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Meet the New Bosses: Class of 2019

Meet the New Bosses: Class of 2019

Chair: Oliver Ward, United Talent Agency (UK)

Guest speakers included:
Karma Bertelsen, Kilimanjaro Live (UK)
Mike Jones, The MJR Group (UK)
Mike Malak, Coda Agency/KID Talks (UK)
Aino-Maria Paasivirta, Fullsteam Agency (FI)

In his opening remarks, Ward applauded ILMC for giving the next generation of professionals a platform to talk about their outlook on the live music business and where it is going. He set up the discussion by outlining the panel's goals – exploring how to get involved in the business, the skills needed to rise to the top, opportunities and challenges facing today’s entrepreneurs, and the responsibility that professionals have toward the next generation coming through.

Each of the panellists spoke about their very different paths into the business, including Jones’ admission that he started promoting acts when he was 12 and was terrible, to buying really bad clubs in his early 20s – one for less than the price of a used Vauxhall Corsa – which he has built up to an 18-venue portfolio and a touring business that sells 2.5million tickets a year.

Jones stated that making your own mistakes with your own money necessarily speeds up the learning process. “You have to learn faster, because if you don’t you either end up giving up, or you end up in prison or something,” he said.

Malak agreed. “It’s a harder lesson when you’re by yourself. On my side, I probably would choose now not to have gone to university but I did that for my family. But if you know that you want to work in music, then the best advice is just do anything you can to get experience.”

Bertelsen said she was happy with her circuitous route into live, although she added, “I went to uni where I studied music business but looking back that was a waste of time and I probably should have just started working a bit earlier.”

“You have to learn faster, because if you don’t you either end up giving up, or you end up in prison or something”

Paasivirta explained that she had worked at a venue before joining Fullsteam, but when she first arrived at the company she was doing production management, then she was the personal assistant to the company founder where one of her first tasks was to ticket an arena tour. “I’d never done ticketing before but you just get on with it, and that’s the sort of attitude that is best to have – just do things and try out a lot of stuff. There aren’t many things that end up being a waste of time.”

Malak added, “It’s all just trial and error. There are so many things that I do not understand, but if you just try stuff out then somehow you figure it out – or you don’t and you learn something.”

Ward moved the discussion on to key skills, prompting Bertelsen to advise that you need to be good at networking. “Building a network and having a network really helps you in this industry. We don’t have any contracts with artists at all, so a lot of it is still done on relationships with people and that trust, so networking and building trust is very important.” Paasivirta added, “Be a nice person – that’s the most important thing. It’s meeting new people, talking about things and having fun.”

From a promoter’s point of view, Jones advocated “finding the gaps in a market,” as well as looking at things from other people’s perspectives. “What’s cool for me might be a load of shite for someone else – you have to learn to look at things through their eyes as well.”

The panel also discussed the willingness of the industry to bring new, young people into the business and encouraged people to promote diversity in the workplace and be open minded about how they conduct themselves. Answering a question related to International Women’s Day, the women on the panel pointed out ways in which to call out and deal with sexism and discrimination. And when it comes to opportunities, everyone agreed there are now too many artists and too many events but the skill is weeding through everything to discover the best talent.