In our seventh episode we have Soren Mensberg, artist manager at Sierra 79 and booking agent / promoter at 3rd Tsunami Agency. His artist roster includes some of the hottest names in the Scandinavian music scene, such as Barselona, Korantemaa, L.O.C. and Snavs.
One of the most accomplished agents and artist managers from Denmark, Soren tells us about his unexpected start in the music industry, his feelings on the effects of COVID-19 in music festivals and live shows, and ways for independent artists to promote themselves in a time of lockdowns and "stay-at-home" measures.
NICK SADLER: Welcome to the label machine series where we discuss with successful industry professionals how artists and record labels market and sell their music. My name is Nick Sadler, and today's guest is Soren Mensberg. Soren is an artist manager at Sierra 79 and a booking agent and promoted at 3rd Tsunami Agency, an independent booking agency focusing on talent development tours and concerts in Denmark and international artists throughout Scandinavia. His roster includes amongst others, Liberty, Hannes, Elba, and the trap sensation that is Snavs. Soren, how are you today?
SOREN MENSBERG: I'm good, Nick. Thank you. Thanks for a lovely introduction.
NS: I've done my research. So a very quick question. Do you say “snavs” or “snayves”?
SM: Yeah, it depends in where we are in the world. So in Russia, they say “shnavs” and in China, they say something different than in Denmark. We say “Snauss.”
NS: And what do what did you say in the US?
SM: I think the...
SM: Yeah, something like that. So. Yeah.
NS: Snavs, Snavs... So, um, let's start at the beginning. How did you get started in the music industry? How did you get into it? To where you are now?
SM: Yeah, basically, I was unemployed. And I was bored. And I met a friend who was managing a band and the band were, were going on tour, and they needed a driver. And I had a driving licence. So, I was the band's driver for, I think, a year or something. And that band toured and Denmark and Germany and, and after a year, where I was just driving and kind of became a tour manager. Keeping track of things. I started to, to learn all the venues in Denmark and I met all the venue bookers. And after a year, I talked to my friend who was the manager of the band and just said, “Hey, I know all the venues, I know all the venue bookers. Why is Live Nation taking 17% of the money if we can do it ourselves?” So we fired Live Nation and started our own agency basically, we didn't knew it was an agency, but it became an agency and we took on more bands. And suddenly I was a booking agent. Wasn't planned. That was just a coincidence, I guess. And one of our artists suddenly had a massive night... she featured the biggest rapper in Denmark at that point, because she was drunk in a studio. And he needed a girl to sing the hook. So she just did that, and she did that good, so they they kept that on the on the final master. So she was featuring on a song that became a massive hit in Denmark, and she became a rising star and we had success with that girl, and our booking agency just grew. And yeah, that was my way in.
NS: Oh, so. Yeah, a couple of I guess, I guess happy accidents, really, getting to that point. I mean, it's funny you say “I was sort of unemployed and then I started helping out bands. That's not an uncommon story. When people start out they're like, “Why, just started helping out a band and then it grew from one thing to another.” But you know, that's very good foresight as well, and a bit of an entrepreneurial flair to notice that Live Nation is taking all this, we could do it ourselves and making that jump.
SM: No, it was also - I mean, I'm not bad mouthing Live Nation. But if you're a small band at a massive agency with a really long roster, sometimes you need to be a name on a small roster to be prioritized and get the focus you need to do to develop. And then yeah, that was, that was it.
NS: So that sort of leads on to my next questions, which is: now you're set up what are some of the main activities that you do at 3rd Tsunami around, you know, doing the artists development, etc. From a point of view of bringing on a artists that you've just signed into the roster?
SM: What the activities are?
NS: Yeah, so you do talent development, you do tours and concerts. So yeah, what is the rundown of the main company's activities?
SM: Yeah. I mean, 3rd Tsunami, I'm a booking agent. So I put on shows and tours, and make sure they play live shows, the artists and in Sierra 79, we're doing management. So that's more of, basically developing the artists, businesses, so they earn some money, and we earn some money. But it all, it's all tied together, I guess. So when I put on a band on my roster and the band's booking agent, I'm, of course, I'm advising them too. If they get a deal from a label, I'll put on my comments on what they should do. And it also mean that the strategy and when to release music and when to tour, it all needs to be tied up. And then it needs to be in a strategy, you need to have a bigger picture, right? So when, of course, I'm also talking to the bands about all that, and helping them out as much as I can. Because I work for the longer perspective, always, I am not just putting on a band on my roster to just make shows and not really care about if they're releasing music and what they release, and only focusing on just making shows. And I mean, some agents are doing that. And they're really good at it. And the only thing, their target is to get the highest fee for the shows. That's also my target. But my target is also when do they play? What stage on that festival? What time? What are the bill, where they put on the poster? Are they 100% billing? Or are they 30% below- what, all these details are super important in the bigger picture.
NS: So it's really about you, you are taking a bird's eye view on an artist's career across the important aspects which is releasing music, developing your career and getting shows.
SM: Yeah. It really, in these days it's so difficult to tour and I've been talking to a lot of label people, major labels and indie labels, and they all have the same problem. It's super difficult for them to promote new music, because there's no live shows. It's really, it's really been clear to me how important it is for the labels that the bands are touring. It's the releases and the touring: if you don't have both, it's really difficult. You need both because... you can't just release music and then hope for a Spotify playlist to pick it up. You need to be touring to build it up and connect with the audience and connect with your fans and promote the records.
NS: So how much of it do you think, though is that people are coming to the shows, and that's fueling the growth of that? I guess in a band not so much, but let's say you're more of maybe with electronic music, say, or you're more of a project type environment? I mean, are people still not discovering your music online and liking it on Spotify playlists? Or is it? Are you saying that it really is essential to get out there and play live to really take it to the next level?
SM: Yeah. For Snavs... he released an album in September, and a great album, I think it's the best work he's ever done. But I can just see that not being out in the world, playing it live. It's, it's just a...
NS: How much of it though, do you think is that when you're out playing live? Right? You're, you're on the road, right? And everybody's connected online, everyone's on their phones, they're watching stuff. So if you're an artist out playing live, you're and you/I might be a fan of that artist, I'm seeing them like “they're posting here. I'm on stage here. I'm in the tour event, I'm doing...” you know, it's all this kind of like, great content to kind of be sharing and talking about stuff and tweeting and having conversations. Do you think that is maybe a big part of what actually puts the artist in the face of fans? And/or compared to how much is actually “I went to a show and heard somebody and now I'm going to go home and listen to them on Spotify.” Because you know, even if you're touring and you're doing 1000, doing 1000 person show and you do 10 shows? It's 10,000 people, right? But if you're doing well, you know, you want to be accessing, hitting up like hundreds of thousands of people. But how much do you think it is? That is a better part of it?
SM: Yeah, it's a good question. But for me, if if I'm going to a club on Saturday, and I'm seeing Snavs playing on a club on Saturday, the days before Saturday, I would you know, warm up, I would listen to his newest records, I would listen to my favorite records of his and, and all that stuff. So it's all gaining for the artists. And but I get your point. It's not that, okay, you play in front of 1000 people and then it's just directly converted to streams on Spotify. The content being out there is also super important. There's something happening all the time... and people, his fans following his career, they can see stuff happening and “shit, I wanted to be at that show because it looks crazy” and all that stuff. But also, it's all about the music, when it all comes (down) to, it's all about the music. That's it's where it starts and where it stops, in my opinion, also in electronic music. And in the electronic scene, a big part of promoting a record is also sending it to your fellow DJs. So they are playing it live. And then maybe somebody is standing there at EDC, Las Vegas and just listening to, just playing a crazy song there is like “what the fuck is that?” She's having it. Oh, shit, it's the Snavs' song. Okay, I'll have to check him out. And it's all...
NS: Yeah, I can see that other people playing your music, if everybody's not out playing, it's kind of affecting everybody, not just you as an artist. So the reason why I've asked that, you know, the reason why I asked the question is because the, you know, we are in this, in this COVID environment that has affected the music industry, and it's affected live shows. And you know, what I'm, you know, I'm trying to think of what are some ways that artists now can still try and, if you've got a single out or an album, try and at least create those kind of relationships and experiences, you know, and I mean, I know people have tried doing the kind of, you know, live streaming, but you know, I think you brought up a great point: before a show, people are thinking about their artists they're listening to, they'll be saying, “what are you doing this weekend?” “I'm gonna go see this artist.” And they're like, “Oh, wow. Yeah. And they might play the music or something. And it's, you know, are there ways that artists can still kind of create that experience without live shows? Yeah, I mean, have you with any of your artists had those conversations on what you can kind of do to create that connection and in a world where there aren't live shows?
SM: Yeah, definitely. We've been talking about that for eight months. or longer for Snavs, because he's an international touring artist. So his live shows were starting to get locked down in January, at least the shows in Asia. And we haven't figured out how to do it. And I think electronic music is especially suffering because I mean, if you're an indie band, you can play a great show in front of a seated crowd, but electronic music in front of a seated crowd or a driving electronic show, it's not... it's just not the same. Don't have the energy. And when I see Snavs playing live, it's the energy between the crowd and him. That's the special thing with that concert experience. And how do we create that without being in the same room? Without? Yeah, I don't have the answer. I mean, yeah, it's, that's a big, big challenge, big challenge right now.
NS: So just before we started this as well, you were talking about live shows with bands, which has also now got its challenges. So you mentioned about seated concerts. So how, like, what are you doing with your bands now to kind of address that issue, and I guess, talk through what the new challenges are around that?
SM: I mean, the challenge right now is that the, when you go into a venue, you have a production costs and all that. And they're not, they're not smaller than the normal. And the capacity is halved. Or sometimes it's just a third of the capacity of tickets you can sell. So you have to... the way to sell more tickets in Denmark right now, you can sell 500 tickets. But you want to reach 1000 tickets or 1500 tickets, you need to play two shows at one day or three shows that one day and that's exhausting, because as a band, you don't want to, you want to play a great show, because it's 500 of your fans sitting there. So you need to, you need to play a great show. So you can't just play a half-ass show. Or if you do that, you're paying the bill, because they won't buy a new ticket for your show. So you have to perform 100%. And that's just tough if you play a 90 minutes show. And you have to, yeah, go sell the merch after the show and then take a break to eat some food and then play 90 minutes again. It's crazy.
NS: Would you say, that is extremely tough on the band, like you said, and doing it three times would be even harder.
NS: What's your experience? What's your feeling on the extra experience of the band playing and people sitting down? Do you... Is it still a viable thing? Do you think fans are still like, “you know what? I went out, I had a good time. I know I couldn't watch at the front. But I was sitting and I enjoyed it.” Do you think it's Do you think it's a viable experience?
SM: Yeah, it depends on what band we're talking about... some of the bands I represent are doing it brilliant. And actually, they're gaining more from the shows because when people are seated, they shut up. If they stand up to buy a beer, they go to the bar, they talk and blah blah blah... but if you're seated there, it's just so quiet. So if you're a band that really needs a quiet room to create the magical moments, it's, it's perfect.
NS: More like when you go to see like a theatrical performance or something, everyone's sitting. No one's talking when they're when the act comes on. So I guess it's more suited for you if you're a singer-songwriter, and you're doing a ballad on a piano just your voice is gonna be perfect for that.
SM: Yeah. But I've also seen the bands who are suffering because they normally they put on a great show and they have a big production and it's all flashy, and bla bla bla bla bla. Now they are cutting their own production costs to make it viable to play live. So they bring out an acoustic show, but people are not that, they're not a fan of you because of that. They get something, they bought a ticket for one show, but they get another show. Sometimes it's good but if you're not completely great at that setup... then it's not, it's not an advantage. It's, it's, it's bad... and you have to think that hopefully, there's a time after COVID-19. Hopefully... and you have to sell tickets after that, so you have to, you can't just charge them a massive ticket price for, for a lousy show. Because then people... when you've seen a band, if it's a great show, you want to go see them again. But if it's a “naaah” show and the ticket were way too expensive, you don't really want to see it again.
NS: You're like, only as good as your last show. If you're rubbish, that's it... you're not going to go unless somebody else goes and sees a new show tthat's good. And they go, “Oh, no, no, it's good. It's alright. You should go check it out.” And they're like, “Ahhh I don't know, It was all acoustic last time.” Rubbish.
SM: Yeah, exactly. So you really have to be careful. And you really have to think all these perspectives. And it's super difficult because at the same time, you also want to be on the road and just get some income. And that's super important as well, of course, but yeah, it's really... there's a lot of really difficult decisions at the moment.
NS: Yeah, it is tough... and you co-manage Riotville Records as well, and that's with a collaboration with Sierra 79. In what capacity do you help with managing the label?
SM: Yeah, I mean, Riotville Records is Snavs' label, and basically Snavs and I started it together. And so we run it together. And I basically just do all the administration...
NS: The business side.
SM: Yeah, and then Snavs is doing all the creative stuff. So he's, he's the one of course listening to the music and A&R'ing. And he's also the one who's (got) all the content. He's the one. We have a guy creating it, but he's the one directing it and yeah, all the creative aspects.
"I think electronic music is especially suffering because I mean, if you're an indie band, you can play a great show in front of a seated crowd, but electronic music in front of a seated crowd or a driving electronic show, it's not... it's just not the same. Don't have the energy. And when I see Snavs playing live, it's the energy between the crowd and him. That's the special thing with that concert experience. And how do we create that without being in the same room?"
NS: Are you finding it's more common to see managers helping out with artists running their own indie labels?
SM: Yeah, definitely, definitely, we were doing that with more of the people, more of the bands we represent as management. They're releasing on their own, because if you're a new act, the deals from major labels you get offered are so bad, and you're signing away your masters for life, and you get a small budget for recording it, and it's just not worth it. And as I see it, and then it's just how I see it, major labels are really great at taking an artist from 60% to 100%. But from 0% to 60% - they can't do shit. Their setup are way too heavy. They, they don't have the time to think creative because they're, they're so busy. Everybody's working at a major label. They have way too much, way too many artists and they're just super busy. So they can't, they don't have the time to be creative. At least that's what I experienced.
NS: No, I agree.
SM: You may think I'm wrong, but that's how I see it so often. I recommend new bands to DIY. Because when you DIY, you also learn a lot about how is it all how's it all working? How's it working with the Spotify playlist? And how is it working to pitch on Spotify and how's it working on sending your music to a Pitchfork or whatever it is and to the radio and, and all that stuff. So, and I think that's really... it's really important for the artists to know all that stuff. Because the artists who are not in the loop on how stuff works, they just think, okay, everything is done by itself. But it's actually hard work. So when the artists release on their own, they know about what's behind releasing music.
NS: They have a bit more of respect to the industry as well, in some ways, and the people involved. I mean, I agree, I think majors are great, in that they... put petrol on the fire, you know, but you got to have a really good fire burning already. And they can amplify it. And, and I mean, I agree, it's, I say now, the best thing you can do as an artist is, yeah, just set up your label or release on your own label, and show that you are something - because that's the other thing about majors as well. There's so many people doing it. That's the way they pick, they'll go like, “well, what have you already done yourself?” And if you haven't done anything, like, well, there's all these other guys that have got great music, and they've done it themselves. They know how to get the ball rolling, they understand the audience, it's going to be so much easier for them to work with them.
NS: Yeah, I think those days of being plucked from obscurity and then becoming famous overnight just doesn't happen. I think that happens if you're under 17 years old. 17/18 maybe that happens, majors will come and get you young and develop you and and you know... but apart from that, yeah, you just got to set it up yourself.
SM: And, just when you say this, it reminds me of that... I was so embarrassed that Universal Denmark, they put up a commercial, a competition on TikTok. “You can do a TikTok video and the best TikTok video wins a record deal.” Like fucking hell, you're aiming for kids?! You're aiming for small kids who don't know what they walking into? Fuck sake.
NS: It's very predatory.
SM: Win a record deal because of a TikTok video. That's what it's become. I mean, it's fucked up...
SM: Yeah. To me, to me, that's just, it's just weird, it's just...
NS: Yeah, we're gonna be getting the greatest, the greatest musicians coming through a campaign like that. Because they just wanted numbers: what they're going to do as well, they can look at the TikTok video, they can look at the who the TikTok person is, and then just go, how many followers they got? If they've got 3 million followers, they'll be like, “well, cool, we'll just write a record for them and here's 3 million people that are gonna buy it. Making money.”
NS: Yeah....so I mean, we're talking, as we're talking about, kind of, you know, people early on their career. If we, from your booking agent point of view, if you're a booking agent, what would you recommend artists do early on in their career? If they do want to eventually secure a booking agent? What are you looking for? What do you like, hey, that's a no brainer, I'm totally gonna pick them up and put them on. I'm gonna, you know, pick them up for as a booking agent.
SM: Yeah, I always want to see them play live, to (be) secure that they are great live. Because if you're a shitty band live, it's difficult for a booking agent to sell it. And so, that's super important. You have to rehearse and be great at performing live, then I would always... if I was a band, I would look at the my favorite bands, look at their Facebook pages, because often their booking agents are in the information or “About” section, just look at them and contact those agents because if they represent a band that you really like, or a DJ that you really like, then they probably understand the genre. And then they probably understand the music that you are creating.
NS: And what if they're like, “Okay, great, I've got my band, we've rehearsed. We've done a couple of shows locally, we feel really tight. I see you manage a band that we're very similar to, I'm sitting in my front of my computer, I'm going to send you an email, like what am I going to write in the email that's going to make you take notice and give a reply?
SM: When there's a reason (as to) why I should listen to the band. I have always listened to the band. That could be that “we reminds you of,” “we sound a bit like” or “we have brought this email to you because you represent this band and blah, blah, blah,” I mean, make it personal. make it the “sometimes you receive an email and you can't just delete it because it's directed to you.” And you need to read it, you need to answer it often. And that's 90% of the times. It's just an email that could be sent to everybody. And you just not clicking on it.
NS: Yeah. Keep it personal. I mean, we say the same thing, whether even if you want to secure a feature in a publication or something, find the editor, find the name, why should they listen to the song? Because the editor has written about these other artists that're similar to them. It's just keeping it personal.
SM: Yeah. And, and, as always, I think when you're a new band, you have to, you have to think about why. Why is it that you want a booking agent? Sometimes the band's just contacting booking agents, because well, all the other bands have a booking agent. But why do you need a booking agent? I mean, why do you need a record label? You need to ask yourself these questions, but often, it's just “auto-pilot” and they just do stuff because they think that they're supposed to do it... often it's the bass player in the band who is good at writing emails, why isn't he just putting on some shows? You can do it, you can write the venues yourself. You can write to another band, he can be open for you on Saturday, you're playing a show and that venue can be open for you. Alright, the venue can be opened for that band, because we sound a bit like it. And we're young, we're fresh. We have a lot of friends who come, you know, stuff like that. You can do it yourself.
NS: Yeah. And they'd say, and I guess, leaning back, why would you need a booking agent? And you could say, we've been doing it ourselves. But the bass player is typing out so many emails. He can't play his bass anymore. So we need somebody because we've got an album coming out in a month, and we've got 20 shows. We need somebody to help us organize those 20 shows. You're gonna go, “Great, let's have a conversation.”
SM: Yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah. A band coming in. “So yeah, I need a booking agent.” “Yeah, but when is your record coming out?” “I don't know.” “Okay, but what do you have some music?” “Yeah, I have some demos.” “Okay, but then you're... it's premature.”
NS: It sort of goes back to what you're saying about releasing music as well. You really need to be doing it yourself and being proactive. Like, you know, like releasing music, putting on your own shows as well. And, and if you, you know it, if you're putting on a what's gonna, if someone does put on a great show, what is gonna, you know, and you go along and check them out. Like, what is important for you to see that they just that they're just a tight band, like? And, and I guess... I guess what I'm trying to say is, how am I going to get you to come and see my show? Let's say you say, “Hey, I sound like this band. And I want you to come down and see it.” Is it just literally, “Hey, we're a tight show. We sound like this. We're playing near you. Can you come down and see us?”
SM: Yeah, that's it. And then if I have time, I'll go see as many shows as possible. Because I'm always on the lookout for new bands. And... it can be different. In how do you say, it can be different stuff that turns me on, it can be that you're just really tight, playing really tight, or it can be the energy... It could be the lyrical content... I mean, it can be everything. I'm not looking for one thing, but I'm always looking for something that okay, I can see a perspective, I can see what should I do with this band? And how can I? How could I help the band and what should be the next move? And what, which festivals should they go for and where can they play? I need to see the perspective.
NS: We're sort of talking about this as well. What other rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again?
SM: I think the most common mistake is that you're not ready and you think you're ready, but you're not and then you're missing your chance, basically. One of the bands that I represent, and did a show with last night is called Blaue Blume. They had a massive hype in UK in the beginning. So we went over to UK and played some shows at all the cool places. And the first show at the Birthdays in Dalston. It's not there anymore, unfortunately, but great, great venue.
NS: But I do like Birthdays and Dalston, it is a shame it's not there anymore. I think it's burger joint or something now.
SM: Exactly. Yeah. But the venue was in the basement, super cool... I mean, all the big labels were there. But the band... they played a great show but their songs were not ready.
NS: And what were they just not polished enough for? For the majors. It was more to indie, do you think?
SM: Yeah, all the cool UK indie labels were there too. But we were just not geared for it. And then we went over to London, played a show I guess it was at Sebright Arms or The Old Blue Last and all that stuff. And every time we went over there, fewer people came. So we should just have waited.
NS: But when you say you weren't really like, what, specifically if you've got the music gear and you've played it, like, what was that missing element that you'd say what made it not ready?
SM: They put out some songs on SoundCloud that started the hype. Well, we didn't have the next songs to follow up.
NS: Gotcha. So it wasn't like, this is our next single and as a music video, and it's dropping next week. And then everyone's like, Oh, wow. And then the labels are like, Oh, hey, we should get involved with this. Like,
SM: Yeah, but if you don't have the next move - but there's also a common mistake, just bands put out a song, it gets some hype, it gets them playing some shows, and then they forget to write the next song. If you're, if you're getting the momentum and the hype, you have to just be on it and continue and continue and continue. And if you can't do that, your momentum and hype, that will disappear.
NS: It's, I mean, I always say that you want to release a new song every three months, at the beginning of your career, at minimum. If you're just doing that, you know, and it's good music, obviously not just putting up music to put out music – that's almost the the single best thing you can do for your career in the first couple of years, constantly having something out, constantly having something to talk about. But you're right, because it's, it's sort of what's Damian Keyes saying the other day. Otherwise, it's like a boxing fight. You just throw on one punch. There's still another 12 rounds to go, you know, you need to be doing one and then another and then another and then another.
SM: Yeah. Yeah. That's a great way to see it... that's key.
NS: And again, that's really like just... thinking long term. You've got to always be thinking long term. Yeah.
SM: Yeah, Snavs, for instance, he just put on between 12 and 20 songs per year for the years ever since I started working with him. He's been releasing music constantly.
NS: And there's no excuse not to, as well, like, you know, the technology is so cheap you can record at home on a laptop like there's not really any excuses to not put out good quality music consistently, and I think that's the same whether you're producing as an electronic artist or a band as well.
NS: So I'm going on to some like music trends – and I guess this will sort of be drawing from your experiences of a specifically with like, record sales across say any of the labels you manage or artists – where are you finding royalties are coming from the major platforms like you know, ah, mostly from Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal, like which ones do you think are working well?
SM: Yeah, right now it's Spotify. Unfortunately, it's it's really, that's just the biggest income and that's it. I mean, it's great, that's great. But I would say it would be nice if there were more services with a bigger audience. And that feeds the artists,
NS: Do you... sell any stuff directly to fans? Like, doing merch and things through websites?
SM: Yeah. I was only thinking Snavs when I answer that question, but bands, they can sell a lot of vinyls in the band. So the physical market is still there. But it's, it's, it's limited.
NS: And is that limited just by the fact that you know, if you only order 300 vinyl, you can only sell 300 vinyl?
SM: Yeah. And you know, and it's, it's mainly when you play live. I mean, streaming is constantly... you don't have to do anything to get a stream.
NS: Yeah, but would you say though, with your merchandise, do you know – you obviously get to keep your greatest share of it. But are many people buying physical online and getting it delivered to them over just buying it at shows?
SM: I think they buy most of it at the shows.
NS: Right. And what and what's selling mostly at shows at the moment?
SM: What items?
NS: Yeah, like vinyl, t-shirts?
SM: Yeah, both. I think right now, the people who've been to a show, they're really eager to support the artists, because everybody knows that the music is struggling. So they just buy whatever there is in the merch stand right now. If there is a mask, they'll buy that. And whatever it is, they will buy it. The merch stands are really popular, especially if the artist goes down to the merch stand after the show, then you can sell a lot of merch, because people feel that they support the artists directly. And they buy something in physically.
NS: Yeah. And the artist is standing there having a conversation with them. And the artist is like, “Are you gonna buy my vinyl now?
SM: Exactly. Yeah. And if you go to a web shop, it feels like okay, it's just buying, whatever. I mean, it's not that direct support. You don't get that feeling.
NS: Yeah, that's interesting. I'm wondering if people will get like, “Hey, we're doing a live you know, we're doing a live Q&A. And we're leaving and releasing some new merch this Friday. live on Facebook. Like I wonder how many people would be you know, they're tuned in and you're like, “Hey, guys, so here's the vinyl who wants a copy? Click Below!” Because it you know, like, I wonder if something like that would work because you're right, it is that personal thing.
SM: Yeah. I think that depends on which artist it is and their fans, what kind of things it is they have... Me, I just think it's weird. With the digital model.
NS: Yeah, nothing beats being live. Going back to Spotify, what have you been finding works for getting on Spotify playlists? Because getting on playlists now it's so sort of essential.
SM: I really don't know, I think it's a jungle. And seems like they're changing the algorithms and they're changing the pitch system and then changing everything constantly. So it's, it's really difficult to figure out, but it feels like that you never should buy a streaming campaign that's a no-go because that will ruin your algorithms. It's super important that it's natural. So that you are related to the right other acts that sounds like you because I think... for the Spotify radio thing it's you should be directed to when they, when the audience is listening to a similar artists that's like you, but if you end up at a whatever playlist that you buy your way into, you end up with random songs and you get affiliated with random songs and I think that's bad for your profile on Spotify.
NS: Have you heard of any artists that, you know, tried buying some playlists campaigns? And it really backfired, like long term for them?
SM: No, I haven't talked to artists who have done that. But I've seen examples from articles and stuff like that. Where... yeah, it's just not working. I think it's about getting followers into your Spotify. So Snavs has a relatively big amount of followers in there. So that means every time he releases music, it goes out to their release radar and discover weekly and all that stuff. And it's all triggering these...
SM: Oh, yeah. And I don't think you can crack the system and figure out how to...
NS: I completely agree. And I don't really – I hate to think of how much money some of these playlists companies, because I see them come up on my Instagram feed, you probably see them as well, because we're both music industry, and it's like, get guaranteed plays and it's like, just so many artists must just get sucked into that. And it's just that they're shooting themselves in the foot before they've even started. And I imagine as well, Spotify is a smart company, you know, they're all on data, I imagine that there'll be these black lists, and they'll just be like, well, you're an artist who's paid something, like, you're already wrecking your future, your future algorithms, because you'll just get on a blacklist, you know? It's the same as buying links and stuff on Google. It's the same thing, isn't it? You're just shooting yourself in the foot.
SM: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And people... often the new upcoming artists, they don't understand why one of the songs are getting on a massive playlist and get a lot of streams. And then the next song is not in the playlist and they don't get it. But I don't get it, either. It's just sometimes it feels like it's a roulette. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. And it's just weird, but you have to. And that's a mistake a lot of people are making, but you have to understand the value of the streams. So if you end up on all these playlists, gaming playlist, coffee playlist, whatever it is, H&M store playlist, all that stuff; those plays you gain from those playlists, they're not worth the same as a play where a fan is typing in your artist name, and clicking on your artist's page and listening to music from there. That's dedicated fans. And those are the fans who are buying a ticket to your show and buying some of your merch and buying vinyl and etc. A fan who's coming back. But the stream you gained from a playlist where you were at whatever random, between a lot of random songs. That's, it's a stream. Yeah. And in Spotify, it looks like one stream is one stream, but...
NS: ...not all streams equal.
SM: Yeah, but it is when you look at it. And when you look at the numbers. But when you look at it behind the numbers, who is the people who are streaming your music? So you have a band who maybe their top song on Spotify are streamed a million times.And then compared to an artist who have millions of millions of millions of streams, then maybe the band with the top song with its 1 million stream, they can sell way more concert tickets than the other act who's streaming. So you can't just look at it and see, okay, they're streaming, they're successful. You can't just look at it. It's too simple to look at it that way. And a lot of people are looking at streaming numbers and think that, okay, they're streaming a lot. A lot of festivals using that...
SM: Yeah, it's just, it's wrong. It's just one factor.
"you have to understand the value of the (spotify) streams. So if you end up on all these playlists, gaming playlist, coffee playlist... they're not worth the same as a play where a fan is typing in your artist name, and clicking on your artist's page and listening to music from there. That's dedicated fans. And those are the fans who are buying a ticket to your show, and buying some of your merch, and buying vinyl and etc."
NS: It's like how our agents used to just look at how many Facebook followers you got, like five years ago, and you could just buy Facebook followers and then get on big festivals. But then, you know, there'll be no one really at the stage and they'll be like, why is it no one's here, but they're really popular on Facebook. Before everyone knew you could kind of like you know, essentially buy followers.
SM: Yeah, right, can I say one thing? Snavs, he played a festival and the billing on the poster were dictated about how many followers you had on Instagram and I was like, “What the? Are you serious? So your billing is from how many followers on Instagram? What the fuck is wrong with you guys? That's just wrong!”
NS: Yeah, yeah very wrong. I mean with Spotify as well, I always say to my artists that you need to look at Spotify as a advertising- like, as a medium of sharing your music like it's just another platform for sharing music just like YouTube is, just like SoundCloud is and the bonuses if you get lots of followers on there then you know you can, you can get paid for it, you can get paid pretty well if you get into the millions of streams. But it should be a way to just build up your followers like just be focused on getting people engaged with you on Spotify, following you on Spotify. Because if people are listening to on Spotify all the time, when you go to do a show, you know, then you know you've got fans even come along because they've been listening to you on Spotify, which is the most common platform people use for listening. Rather than just like, “I'm trying to get lots of numbers because I'm trying to make money on Spotify.” That's just it's not the way to use it, you're gonna make money off, you know, like you said, playing live shows, selling your match.
SM: Exactly. And that's the thing that annoys me the most at the moment. Because Spotify, as you say, is the main service, right? It's where people are listening to music. And we really need – I really missed that you could get some hype on Beatport or SoundCloud and, and other platforms. It's, there's too much focus on Spotify. If there were other platforms where you could break, could have success, it would ease up a bit. People will not just be looking at Spotify, people who would would consider a people would understand, “Okay, so there's more. There's more perspective...”
NS: Maybe that's what Universal Denmark thought when they did that TikTok ad. Where else can we go? What about TikTok? But yeah, I yeah, it is, I don't really know how the future is going to change either. But it is kind of, you do have to sleep with the beast at the moment. And make the most of it really. But always know it. You know, it's it's great at the moment, but it won't be there forever and do the best that you can. When it comes to just talking a little bit about other sort of like promotion stuff. Blogs, do you think they're still relevant these days?
SM: It's not as important as it was for five years, ten years ago. But it's still important.
NS: But it's just, when I say blogs as well, I should really say publications, blogs and publications.
SM: Yeah, but it is important. And I think it's, it is important, but it's not. I mean, how many people actually reading that stuff, if you get on with this song is sick, how many people are actually reading and clicking through and all that stuff? I don't know.
NS: But I think it's, I think it's a good way as a stepping stone because you can say, “hey, you can share it online to your band's page. Hey, we just got a review on this song that's sick.” Which is great. It's like another talking point. And then when you go to say speak, you know, if you're like looking at a band, and they're like, “hey, we've had a whole lot of features on blogs and publications,” you're like, “Okay, you know, like, you've got more than what somebody who hasn't done that.” Okay, yeah, that's interesting.
SM: It's, yeah, it's super great. And it's important, but it's not. You can't just rely on that alone. It's just that's just one thing.
NS: When it comes to paid advertising, you know, Facebook and Instagram ads, do you use that much? Do you have much experience or is that you leave that to somebody else?
SM: Yeah, I hate that stuff. You just feels like you're... putting money in a black hole and you don't know what you get for the money. And I often have the feeling that if you put money in it, then when you post next time you need to put money in it because they figure out that if they just kill your algorithm, you will put money in... Ah, fuck that.
NS: Yeah, I know what you mean like “Oh, you've got money? Cool, we'll just like make sure you share it.” When it comes to PR companies? And I guess both for promoting a band's release or a show? Do you guys do your PR in house? Or do you work with external companies?
SM: Both, both. Again, depends on what genre and then what what the territory is and what the targets are. And sometimes if it's a Danish artist... Denmark is a really small country and a small market and there's basically five emails you need to write. But if you're aiming for Scandinavia or for UK... yeah, bigger markets you need, I reckon you need a real publicist to work your stuff.
NS: Yeah, I agree. And across the board, just what you know, we were talking about TikTok and stuff. What were you finding at the moment for your artists they're getting the best feedback or interactions with their fans, which platforms are working for your bands?
SM: Live shows.
NS: (chuckes) Can tell you're not the biggest fan of social media. “There's this new app, it's called Live Shows.” “It's amazing. You don't even need your phone.”
SM: I feel that...okay, it's been a trend and it's still a trend that, okay, your fans, you bring your fans into the studio, you bring them with you, they need to see what you're eating for breakfast, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I just miss the mysterious about being a fan of an artist. I don't know much about them. And you want to search the internet and search some articles. And you actually want to read an interview because you want to learn about the artist. But right now you're just getting, it's just this fast food, fast food industry where you just get everything just smashed up in your face. And you don't, you don't get the chance to be curious and explore the stuff on your own. Just get it all stuffed in your face. And maybe it's just me, but I'm getting sick and tired of it.
NS: I agree, like a little bit of mystery, like, sure, share some stuff with your fans. But don't just show them all your cards.
SM: No, you're not a star, if you're showing them everything. What is there to be enough? If you know everything you see everything... it's the same way when you share stuff that you normally just would share with your friends. Then you become more fans of your fans, then they became their fans of you? I mean, I don't think it's liable. I don't think in the long run, I don't think that's the way.
NS: I think it's a pop music way.
SM: Maybe yeah, maybe, yeah I don't represent that many pop stars.
NS: Yeah, I think that's where it works. If you're 20 years old, and you're a young heartthrob, girl, or boy, it works. You know, like, “This is what I'm having for breakfast!” “OMG!” and like all of that stuff.
SM: Yeah, maybe maybe the problem with me is that I'm not representing them. So I don't...
NS: But yeah, but it's hard because you know, even if you're representing a more alternative band or music, at the same time, you want that alternative band to be popular within its, within its niche, you know, so you can sell shows and sell records as well. It's, it's a harder balance.
SM: I just, I just wonder if you go completely opposite strategy, and just don't have any social media. So the only way people can figure out something about you is talking about it, talking to people who know something. So it's mouth-to-mouth.
NS: If you have some pretty incredible music for that to work though. Music where you're like,” Oh my god, what is this? I want to hear more.” And that's like, ID and you're like, “how do I find out” like, and you're on submission? But yeah, if you're more like I guess a mid-level artist – good music and you can have a career, but it's not like you know, breaking the mold. Yeah, you have to I think you then have to have a little bit more of that balance...
SM: ...in the game.
NS: Yeah. So, thank you so much for your time. Anything for the future for you? Like is it more of the same, is there any artists we should keep an eye out for?
SM: I represent this Swedish girl and she's, I think it's pretty funny cuz... she's super alternative, lo-fi, alternative pop music. But she has a YouTube channel with 300,000 subscribers because she did some covers. Which is also a common way to build. But it's just funny, with her being what I hate. But, but she's not that she's not talking to her fans. She's super closed. It's just funny that she's super alternative, but she's in that platform. A YouTube star that's alternative. Korantemaa is her name. She's cool. She's dope. And I'm really eager about how that will develop and how we, yeah, what we will see in the future.
NS: “Common Tina,” is it?
NS: Korantemaa. Korantemaa. You heard it first. Awesome. Well...
SM: ...great talk!
SM: It was nice to talk about all these challenging...
NS: ...very challenging at the moment as well. Yeah. Awesome. Thank you very much, Soren!
SM: Thank you, Nick!