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Interview with Manuel Frohofer – The Gap [Austrian Online Media]

Linus Lassus

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Ahead of Ja Ja Ja Vienna in January we’re focusing on the Austrian music market and its trends and relevant industry players, in order for anyone interested in the event to be fully prepared! For a quick look at what the market looks like now, check our chat with Ink Music founder Hannes Tschürtz here!

Just like Ink Music, Austrian media outlet The Gap is a partner of Ja Ja Ja, making sure fans and industry get the most out the event in January. We interviewed senior music editor at The Gap, Manuel Frohofer, in order to get an update on the Austrian media market and the success of Nordic music ventures in the area.

The Gap is Austria’s longest standing pop culture magazine. Founded in 1997, it has developed from a music fanzine into an on- and offline media platform covering a vast variety of topics. According to Manuel, music has always been and will always be one of The Gap’s key topics.

Manuel is well aware of the current changes in the media field and how media players should adapt.

“The role of music media in general has changed significantly: almost unlimited access to music, the decay of long-established release schedules and the new power of word-of-mouth recommendations via social media have shaken up the way music journalism needs to work to stay relevant.” says Manuel.

“Hence regional and especially exclusive content like video premieres or interviews, pieces with strong, well-argued opinions and/or passionate personal perspectives as well as entertaining content for easy consumption like listicles, picture galleries and such have gained more and more importance.”

As for where The Gap finds itself in all this, Manuel is confident it’s on the right path.

“I think The Gap has done quite a good job in adapting to this new circumstances, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to persist for 20 years – and counting.”

The trend in the region seems to be a stronger focus on online consumption and a weakening of content tied closely to the region.

“Due to the common language, there has always been quite a strong presence of German print publications in the Austrian music media market. With the rise of online media and the increasing importance of regionally relevant content, their role has diminished over the recent years. In addition to that, also some Austrian music media have been shut down or have at least greatly reduced their activities – with just a few music magazines remaining, e.g. Slam Magazine and Volume. So the print music media market has definitely been thinning out in the last decade.”

Even though the bells toll for mass print media, there seem to be a few other “old” media outlets that manage to stay relevant.

“On the plus side, we still have GoTV and especially Radio FM4 as relevant broadcasting media for Austrian acts and new music slightly off the mainstream. Also, the people at the Austrian offices of Vice and its music channel Noisey are  – mainly online – doing a good job in covering fresh artists and trending music topics,” says Manuel.

Nordic and Danish Music in Austria

Ja Ja Ja Vienna kicks off on January 27th at the legendary WUK venue. As a media partner and local endorser, Manuel is currently busy getting the local music fans and industry as psyched out as possible about the happening. As for the event itself, he says he is very much looking forward to discovering new music in the best way possible (live) and meeting industry peers from other countries. Because as he puts it: “It’s always a good option to broaden one’s view on current issues of the industry and to perhaps get some interesting stories or even new projects on the way.”

What makes you interested in a new band or artist? Any personal favorites from recent years?

It can be many different things actually. As I’ve mentioned before being unique is a big benefit. And if music is really heartfelt, if it has soul, I am easily intrigued by it, too. Some of my favourites from recent years are Vampire Weekend, Grimes, The XX, Metronomy, Lykke Li, Tame Impala, Young Fathers, Courtney Barnett, Sia and Austrian artists like Mile Me Deaf, Sex Jams or A Thousand Fuegos.

Ja Ja Ja builds on the idea that the Nordic countries are, despite their (relatively minor) differences, perceived as pretty alike to the rest of the world.

As the man who is supposed to communicate this idea to the local music fans, how do you think local music fans perceive Nordic music? Do people see differences between the individual Nordic countries?

“I think the people in Austria see the Nordic countries as trusted generators of successful and ambitious popular music from all kinds of genres. While Sweden has been perceived as one of Europe’s strongest nations in pop for decades now, Denmark has – over the past years – also been able to constantly put forward fresh new music with an edge: from The Raveonettes to Iceage and from Trentemøller to – lots of great stuff indeed.

“With artists like Röyksopp and Annie, Norway does not lag behind at all. While the sparsely populated Iceland is an exceptional success story on its own: artists like Björk and Sigur Rós not only are huge stars, but also are highly identified with their home country and its traits – a little mystical, a little askew and truly captivating.”

Have you recognized any Nordic bands, Danish in particular, that have had a significant presence in the area lately? Has The Gap been writing about any?

“All of the artists mentioned above have been featured in The Gap and have gained a significant following down here. But there are many more: Efterklang, Oh Land, When Saints Go Machine, Rangelklods / Blondage, Reptile Youth, Agnes Obel…”

What do you think they did right to be successful in Austria? What do you think foreign artists and bands should do to be successful?

“Reptile Youth and Rangleklods for example have definitely won over lots of people in Austria with their endearing live shows. To play as many concerts as possible in as many cities as possible and to give your best on stage, is probably the most promising way to convince the audience. Of course, it sounds like a platitude, but with recorded music being available in abundance, experiencing a live show will always be something special.

“It is hard work to become successful: practice, go on tour, promote your music, search for good partners that share your vision. Which brings me to probably the most important thing of all: being unique – in an authentic way – will always make an impression. Artists should never try to be like someone else, but find their own musical vision and stay true to it – no matter what. If the raw and uncompromising post-punk sound of Iceage has ever hit your eardrum, you will not forget this easily – whether it’s your kind of music or not.”

One of the things mentioned when talking about the Austrian music market is how the country can be used as a platform for launching further into Central Europe. Manuel thinks this is absolutely true and vouches for the idea.

“Austria – and Vienna in particular – has definitely become a hub for the exchange between Eastern and Western European countries. This is of course due to its position in the heart of Europe and has lately been boosted by the showcase festival and music conference Waves Vienna which attracts hundreds of professionals from all over the continent each year. In terms of media, this kind of exchange does not really happen yet, which is mainly because of the language barrier.

Any recommendations to the people and the bands coming to Ja Ja Ja Vienna 2017?

They will probably do that anyway, but they should make sure to check out the city by day as well – it is indeed beautiful!