TMW celebrated the end of summer by filling the city with music, art and discussions on the future of culture sector. The next edition of TMW festival will take place from 6 to 9 May, 2021

04 September 2020

The 12th edition of music and culture festival Tallinn Music Week (TMW), initially scheduled to take place in March, took place in Tallinn, Estonia from 27 to 30 August. 140 artists from 10 European countries performed at the music festival and 778 music industry and culture sector representatives participated at the conference. A total of 20 233 visits took place across the festival’s 60 venues over 4 days.

The festival’s opening night, co-curated with Tampere Hall and Tampere 2026 Capital of Culture teams took place at Fotografiska Tallinn. The opening speech was given by Estonian Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas. President Kersti Kaljulaid gave a public interview at the TMW conference.

During this challenging time for the entire culture and events sector, the main themes that TMW delved into were Music Industry 2.0, Sustainable Development Goals and Neighbours. The TMW Creative Impact Conference, which took place at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), dedicated special attention to crisis strategies and leading change in the music industry and the cultural sector. In addition to the conference and the music programme, which mainly took place in North Tallinn’s Telliskivi Creative City and Port Noblessner, the festival programme included public talks, an art programme, workshops for kids, tour in the Lasnamäe district, restaurant programme Tastes, musician’s flea market and a charity record fair in collaboration with the Gift of Life Cancer Treatment Foundation.

140 artists from 10 European countries performed on 11 stages at the festival. The music showcases were visited by 11 000 people over 3 days, including 778 music and culture industry representatives, who also participated at the Creative Impact Conference. 160 volunteers lent a helping hand. In total, including the free city programme events, the festival had 20 233 visits.

TMW 2020 was organised in a reduced capacity, in line with the rules aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus currently applicable to public events. All events adhered to strict hygiene demands as well as a 50% maximum capacity limit.

The festival opened at Fotografiska Tallinn on Thursday, 27 August in collaboration with Tampere Hall, the largest cultural centre in the Nordics, and the Tampere 2026 European Capital of Culture bid team.

In his opening speech, Estonian Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas greeted partners from Tampere, the TMW team, as well as the festival visitors. “We have always felt awaited in Finland. We are certain that this weekend our guests will feel equally welcome in Estonia,” said Minister Lukas. He also recognised the organisers of TMW by stating, “You were the first festival in Estonia that had to make very difficult decisions in a matter of hours, even prior to the start of the emergency situation in the spring. The postponement of the festival affected people throughout the world. You came out of the situation stronger and richer by important experiences.”

The opening ceremony included performances by the Finnish ambient jazz legend Tapani Rinne with his Radioton project and the Estonian jazz star Kadri Voorand in duo with Mihkel Mälgand. The music showcase festival that lasted until 29 August featured a cross-section of genres from indie pop to new generation trap, from metal to folk, from contemporary classical and from choral music to experimental electronica. Estonia’s talent was represented by over 100 acts, including the renowned representatives of their genres like Trad.Attack!, Mari Kalkun, Mingo Rajandi Quintet, Collegium Musicale, mixed choir HUIK!, Anna Kaneelina, Erki Pärnoja, Mart Avi, Sander Mölder, YASMYN, Lexsoul Dancemachine, Manna, Kannabinõid, Zahir and many others.

For the first time, a team of artist advisers was mentoring Estonian musicians performing at the festival.

Some of the most talked about moments at the festival were, for example, the explosive punk performance by Finnish rock band HENRIK! at the GROM showcase in Sveta Bar, and Rita Ray’s spontaneous a cappella that defied the sudden blackout that occured during her performance at the Funk Embassy showcase in PROTO Invention Factory.

On 28 and 29 August 128 representatives of the music and culture industries participated in the conference at EKA, 80 of them on location and 48 digitally. The discussions focused on the future strategies of the music industry and cultural management, as well as health and safety measures at public events. The international audience gathered at the auditorium of the Estonian Academy of Arts was greeted by the academy’s rector Mart Kalm, Director of Communications at Telia Estonia Katrin Isotamm and Director of TMW Helen Sildna. Sildna’s opening presentation was joined across the video bridge by colleagues from crisis stricken Beirut and Minsk – co-founder of Beirut Jam Sessions Anthony Semaan and Belarusian music promoter Dmitri Bezkorovainyi.

Helen Sildna’s TMW 2020 conference opening speech:

Barbara Gessler, Head of Unit for Creative Europe – Culture, European Commission, Taaniel Raudsepp, Undersecretary of the Arts at the Estonian Ministry of Culture, Dace Vilsone, Deputy State Secretary for Cultural Policy at the Ministry of Culture in Latvia and Kimmo Aulake, Ministerial Adviser of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland were among the speakers to discuss policies and relief measures for the sector and envision future solutions for a more sustainable ecosystem in a panel moderated by Virgo Sillamaa, Director of Music Estonia.

As Mr Aulake summarised, “Not only do we need a vaccine against the virus, but also a vaccine for societal resilience, with culture as the main ingredient.”

The future education panel focused on the potential of higher education to promote leadership quality and future skills in the cultural sector with Pekka Mattila, Managing Director at Aalto University Executive Education, and Madli-Liis Parts, music adviser at the Estonian Ministry of Culture. A discussion on the future forecasts for the live music industry was led by Martin Elbourne, co-founder of the festivals WOMAD and The Great Escape as well as one of the main bookers of the Glastonbury festival; Stephen Budd, director of Africa Express project; Perttu Pesä, director of major events at the City of Tampere; and Ieva Irbina, co-chairperson at the Latvian cultural centre Hanzas Perons.

President Kersti Kaljulaid gave a public interview to Benjamin Bathke from the German news service Deutsche Welle within the conference. The interview focused on TMW’s main topics and the role of culture in a changing world. “If artists and creatives adopt an issue, there is no going back,” said Kaljulaid to highlight the significance of arts and culture in the society at all times.

Interview with President Kersti Kaljulaid:

In collaboration with Music Estonia, the conference also included practical workshops and mentoring sessions – from the newest digital marketing trends to a behind-the-scenes look at the electronic music business. Great interest was shown toward a master class led by Ben Nothnagel, senior adviser at the Aalto Executive MBA programme, and the subsequent panel, where leaders in culture discussed the importance of leadership quality in a changing world. Interview with Finnish music industry legend, founder and head of the Rockadillo group Tapio Korjus by Helen Sildna also met with a warm reception.

The PRO and DigiPRO clients who registered for the conference will have access to the recorded panels from next week along with the opportunity to participate in online meetings with international music industry representatives.

In addition to the music programme and conference, the TMW 2020 included a vast variety of events across the city. Daytime city stage performances spread the festival vibes across the city from Viru Keskus to the Laagna community garden, and from the Telia headquarters to Põhjala Factory in Kopli peninsula. The public talks series held at the record shop Terminal Records & Bar probed topics from the young pop generation’s depression issues to cultural appropriation. The art programme included the Tallinn Thursday gallery tour curated by the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center, light installations by the students of EKA at Port Noblessner, as well as various exhibitions and a pop-up store from Tampere Hall’s Moomin Museum at Fotografiska Tallinn. The festival also included music themed workshops for children at Vivistop Telliskivi, the TMW Tastes programme that highlighted Tallinn’s restaurants and the musicians flea market. In cooperation with the Gift of Life Cancer Treatment Foundation, a charity record fair raised nearly 5000 euros for supporting cancer patients.

According to Karena Leiger, crisis management adviser at the Estonian Health Board, the festival organisation was conducted in a responsible manner. “TMW took all possible measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus into consideration, and provided guests as well as artists with guidelines on how to behave responsibly at festival venues,” commented Leiger. She went on to add, “In the current conditions that are extremely difficult, the cultural sector is very open to cooperation. We have seen that when virus prevention measures are taken seriously, events can also be organised in complicated times. An important part of the responsibility lies with the visitors of these events as well.”

According to Eigo Sõster, Head of Meeskond Security, which provided security and crowd management services at many of the TMW concert venues, despite the restrictions and risks, the festival went well. “It was obvious that the organisers and most of the public understood the need to go along with the health and safety measures. The past few months have shown that it is indeed possible to organise events safely, however, it also means that the applied measures have to take into account the characteristics of each venue and event. Our hope is that in the future, if further restrictions are applied, they would be precisely targeted and developed in cooperation with event organisers.”

The next edition of the TMW festival will take place on 6 – 9 May 2021. 

Feedback from TMW 2020 visitors and partners:

Katrin Isotamm, Head of Communication at Telia Estonia:
“We are very pleased that TMW actually took place, despite the complicated times! Especially in such a difficult era, it is essential to collect the positive emotions offered by music and musicians, to have meaningful discussions and to make sense of the future  –  all this was done responsibly within the festival. TMW’s reach and contribution to Estonian society has grown over the years, and although this year the world focuses primarily on the pandemic, there are still several issues whose importance must not be forgotten. Sustainable Development, diversity and caring digital culture are the keywords that need more attention in Estonia, and TMW and Telia will continue to work on it together. Thank you, TMW team!”

Feliks Mägus, Chairman of the Board, Nordic Hotel Forum
“We highly value the courage and decisiveness of the TMW team in organising a city festival in this complicated time in a professional manner and with high quality results. There is nothing more important than finding a way to keep going with what you believe in and care about. The partnership between TMW and Nordic Hotel Forum has lasted for 12 years and it’s still going strong! See you at TMW 2021!”

Jaanus Juss, founder of the Telliskivi Creative City
“TMW is not just about entertainment, it is an important event for the development of the entire Estonian music industry. Year by year, creative industries have an increasingly weighty role in the economy, and TMW has certainly been an important motor in the process. Therefore, we are very pleased that the festival went ahead despite the difficult conditions this year and that the Telliskivi Creative City could participate in the process once again as a partner and supporter.”

Paulina Ahokas, CEO of Tampere Hall Ltd:
“TMW has been chosen among the ten best festivals in the world in various different publications and ratings for several years in a row, and it is no wonder why. TMW once again set the pace for the music and events industries at large, by leading the way towards our new normal. We simply cannot stop culture, events and all the economical activity and wellbeing they bring. Both Tampere Hall and Tampere 2026 are honoured to partner with TMW and to co-host the opening event together. The main theme of the Tampere 2026 bid for European Capital of Culture is equality, and never has there been more need for this, both on the national and European level. It is more important than ever for us all to come together, to reach out to our international friends, to innovate, to share ideas, to create new opportunities and a more equal future.”

Solveig Jahnke, Head of the Communication Department of the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA):
“EKA is honored to be the conference venue and one of the main venues chosen by TMW for the second year in a row, but the cooperation with our students and various departments has been going on for a long time. This symbiosis between TMW and EKA is so natural and organic that it could not even be imagined otherwise anymore. Rather, I see that in the future we will be even more intertwined. In times of coronavirus or any other crisis, it is especially important to let culture play its part. After all, throughout the history, culture, and especially music have elevated the human soul beyond mundane or trouble, brought people together and created a shared experience – be it the cry of Seto women or Joel Remmel’s piano solo. Fear cannot be allowed to rule on a personal or societal level, and it is good to see TMW’s responsible courage to initiate, nurture and conduct such a large-scale cultural festival year after year, and bring positive attention to Estonia (and EKA). I wish the TMW team even more strength and determination for the future!”

Ave Tölpt, Director of Music Estonia:
“Considering the limited conditions in which TMW was organised this year, you could say it was an exceptional yet firm decision to go ahead with this event, which is so important for the Estonian musical landscape. The event highlights the diversity of this field, points out the brightest of the bright, expands the city space we use, and creates many new connections at home and abroad all the while. Furthermore, a huge value of the event is the TMW Creative Impact Conference, which this year emphasised the changing world and brought the topic of leadership competence into a sharp focus. Against this background, it is important to point out that this year’s festival took place in a hybrid format for the very first time, which is a significant feat in this new world, where we have to continuously find new, smart ways to quickly adapt in order to keep culture going. I believe that this type of solution will definitely continue to be an important added output for large festivals. What’s most important – the festival actually took place in the real, physical world, offering the listeners, artists and the city space a broad-based, major musical event.

Perttu Pesä, Director of Major Events of the City of Tampere:
“The courage TMW shows us makes me happy. We might have to live with C19 for a while, so we have to push forward. Events like this are important for the whole industry. The TMW team really knows what ‘Sisu’ is.”

Liina Maria Lepik, Director of Estonian Tourist Board at Enterprise Estonia
More than half of the Estonian foreign tourism relies on our neighbouring markets, and for those markets the main question is always how to keep guests coming back. Cultural and sports events with fresh content spark interest in traveling and have a wider economic impact on Estonia, with each event bringing in hundreds of thousands of euros. Although events can’t happen in normal ways and capacities right now, their quality is now even more evident, both here and abroad. A responsibly organised event passes on the message internationally about Estonia – we are capable of rising to new standards in safety, we can be trusted, act smartly and flexibly. However, our guests have to behave the same way, and for events the reminders and the guarantees come with a whole new set of demands. This forces organisers to be more attentive, more flexible, and innovative than ever before. In light of all this, we would like to praise successful events organised during such a complicated time.

Kristel Sooaru, Marketing and Communication Manager of Viru Keskus
“For Viru Keskus, it is important to support Estonian culture in tough times as well, so in cooperation with our partners, we look for solutions for how to bring good quality cultural events to people. That is why we are so glad that one of our longest standing partners TMW despite the obstacles managed to once again organise a festival that made our cityscape resound and brought music to Viru Keskus again. This year’s city stage concert at Viru Keskus, on our Tammsaare terrace along with the street food gourmet programme delighted both the visitors of the shopping centre as well as just regular passers-by. We saw definite proof that Estonians are people who love to dance. Seeing happy people dancing to Puuluup’s music in the middle of the day was just infinitely uplifting.”

Ann Virkus, head of special projects at Port Noblessner:
“Every year, TMW comes like a fresh and exhilarating gust of wind, bringing with it bold visions, music and a future-forward attitude. We are happy to be able to contribute.”

Henri Roosipõld, head of Live Music Estonia
“In addition to the artists, TMW also provides opportunities for the concert venues and organisers to create new contacts with their colleagues from abroad. This is important, on the one hand, for curating the season’s programme – with likeminded people from other countries, you can make better offers for touring artists and also make it easier to present Baltic and Finnish artists to new audiences. On the other hand, meeting also provides the opportunity to exchange ideas and find solutions to the various challenges in our field. The biggest challenges right now are related to the coronavirus, however, outside of this issue there are other acute questions. For example, one of the discussions at TMW focused on the question of how to foster the development of a diverse and sustainable musical environment in cities. At this year’s TMW, we took a step closer to really developing Finnish-Baltic cooperation. Among other developments, the representatives of Latvian concert venues had the idea of creating a representative body similar to Live Music Estonia. In addition, the head of the Helsinki Cultural Committee and the nightlife coordinator showed interest in forming stronger ties both with Tallinn and Tartu.”

Daniel Cole, music journalist: Electronic Beats, Bandcamp Daily, DJTechTools:
“A real pearl in the festival and conference circuit, proving to be an eye-opener for new and extremely talented, diverse local acts. Tallinn is the ultimate location for a multitude of sonically, fascinating sounds, business meetings, and networking, with everything connected like magic, and organised within an inch of perfection.”

Henrik Ehte, founder of Estonian Funk Embassy:
“Everyone is tired of staring at screens and being isolated. The music industry is by nature an area where ideas are born and implemented in a team. Defying the enormous difficulties and risks, TMW reunited the industry people physically. This enabled communication and let us experience, for example, a panel that discussed the possibilities of the future of concert life with the Glastonbury booker and a Latvian cultural figure. The world is closer again, batteries are charged, hope is restored. The butterfly effect of that seminar could be a forum for exchanging hands-on advice across Europe on how to safely cope with the new reality and what mistakes to avoid.”

Sandra Vabarna, Trad.Attack!
“It’s extremely cool and powerful that despite the difficult circumstances, the TMW organisers found creative solutions and opportunities for making the festival happen. Having organised many big events with our band and performed at various festivals, we know very well how many challenges and obstacles can be faced in event promotion. Great respect to the TMW team that they managed so powerfully. The musicians were able to enjoy new stages and finally perform in front of the audience, the visitors were able to listen to loads of good music and recharge themselves with positive emotions. We know from our own experience that it is easy to come into the picture and catch people’s interest for a moment, but the most difficult and challenging thing is staying sustainable and consistent! It’s great that TMW was able to keep the flag high also this year!”

TMW 2020 in figures:

140 performers from 10 countries
160 volunteers
60 festival locations, including 11 music venues
11 399 music festival visitors
778 conference visitors on-site and digitally
7776 visits across different city festival events
20 233 festival visits in total

TMW 2020 was presented by Telia Estonia

TMW 2020 was organised by Shiftworks OÜ in cooperation with many partners and co-organisers. The TMW music programme was developed in cooperation with Damn.Loud Agency. The TMW conference programme for the music industry was developed in cooperation with the Estonian music development and export organisation Music Estonia.

The festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Cultural Endowment, the Tallinn City Culture Department, the Tallinn City Enterprise Department, Enterprise Estonia (EAS) and Integration Foundation (INSA).

The international activities of TMW, aimed at introducing Estonia as an attractive destination for those interested in music and culture, are supported by funds from the European Regional Development Fund.

Programme partners:, Damn.Loud, Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center (ECADC), Estonian Choral Association, Fotografiska Tallinn, GROM, HALL, IDA Raadio, Estonian Jazz Union & Jazzkaar, Funk Embassy, Kivi Paber Käärid, Koplifest, LAGI, Lasnaidee, Manka Boutique Pop Festival, Made In Baltics & Sony Music, Music Estonia, OOPUS, Record Fair, Smoke Break, Sõru Saund Festival, Tampere Hall & Tampere 2026, Telliskivi Creative City Outdoor Gallery, TIKS Rekords, Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Void Valley, Wilde Renate, Maarja Merivoo-Parro, Terje Trochinsky

Festival contributors: Nordic Hotel Forum, Telliskivi Creative City, Viru Keskus, BLRT Group / Noblessner, Postimees, Raadio 2, Go Travel, Go Hotell Shnelli, Go Bus, Hektor Container Hotel, PROTO Invention Factory, Soundhouse, RGB, Meeskond Security, Piletilevi, Baltic Station Market, Tanker, Vita Pictura, AW Stuff

Foreign partners: Embassy of Finland, Finnish Institute, British Council, Noise Unit PR, Keychange, ETEP, EMMMA, WOMEX, Classical:Next, BIME Pro, Tampere Region 2026, Tampere Hall, Sevkabel Port, HEMI, Antti Kiuru, Lena Sme

Festival venues:

Conference centre: Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA)

Music programme: F-Hoone, Fotografiska Tallinn, HALL, Kai Art Center, Kauplus Aasia, KinoMaja Bar & Stage, Kalju Baptist Church, Kivi Paber Käärid, Nobel Hall, Telliskivi Creative City main square, Sveta Bar, Von Krahl.

City stages: Viru Keskus, Nordic Hotel Forum, Telia Estonia headquarters, Laagna community garden, Põhjala Factory and Botik in collaboration with Koplifest, design bureau Velvet, Põhjala Tap Room, Sveta Bar outdoor area.

Art programme: Kai Art Center, Temnikova & Kasela gallery, EKA Gallery, Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre, Positiiv Gallery, Okapi Gallery, Haus Gallery and Vaal Gallery, Telliskivi Creative City outdoor gallery, Port Noblessner, Fotografiska Tallinn, KinoMaja bar and stage.

TMW Talks: Terminal Records & Bar
TMW Kids: Telliskivi Vivistop
Record Fair: Baltis Station Market’s Evening Square
Musicians Flea Market: Fotografiska Tallinn
Lasnamäe Sunday: Laagna community garden, restaurant Zanzibar and various locations in Lasnamäe

TMW Tastes restaurants: Barrell Street Food, Bekker Bakery, Burger Box, F-Hoone, Fika Leib- ja Kohv, Fotografiska Restaurant, Frenchy, GC Gastrobar, Homeart, Kampai, Kivi Paber Käärid, KOKOMO Coffee Roasters, Kärbes Kitchen&Bar, La Muu, Lendav Taldrik, Lore Bistro, Pegasus, Põhjala Tap Room, Reval Café, ROOTS coffee bar, Suvila, Kurze, Trühvel, Vegan+, Von Krahli Aed, VLND Burger, Wrap’n’Roll, ÜLO

Festival website by: Velvet and Festivality
Visual identity by: AKU
Interior design: Ott Kangur