Somerset House Studios

Nocturnal City: Clubbing Futures

06 Oct 2017

We caught up with Georgia Taglietti, Head of Communications at Sónar Festival, ahead of the second installment of Nocturnal City focussing on the interplay between Barcelona and London. Georgia is set to feature on a panel exploring New Spaces, to share her knowledge of the Barcelona scene and digital perspectives through the eyes of an urban based, international festival such as Sónar.

How would you describe your role at Sónar?

I moved to Barcelona 22 years ago and have been working with Sónar since 1995 on communications, press and international PR. As Head of Communications I try to merge all the communication needs for a contemporary festival.  This means a lot of digital, a lot of interaction with social networks, working closely with the marketing department and looking for new creative opportunities as well as expanding the scale of our international reach.

Sonar in 1995, a lot has changed technologically and socially. What role has the festival played on an international and local stage for electronic music and art?

Without a doubt. Sónar has grown into one of the main international events for electronic music, and this brings with it an expanded network and long standing relationships that have helped to change the scene. I think Sónar has played a monumental role in spreading electronic music forward from Spain to Europe, and visa-versa. Transcending from a very local stage to a global one is very important and it’s one of topics that we will discuss on the New Spaces panel at Nocturnal City.

Sónar was one of the first urban city festivals not organised by an institution. The main narrative with festivals is that they exist outside the city where people create their own worlds -  there is still that format for festivals - Glastonbury, of course, and Tomorrowland, maybe being the biggest one - but a festival experience which takes place in the heart of a city like Barcelona was completely unique at the time we started and continues to be an important part of our identity.

Sónar has always been an urban festival and our quest has always been to find spaces to reproduce the urbanity of electronic music. It's a very urban sound which becomes true with machines and with noise, and which links to sounds of the city. That’s why the magic formula, like the coca-cola formula for Sónar, is the city, the urban environment of Barcelona.

Image courtesy Sónar

Sónar is a space for the intersection of art, tech and music. Are there any standout moments in the history of Sónar for innovation?

Sónar has always featured an exhibition of new media and multimedia, so let's say we kind of forecast a lot of things. With virtual reality we were already in touch with a lot of artists who were working with the technology in it’s early days as well as immersive experiences and of geo-localising. We did several exhibitions which marked milestones for the kind of post-technological world that we now see on TV shows such as Black Mirror.

The whole notion of filesharing was a big development and we can't forget the impact that the Myspace community had on the scene. That was to be the future embryo for what we now know as social networks. We were, all of us, early adopters, and I think that electronic music and electronic arts have forecasted a lot of things that are actually happening in a real time scenario in everyday life. It's very interesting to see, and to pinpoint how a festival devoted to electronica could actually function as a type of 'science museum'. Right now collaborative projects on the internet are an important thing - the internet is a really positive vehicle that changed our lives, and our work.

Image courtesy Sónar

What is exciting you in Barcelona right now, from the electronic music scenes?

I think the city is getting back to having a scene of small clubs again, which I love, and i'm planning to visit a new club called Laut that has just opened, which has a really interesting approach to booking and great sound. Right now Barcelona's electronic scene is healthier than ever, partly thanks to clubs like Laut, but also because there are so many innovative producers. There are also a lot of women doing very exciting things without being pigeonholed in one genre - Ylia, Awwz, Bad Gyal are three examples of women working in different genres but excelling at what they do. There are so many more and this is incredibly inspiring.

In terms of new spaces and virtual spaces and the idea of creating club environments online - what are your thoughts on the future of that? Is being in a physical space still important?

I could go on about this subject forever. I came across a very interesting immersive reality experience with classical music at Carrieres Lumieres in France in a cave,  a very big cave which I really liked. Another good example for electronica is the eric Prydz live show. And I think in terms of the way technology can scale it down to make it feel both real and be accessible... I think very soon we'll have immersive virtual reality concerts which will blend online, virtual and 'real' experiences together.

With VR, I think there will be the industry connected to it, so you will have virtual booking agencies, virtual stage agencies. I think it's very important to maintain offline contact because people are craving to touch, and to have sensual experiences. It's interesting to see everything that science fiction has predicted and how much of it will become the future. Everything that comes in the future with have some kind of cyborg in it, and no i’m not scared.

Eric Prydz

Thinking about the interplay between London and Barcelona. London’s club scene has taken a hit, what challenges do you think we need to overcome?

I have of course  been supporting the Fabric campaign. They are our friends and we have been working with them for a number of years. We are part of the same community of clubbers and club promoters, and have learned from and with them over the years. I think now there is a lot of discussion around what clubs mean to young people and how clubs need to reinvent themselves. There is also a discussion around gentrification which is a political one. Another aspect which isn't necessarily refined, is that people, according to statistics, like to stay at home. People increasingly like to be hyperlocal and are not going to big clubs. But the whole concept of clubbing in the electronic music world is serious stuff; It’s not just going to a club to enjoy yourselves, it’s also going to a club to discover the DJ, to listen to the music.The online world of music of listening to pop music and not knowing or following the artist or DJ is a completely different experience. How and who plays is important, and the environmental immersive reality of all that is part of what the clubbing experience is. It’s not enough to just book a DJ and a dance floor, and hope for the best. People need more stimulus, and that's a promoters issue

You are also Board Member and Mentor of the platform She Said So, a global network of women who work in the music industry.

I am 51, very soon to be 52. Three years ago I wished to do something focused on women in music. Bit then somebosy introduced me to, created by Andreea Magdalina back then. With we try to find a way to get women to network, to work, to exchange and grow together.  It’s something that we sustain based on ideals and communications between women. I offered myself to be a mentor and help in any way and right now I am the director of the Barcelona branch. There’s now a London branch, and also Berlin, Lisbon and Paris, among others. Andreea is based in LA.


One of the other themes and topic which will be discussed at NC is how to make clubs more inclusive. What are the key actions that need to happen to make the electronic world more inclusive's aim is also to make the industry itself more inclusive. There are more than 2500 women in the world right now who are part of the network. It’s important that people who are in the public sphere try to influence the people around them: it’s not only about women and we are very sensitive to other inequalities. It’s not that we specifically speak to women only. Its very important to be inclusive and not exclusive.

I think social media is the best way to get the movement going. The best manifestation of this publicly that I’ve experienced, was the Women's March and I think it happened and was possible because of social media. There are a lot of angry people on social media, but without social media we wouldn't have the possibility to communicate on that scale, on a global level. Women have a lot to win in that sense, because we do communicate better than men. I think we know how to manage a message, and we are just reversing the message about ourselves and women.