017 there were more than 900 spectators in the festival.

In addition, the association runs an artist residency program in Kittilä and organises multi-art concerts and coordinates multiple projects throughout the Year. For example, Seasons of Silence Development Project creates work opportunities for artists and seeks to make arts events year-round part of cultural tourism and the local culture. Silence is a member of two international networks of performing arts organizations: Baltic Nordic Circus Network (BNCN) develops contemporary circus and regional collaboration in this field in the Baltic Sea region. Fresh Arts Coalition Europe (FACE) is a European network of contemporary circus and street arts. In 2018 Silence started a new international collaboration in the High North. Four organizations from Finland, Norway, Iceland and Greenland regularly organise seminars and carry out projects which aim to improve the capacity of regional collaboration and improve possibilities for artistic work in the Northern region.

Classical Beat Festival (GER)


It was first launched in 2017 by the Beat Foundation as a novelty in the German music culture landscape to explore new paths in classical music, to question conventions and to push boundaries. The festival promotes new, different and independent forms of dealing with and presenting classical music in for example exciting and unusual locations.

It promotes experience-oriented music events by emphasising creativity, joy of playing, professionalism and emotionality. The promotion of young musical talents and their public presence is at the core of the festival mission and its coupled Music Academy. The festival does so by facilitating intensive exchanges between young and established generations of artists and audiences. The Foundation is currently implementing KREATIV LAB – Digital Soundscapes (funded by Interreg Deutschland-Denmark). The initiative boosts enthusiasm about classic and electronic music amongst young people. For the extraordinary digital impulses in music lessons, it was awarded the special prize for digitization by the Ministry in Schleswig Holstein. Heritage, present and future fuse in creative discussions about the role of music as an ambassador for a sustainable future in the context of climate change or for an inclusive society – against racism and social injustice.

Festival Sansusi (LV)


The alternative chamber music festival is designed as an artistic journey of the senses. From the program to the set design of the festival site, every detail is part of a well-thought-out scenography, with no room for commercial advertising stands or vendors to distract the audience or fatigue the perception.

The festival introduces contemporary arts to new audiences and explore ways to connect and engage artists with communities by constantly searching for, re-arranging and re-creating new forms, shapes and spaces in artistic culture, production, design. The festival pays particular attention to the children and youth, as nurtured audience, as talented participants, fostered by parallel residences and own productions programs and as engaged citizens (eg. Project supported by European Solidarity Corps).

Bach Festival Dordrecht (NL)


The Bach Festival Dordrecht is a biannual festival built around the rich world of musician Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) with more than 35 concerts and activities at indoor and outdoor locations in the historic city center of Dordrecht and in the surrounding cities called “Drechtsteden”.

In addition to the concert program, the Foundation develops activities in the field of performing arts, visual art, education and community art. The Foundation is led by a board that determines the general policy and transfers its implementation to artistic and business management.

ARTSCORE for festival impact

The ARTSCORE Impact Dashboard is empowering independent, European festivals with affordable research for audience and impact insight, year over year.  Festival directors and organisers use ARTSCORE to:

gain audience and impact insights,
manage and steer on audience participation, development, and experience,
compare project results, forecast and report to stakeholders,
share and be transparent with partners and peers,
raise funds with professional, data-driven reporting, and
learn from their own experiences as well as industry and peer benchmarks.

Create your own.

Considering results in the context of peer benchmarks with the ARTSCORE Impact Dashboard
Getting an overview of projects and key indicators with the ARTSCORE Impact Dashboard

For festivals, by festivals

ARTSCORE was developed by Cigarbox Impact Advisory in partnership with Festivallinks 2.0 project partners. These partners—directors and organisers of independent, European festivals—invested time in a twoyear pilot to develop a research framework and process that works for small-scale and/or community festivals.

As a result, and thanks to financial support from the European Commission, other festivals in Europe can now benefit from their work: a resource-friendly way to do audience research, with capacitybuilding and impact modules specific to the festival sector.  

About Cigarbox

Cigarbox ( has been helping cultural and governmental organisations steer on, and toward, positive societal impact for more than ten years. Hundreds of festivals—from classical music, theatre and film festivals to major sporting events and Eurovision Song Festival—have worked with Cigarbox and use an Impact Dashboard year over year to maximize impact per Euro invested.