Interview with Tómas Young
Promoter Tómas Young is the head of ATP Iceland. We dropped him a line to ask about the challenges of staging an international music festival on the outskirts of the inhabitable world.
How did you get started in the promotion business?
Not sure, actually. Well I was never a real promoter before ATP. I put on free shows in my hometown in Keflavík during the Festival of Lights and I was in a band where I handled most of the work booking the band. But apart from that, I had mainly been involved doing PR for Roskilde [a Danish music festival] and being their spokesperson in Iceland. I started working for Roskilde when I was only 18, and continued until I started working on ATP, for a total of 13 Roskilde festivals. That’s where I gained most of my experience before diving into promoting ATP in Iceland.
And how did the idea for ATP Iceland come about?
Well, in 2011, there was this think tank session at Ásbrú [the repurposed military base by Keflavík] where myself and other musicians or people working in the music industry tried to comes up with good ideas to make the area a bit more lively. I thought of ATP because of all the housing, although I had never actually been to ATP. So the idea thrown up on the whiteboard at first was “a festival in the spirit of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ where guests can get accommodation with their tickets.” Something that was unheard of in Iceland.
The people organizing the session took us around and showed us all the different housing. After the visit, I honestly couldn’t believe that nobody had thought of doing an event there. It kept me awake at night. A few months later, a good friend pointed out that I was basically stealing the ATP concept and asked why I didn’t just contact ATP and ask them if they’d do the real deal in Iceland.
And was selling them the idea easy?
I pitched the idea by email. After a few weeks of emailing, Barry [Hogan, ATP founder] and Deborah [Kee Higgins, his wife and partner], the king and queen of ATP, dropped by on their way to New York and I showed them the site. They absolutely loved it. Said it was very similar to Camber Sands where they did their first event and that they loved the fact that it was a deserted NATO base. The proximity to the airport helped, of course….Plus the Blue Lagoon is 15 minutes away and Reykjavík’s only a half an hour’s drive, so it was perfect. I didn’t really have to sell the idea. The site kinda did its job.
Recent years have seen an influx of international festivals in Iceland. How does this development strike you?
It doesn’t surprise me, to be honest. Iceland is popular among international people—people have seen pictures, movies and heard things about the island that make it an attractive destination. Also, people are realizing that doing something in Iceland will make whatever you are selling—be it a music festival or anything else—way more sexy.
Do you think Iceland’s meagre population can properly support a fringe festival like ATP? Or is the festival’s survival dependent on foreign visitors?
Well, the population is so tiny that international visitors will always help. I don’t think we could do the event without international guests, but I guess it also depends on the lineup. Icelanders could one year go crazy over the lineup and buy up all the tickets, but the way the first and second lineups have been put together, they have been aimed at both an Icelandic and an international audience.
Who is your dream act for ATP 2k15?