Sam Smith, Muse, and Mumford & Sons have at least one thing in common. They played at the tiny German music festival Haldern Pop before they were famous. Is Haldern a launchpad for stars?
Haldern a serene little village on in Germany's Lower Rhine region, has about 5,000 inhabitants, a bakery, two supermarkets, a few pubs and a church. That's it.
But for many music fans from the US to Spain, Haldern is a household name. For the past 30 years, it's been home to Haldern Pop, a small but exclusive music festival.
It all started in 1981 when a group of altar boys organized a huge party because they felt their town was too quiet. The party on the premises of the town's Old Riding Arena was a big success.
Three years later, after forming a joint stock company, they launched Haldern Pop on June 23, 1984 - finally, with live music. Stefan Reichmann helped organize that first festival, and he's still the event's heart and soul today.
Haldern Pop, it seems, is one of the last independent bastions in the commerce-driven music industry universe. The festival is enormously popular - the 2016 event was sold out last fall even before the line-up was announced. But year after year, no more than 7,000 tickets are available.
Haldern Pop doesn't survive on big name bands, but on the fact that quite a few bands that played here eventually made it big.
Muse rocked the stage in Haldern when they were still completely unknown. Sportfreunde Stiller and Mumford & Sons played to the town's green fields before moving to big arenas.
Obviously, not every band that plays Haldern Pop is destined for fame, and of course famous musicians perform there, too, as well as newcomers who've already made themselves a name, like Mando Diao, Franz Ferdinand and Travis. But Haldern Pop has come up with many a musical gem over the years. Click through the gallery above for some of the top names to come out of the festival.