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SPOT Festival interviews – Meet some of the international delegates, who went to Aarhus

Asbjørn Hæstrup

Booking agents, record labels, festival programmers, music journalists and everything in between. SPOT Festival saw the arrival of several prolific international music industry professionals to Aarhus. Read along and get to know some of them, learn more about their work, what they saw at the festival and much more.

 

Oskar Strajn – Booking Assistant, Eurosonic

So how are you liking it here at SPOT?

The festival is very well organized and lots of great acts are playing. It’s really hard to pick what to see next, which only means that the bookers did an excellent job. Another thing that I find great about Spot festival, is that most of the shows are concentrated around Scandinavian Conference Centre so you are able to move from venue to venue quickly. It’s also great to see that MXD is collaborating so closely with Spot in terms of international delegates. They provide opportunities for the delegates to network and MXD’s Superball really exposed the acts to the people from the international music industry. 

What made you guys want to focus on Denmark for next year’s Eurosonic?
It’s the right moment for the Danish music scene to gain even more international impact. We realized this since so many great acts are breaking internationally at the moment, and therefore we think this is the perfect time to introduce other parts of the Danish music scene to our audience at Eurosonic.

We are very excited to have Denmark as a focus country and we are looking forward to discovering new acts!

Could you tell us a little bit about the shows you went to last night (Friday red.)?
We’re here at SPOT Festival to get a nice overview of the scene. Yesterday, we decided to go check out some of the bands that we found to tour internationally. We had made a list of bands that we wanted to check out and we got to see all of them. We’d prefer not to name any names, since we’d like all interested bands to apply to play at our festival – since this year, it’s more important than ever for Danish acts to apply. However, we advise bands who are not ready yet to wait before applying. By ready, we mean that it’s important to have a product; that they’ve released an album or at least some singles. Also, they need to have proper team around them – management, a good label, etc.

Eurosonic’s artist application closes September 1st and you can apply here.

 

Hugo Simpson – Promotions Manager, Kartel Music Group

We understand that you work with a lot of Danish artists, can you tell us a bit about who they are and why that is?

The main indie label that I work with in Denmark is Tambourhinoceros. But I also work with acts like Soleima, School of X and Ellis May. I started Kartel a couple of years ago and one of the first acts I worked with was Palace Winter, signed to Tambourhinoceros. It went really well in regards to media the first couple of months, and after that radio really picked up. They got loads of coverage in the UK and from then we just picked up more and more Danish acts through recommendations. Before getting on the flight here, I read a couple of international media previews of the festival and many of them were highlighting Palace Winter as one of the bands to look out for, so that’s really great.

When plugging Danish acts to radio, media, etc. do you use some sort of overarching ‘Danish narrative’ or do you push them at a song-by-song basis?

Media and radio are very different. Regarding media, I think a lot of writers write specifically about Nordic music, so there’s definitely a story to be told there. Sites like The Line of Best Fit are a good way to start off a solid media coverage. I think that it’s relatively easier for Nordic bands than for UK ones to get attention here, since the UK market is so competitive. So being Danish, or Scandinavian, does provide a little ‘edge’ in a market like the UK. To use Palace Winter as an example: Their frontman, Carl, is very much Australian, but we sell them as a Danish band.

With radio, it’s definitely more about just the song. There is an element of narrative as people like to know where the band is from, but not at all to the same degree as with media.

What are the most important UK media and radio stations in terms of breaking in the UK as a Danish band?

It depends very much on the band. For Palace Winter, BBC 6 Music has been their biggest and most influential supporter. The BBC has 3 really big radio stations for music: BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music. Radio 1 is very commercial. So is Radio 2, but for a much older audience. Soleima got some airplay on Radio 1, but that came naturally; I don’t think anyone had been plugging her record. That came from a presenter, Abby McCarthy, finding the music from the media stuff that we had been pushing.

6 Music is a little bit smaller, but has a really keen listenership and covers more ‘tastemaker-stuff’ like indie bands and specialist music. In particular Lauren Laverne, who has a show on 6 Music, picked up on Palace Winter very early on, and that helped massively. For written media, The Line of Best Fit is probably the main one, because they are such huge supporters of new music, especially from Scandinavia. Also, sites like Notion and NME can play a huge role in breaking a band in the UK.

Phyllis Belezos – Agent, ITB

Are there any particular bands or genres that you wish to check out at this year’s SPOT?

I’m not really into pigeonholing myself into a specific genre, but I’m really curious to check out the Danish electronic scene, since I’ve worked a lot with electronic bands in the past. I think Blondage sound really nice and I’m going to check them out. I’ve been invited to SPOT Festival before, but unfortunately couldn’t go. So this year, I’m thrilled to finally be able to be here.

What does your work as an agent entail?

I book bands for venues all over the world, excluding North America. 

I have a set of promoters and managers that I regularly work with, but I’ve learned that you shouldn’t necessarily stick with one partner and book shows for all their acts. When working with new promoters I need to know that they have a plan for the act; what type of venue, what type of area, what sort of audience?

I don’t think the agent’s job is over once the gig is booked, I like to see it through; getting weekly ticket sales, approving artwork, making sure the promotion is done and so on.

Besides going to showcase festivals like SPOT, what are your primary channels for discovering new music?

It’s mostly word of mouth; colleagues, labels or managers who recommend bands. I also get a lot of music sent by email. I try to do listening sessions, where I listen to all the new music I get recommended and won’t be disturbed by emails or calls.

What’s important to know for Danish bands to know when ventured out into Europe?

Go one territory at a time; you don’t necessarily have to start with the US or UK. I’ve learned that being talented is not enough to make it. You really need to have the right team around you. Someone who is hungry and is collecting the right contacts.

Adam Ryan – Programmer, The Great Escape

Could you briefly introduce yourself and The Great Escape?

My name is Adam Ryan, I am the programmer for The Great Escape Festival, which takes place in Brighton in May over three days. The Great Escape is a showcase festival, showcasing new music. Around 80% of the bookings are new artists. The last twenty percent is established bands coming back into the market with new material. We have a conference that runs in tandem with the live shows with panels, networking events and such. We have around 3000 delegates attending.

Which shows did you see last night?

I saw Sløtface, Marching Church and Goss. Goss was really good, this being their first show and all. I hope to invite them over next year, as the bookings for this year are already done.

Could you tell us a bit about your media partnership with BBC?

We’ve always been involved with them, they’ve had a BBC Introducing stage for several years. However, this year, we’ll be having a bit bigger collaboration. The BBC Music 3 show called Late Junction, which does everything from experimental, world music, indie and everything in between. BBC will also be broadcasting some of their key shows live from the festival. We have Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq and Mister Jam doing their respective shows at The Great Escape. 

We haven’t necessarily sought it out, but we have quite a strong ethos of showcasing some of the best new music, so the partnership has come into play ‘organically’, since it’s also in the BBC’s interest to be where this music is being showcased in the first place.

I see it mostly as a boost to the artists, since the BBC provide a direct route of showcasing them to a wider audience. The shows do ‘Great Escape Specials’, broadcast from the festival itself, where they play music from the line-up, do interviews with some of the bands and really help create more publicity for them.

Which Danish acts do you have performing this year?

Quite a few: Code Walk, Communions, Chinah, Off Bloom, Lowly and Soleima. It’s difficult, since there’s so many great acts from Denmark that we’d love to have playing. However, we have 450 artists playing, a number we won’t grow, so since we have to cater to a large array of countries, we really can’t have too many acts from one particular country. 

What’s important for bands playing, or wanting to play, The Great Escape?

The best way get in touch with me is to approach me at showcase festivals like SPOT, or write me an email on: adam.ryan@mamaco.com

If it’s your first time playing here, come a year in advance to get an idea of where the venues are, where to meet certain people and so on. It’s important for bands to have a good team around them. Whatever meetings you have set up should be taken care of by someone not in the band, so the band can concentrate on playing their show. But if you are in the band, go down in front of the audience after you finish playing instead of just heading backstage. You never know who’s there.

 

Brianna Cheng – A&R, Downtown Records and Jessica Page – Director of Digital, Mom + Pop Records.

Brianna Cheng, Downtown

Jessica Page, Mom + Pop

How are you liking SPOT Festival so far?

Jessica: It’s nice, since it’s a manageable size. 

Brianna: Everything here is so beautiful and clean.

Which shows did you see last night (Friday)?

Jessica: We saw Goss, which was really amazing. Also Alma, who blew us away

Brianna: Tonight, we’re going to see Blondage, who actually have a US publicist that we’re friends with. We also want to catch this great singer-songwriter called Maximillian. We’re also going to check out Marching Church and Vera. Vera sometimes works with another Danish producer called Vasco, who I worked with last year. He did a really cool remix for me, so I’m excited to check out Vera as well, since part of my job is setting up remixes, features and putting songwriting sessions together.

Before coming here, I also got in touch with Alma for her to feature on a song with one of our artists, so SPOT was a great opportunity to catch her live.

Jessica: It’s quite interesting to go here given the huge switch from physical sales and downloads to streaming that’s occurred. The Danish market is sort of how the US could look in 5 years. Here on SPOT, I’ve been focused on talking to artists and managers about how that affects them, since I’m really interested in how to work within a market that’s so focused on streaming. 

How do you guys see your work changing with the recent growth in US streaming numbers? 

Brianna: A lot. For example, on the remix side, it’s all about what could fit on certain playlists. Radio edits, which are essentially ‘Spotify edits’, are becoming more and more popular. I also think that this development is favoring certain genres of music, with genres like electronic and pop having an easier time accommodating an increasingly studio-focused market.

Jessica: I feel like this development is allowing for more cross-over projects, since artists have an easier time connecting with each other and enter other markets without even having to do sessions in person. For example, Phlake just produced a track for one of my artists in spite of them not being a household name in the US yet. I just met with them and their manager in Copenhagen before coming to Aarhus, but I would probably never have had the opportunity to do that if I hadn’t been in Denmark anyway. 

 

Leanne Mison – Publicist, Bang on PR and Michael Morley – Director, Lucky Number

 

Is this your first time at SPOT Festival?

Leanne: It’s actually my third time. The first time I came as a delegate and the second time as a guest. This time I’m working with SPOT.

Michael: This is a pure virginal experience for me, as it’s my first time at SPOT and in Denmark at all.

Did you see any shows last night (Friday)?

Leanne: I saw Alma, Uffe and First Hate, which I really enjoyed.

Michael: Besides the ones Leanne mentioned, I saw Irah as well. I was quite impressed by the production – fantastic space, really good lighting. I was talking to their manager today and didn’t realize that Seb Rochford was filling in for them. He’s a phenomenal drummer, who used to play with a band that I work with called Portico Quartet. Apparently, they only met 2 hours ahead of the show to rehearse, which was really impressing that they still managed.

What’s important for you when going to a show?

Michael: I think it’s really important that I can connect with the band on a more emotive level. They can be technically good, but I need to feel that connection whether it’s techno or rock music. I saw School of X earlier today (at MXD’s Superball, red.), who I thought was able to give me that experience. Visceral and engaging.

Leanne, we understand that you’ve been doing the UK promo for SPOT Festival this year. What are some of your main ’selling points’ when promoting a Danish festival?

Leanne: Firstly, it’s about SPOT Festival being a primary platform for promoting new Scandinavian music – a bit like a Nordic The Great Escape. We’ve mainly focused on the individual artists instead of emphasizing the festival by and large.  The response was a bit mixed, actually. Some people were very excited to come right away, whereas some were a bit more reluctant, since they get offered quite a few press trips by different festivals. Therefore, we put more emphasis on individual artists that we thought would connect with the individual media. So there was no single overarching narrative, but rather a handful of great bands that we figured would attract certain media.

All in all, there’s a good mix of journalists here. We have Drowned in Sound, The Line of Best Fit, Crack Magazine, Clash Magazine, Loud & Quiet, The Independent and many more.

Michael, regarding the publishing side of Lucky Number, how has your work changed after synchronization has become an increasingly important source of revenue for bands?

Michael: Synchronization and advertisement have been a feasible market for UK bands for quite a long time. I signed an unknown band, Smoke City, in the 90’s, who sold a song to a Levi’s ad, which had a very international reach. It didn’t necessarily create a massive career for the band, but it was a very good start. This was a bit ahead of the curve at the time. In the modern era, it’s sort of everywhere, but with less impact – we have to try harder and harder for less and less. So now, synchronization is more a means of diversification; you have to find sources of revenue where you can. For new artists, however, sync-deals are a bit harder to work, since it’s easier to sell a renowned catalogue than an entirely new one. For example, the band with the highest revenue from advertisement is Queen.