Video Killed The Radio Star? Interview with Nadja Grizzo


Nadja Grizzo is an independent consultant for the European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) candidates and designated cities and member of the MOST steering committee. She has Italian and German background and she has been fortunate enough to travel all around the world. We talked to her about the changes surrounding us, the Balkan mentality and the success of music industry.


Why do you think MOST is an important project? Why have you decided to participate in the steering committee?   

Empowering artists and cultural managers to make a living with the work they do is a really important step towards creative entrepreneurship. MOST is a program through which a lot of people will benefit in a long run – and might have an influence on the Balkan music scene for decades to come. Who does not want to be part of that? I certainly do – at least playing my very modest part in it.

As a consultant for European Capitals of Culture candidates and title-holders you have experiences from the Balkans and from elsewhere as well. Do you see the obstacles a Balkan country has to face when entering international projects? 

I often see a „hand-to-mouth” mentality in the Balkans. Everyone lives very much in the moment and it is not easy for some to wrap their head around the concept of planning long-term. This is a super quality, because big things can be done in incredibly short time. And adapting to unexpected situations (like a Corona pandemic) might happen faster than in some “over-organised” countries. However, business as usual has not helped building a successful music industry in the Balkans – despite all talents. How can it work better, become more reliable for funding, add skills and qualifications, make the local players benefit from the value chain, make the cash flow back to those who earned it…

MOST project is still going ahead now and its programs won’t be cancelled, but due to COVID-19 some meetings will be held online or will be postponed. What is your feeling about the future of the music/cultural industry in this new world where viruses are being parts of our lives?

The only permanent thing is impermanence. Change is what surrounds us most and is closest to us in our everyday experience. And yet we seem to turn a blind eye to it most of the time. It scares us to be confronted with change. The Coronavirus imposes significant change on us. The world of culture is especially affected. For some of us this whole affair will be ruinous. And yet we will have to cope somehow. We will have to adapt, develop survival strategies, become more resilient. But I would also like to end with  an optimistic note. Some of you might remember the song Video Killed The Radio Star – and we all know what happened since the radio star died… Cool stuff emerges when change happens.

What differences do you see between Eastern and Western Europe  (regarding opportunities, infrastructure etc.)?

Regarding differences between the East and West I would say, apart from some of the more obvious challenges (missing venues, lack of funding opportunities etc.), it is greatly about structural issues. Policy makers, administrators, politicians, municipal officers are often too dismissive of artists and culture. They need to understand that creative entrepreneurship is entrepreneurial too and deserves the same attention, perhaps even more than an investor who brings a big factory to pollute your environment and exploit your people. A bit of a simplification, perhaps, but there is the point. This is why I appreciate the integral approach of MOST that also includes the Urban Policy pillar. This is, in my view, crucial  for making this program sustainable.

How could Creative Europe projects help the development of the cultural industry in the Balkan countries?

The community of partners makes the strength. Having a leading partner and working with people who are more experienced, but also experiencing that you are bringing your own fortes to the mix, can be a big booster. Building capacity, qualifications, experience, exchanging knowledge, gaining self-confidence and learning how to play the game. The contacts that are gained make another long-term benefit. 

What do you like in the Balkans? Could you share some personal stories?

Where should I start? There is a special mentality that I have to tune into whenever I work in a Balkan country. The pace and the way of dealing with things is so different than my German/Italian approach. You have to make a few smart moves at the beginning, gain respect, and trust that things will eventually fall into place when the right conditions come together. And when they do, things can move very quickly and be very effective. But it is also sometimes a rather harsh environment to work in and I have experienced many situations in which a lot of the work is done by women who do not get the respect and appreciation they deserve… Definitely something that needs to be improved . But there is a lot to love about the Balkans. It is such a vast cultural and geographic space with many unique landscapes, cities, cultures, traditions, people, cuisines, languages. With great places to visit.


Nadja Grizzo is an independent consultant for European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) candidates and designated cities. She was part of the European Capitals of Culture team for Essen/RUHR.2010 (Germany) from the beginning of the application process until the end of the successful title year. A phase that she now calls the most exhausting and rewarding years of her professional life so far… Since 2011 she considers it her privilege to share her knowledge and experience with dedicated cultural workers all over Europe. To date she has worked with around 20 candidate cities in as many countries. 

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