Rotterdam-based agents Mike Bindraban & Jurjen Mooiweer only set up Good Music Company a few years ago but have already been responsible for bringing a whole host of jazz and jazz-related talent – not least Grammy-winners Snarky Puppy – to massive audiences across Europe.
Although Good Music Company is primarily a booking agency, they get involved with most of the areas that are important for a 21st century touring jazz musician including strategy, marketing, programming & artist management.
I asked Mike & Jurjen a bunch of questions aimed at giving more of an insight into how careers are built, the things that agents in 2017 are looking for and how jazz is adapting to the digital age.
Of course, the guys at Good Music are looking after a lot of things for the bands they work with. But whether you currently have some representation or are doing it all yourself, there are plenty of things you can do personally, right now, to push things forward and keep your career building in the right direction.
Before we jump into the full interview, here are a few key things that really stood out to me personally and which I hope will give you some better insight for your own projects…
- 7 questions an agent has to ask when taking on a new artist
- Obviously your music has to have a high level of emotion, technical ability and presence, but also very important: what’s your story?
- Why reliability, honesty and a good sense of music is what matters in this business
You can find out some more info about the Good Music and their roster at the end of the article.
Where do you discover ‘new’ artists for your roster?
From various “places”.
I really like to dig for new and fresh music online (through streaming, youtube, webzines and more) and keep searching and looking at side men from various groups: who are they, what scene are they in, what makes their music new and appealing…
I also love to dig into certain scenes in cities; for example New York, San Francisco (Bay Area), LA, Chicago, Oslo or Geneva. So many great things are going on in those cities, which translates into their own distinguishable music character.
I also just talk to a lot artists, friends who are into music, and of course my colleagues (promotors, agents…) and pick their brain on interesting developments and bands.
The choice of adding a fresh new discovery to our roster is not a simple one though. It depends on various elements.
Obviously artistically it has to have a level of emotion, technical ability, potential and presence. But we also have to look at the market-ability:
- Is there a story to tell?
- What content can we create from this?
- How can we increase engagement with potential or existing fans/music lovers and translate that to ticket-sales?
- Which live-path can we set out?
- How is the team behind the artist?
- Is the artist willing to invest (time, budget)
- Is there a potential of return on investment for the artist and for GM, how much time will that take?
You’ve been a part of the Snarky Puppy team since the early days.
Aside from the great music, can you pinpoint anything else that has helped them achieve such success in such a (relatively) short space of time?
Foremost, I truly believe the success of this group is because they (or we all in the team) are family, and especially the band have known and played with each other in Snarky and in other projects since their teens.
There is story to be told, there is a incredible high level of musicianship, they engage with their fans and their music is very accessible and easy to digest – their melodies stick to your mind!
Concerning what we did behind the scenes, it was a matter of setting out a proper live strategy for the band in The Netherlands at first, synergizing marketing, and mobilizing potential stakeholders; having their music taught or integrated into the educational material at the various Conservatories and mobilizing the music students to spread the word.
Timing was pivotal, as the market was screaming for a group like Snarky; kind of a contemporary “Weather Report” with very accessible music, drawing larger and younger crowds, but also complicated enough to satisfy the music heads.
The first tour, we got the buzz going (with one unexpected fully sold out show), on the second run, couple of months afterwards, that show sold out completely too, ‘cause everyone wanted to see this band and lots of people were talking about it.
Looking at the online stats, we saw that we had a serious increase of views and interactions from NL, but also throughout Europe. Our ideas started to work.
On the first tour we got the right press in, but the second run (just 1 show, sold out) especially (major press) to kind of “confirm” that the buzz was real (I remember a newspaper headline on page 3 (half pager) “My God, these Americans are phenomenal” – so we got the right articles, radio time, interviews etc and invested time to set out a solid live path to have them explode within a year.
Within that year they performed at North Sea Jazz Festival – with a television feature – and we made sure all the press about North Sea mentioned Snarky: the band was THE hype of the festival.
If this happens in The Netherlands, it’s 90% a good sign for other markets. That same year we produced the recording sessions of We Like It Here in the Netherlands and co-produced the Grammy winning Metropole album Sylva.
This all happened within 1.5-2 years.
The growth, music, all elements falling into place was incredible.
To be part of that is still something we and I personally am very proud of. And of course, this put our agency, Good Music Company, on the international map. In some way we became a part of music history, the story of Snarky Puppy. Behind the scenes of course, but still.
You guys look after some big international artists for the Benelux region. How did you get started with making those connections?
Well I started out with Erik Truffaz (who toured with my band The Mirror Conspiracy) as one of my first big clients and got to know the jazz business through his former manager and good friend Laurent Klunge who pushed me in the right direction to get a grip on this side of the music business.
I came from law, and had no clue whatsoever, of how the international music business worked. So basically, and with a bunch of adventures on the way, we grew our reputation.
In the early days we also started working with Jason Lindner through a mutual friend and, through that, I got to know Mark Guiliana, Avishai Cohen (trumpet) and got sucked into that progressive New York scene.
For Europe, it was always a matter of simply meeting the artists, being a fan of their music and proposing to work together (like with Jaga Jazzist, Mathias Eick, Nils Petter Molvaer and more).
After Snarky blew up, a lot of international big artists (and managers and agencies for that matter) got a whiff of what we were doing and that we were (and still are) a serious and good alternative for the bigger agencies around, like Live Nation / Mojo.
We basically provide exactly the same services as UTA, CAA, Live Nation, IMN and the bigger agency fish, but in a much more personalized and boutique fashion…
We are able to book the same (bigger and smaller) festivals and venues, same fees, but with the added value of active promotion, marketing and strategy… which we’ve proven works in many territories.
What advice would you give a new emerging musician about starting to tour overseas attracting a booking agent?
- Know what you are doing and why.
- Does it make sense?
- What is your long term prospect?
- What are your goals?
- How does touring in another country add to the value of the product (album) you have to offer or the live career you’re growing?
- How can I engage fans in that territory?
- Do I have any fans in that territory and, if so, how many?
It always seems super to tour outside your home country but often it can simply end as a kind of a holiday, instead of really adding value to your career, which you can build on.
That’s most important: there has to be a good reason to tour and something there to capitalize and build on.
How much impact can a bands online profile (social media, website, etc) have on the success of a tour?
It can make all the difference!
Most audiences (18-40) for jazz are online and get their fix online.
A solid online marketing strategy is incredibly important. You can generate ticket sales fairly cost effectively and target your story to the right audiences. You can get so much data that you can get an insight in your live career which wasn’t possible before. Artists on the forefront of that can be very effective when touring.
You work with Tin Men & The Telephone who have a pretty unique way of incorporating a smartphone app into their show.
What was the audience reaction to this and is tech+jazz something you think we will be seeing more of in the future on live shows?
Audience reactions have been great.
Sometimes people didn’t believe or understood what they saw; Tony Roe typing a message to the audience on his piano, projected on a big screen whilst the band as a collective play a tune.
But the band have taken things two or three steps further when they launched their latest app, TINMENDO. It allows the audience to create beats, melodies and harmonies on the spot, which Tin Men can instantly use as input for a piece. It’s redefining interaction and improvisation during musical performances.
But I guess the big story around Tin Men is that they never stop pushing themselves over the next barrier. So we’ll definitely be seeing more from them in the future, but they won’t be the only one, ‘cause the possibilities are endless
You have built Good Music Company from new agency to well-known one in quite a short space of time.
What 1 piece of advice would you give young wannabe agents or managers in the jazz world?
If you really feel that you have something going: stick to it.
Don’t give up and stay honest. Be an asshole if needed, but an honest and straightforward one. Reliability and honesty and a good sense of music, is all what matters in this business.
You’ve worked various projects where a member of one band fronts his or her own group for a tour. Does being in multiple high-profile projects help or hinder an artist in terms of touring?
Hinder? Not anymore.
It used to be an argument having a side man in one band and then leading their own band, performing at same venues etc. but that is not really the issue anymore I believe.
Only with the older generation promotors or press (the ones that ask you to send you a CD by postal mail), but not with the younger ones.
It’s a non-argument from different sides and incorporates ‘old-thinking’. It’s 2017!
So, does it help? More and more.
Look at all the Snarky solo projects… that does not hinder people going out to see Snarky Puppy (if they’ve seen Cory Henry two weeks before). Or the David Bowie thing with Donny McCaslin’s band. That doesn’t prevent promotors booking Jason Lindner or Mark Guiliana. Or does Jasper Høiby’s Fellow Creatures band hinder Phronesis? Nah, don’t think so.
Does it help? Yes, because Jasper Høiby is a fantastic bassist and composer, who’s made his bones with Phronesis (and Kairos 4tet)… all the more reason to see this cat in another context.
Avishai Cohen trumpet, same thing. Performs with Mark Turner, but in the same period with his Quartet. It’s a matter of marketing and perception by the audiences.
When talking with promoters, what sort of ‘news’ (ie album release, award, press piece, etc) helps you get them interested?
It’s usually the combination.
Each one of them is interesting and does get their attention. But what really gets their attention is when the combination is a story and you can translate that story to solid arguments for ticket sales and crowd building (or drawing larger crowds).
Apart from that, the artist and the music just needs to be very good.
What is also important is to know to which promotor you are pitching something to. Who is the guy, what does he/she like or dislike? How do the finances work at his venue or festival? Is it funded or commercial based? Is he a risk taker or a safe-better?
Should developing artists still be releasing albums or do you think the idea of multiple EPs or singles is a valid method of raising your profile these days?
Depends on your financial situation I guess and what your goals as an artist are.
There is a lot of added value for the more traditional route, still. If you sign a record deal, you usually have a bit more shine with right distributors, press and streaming services, get added to various playlists, get picked up by certain media and key-media especially and more. The deal usually isn’t great, because most of the time you lose (partial) intellectual property of your music. It’s a trade-off, which in some cases is worth it and in some cases not.
DIY is also very good: as long as you have a good network, a good team and are able to manage everything by yourself, you can go a very long way. Especially if you have a solid online strategy, know how to engage and grow your fanbase and make sure you are visible and performing.
Snarky was DIY (with their own GroundUP label) for years and years; they only recently signed with Universal. Guiliana, Lindner, Plaistow, all are DIY. But in between bigger labels, there are also smaller labels, who really work for the artist. A great example is International Anthem in Chicago. The way they kick started Makaya McCraven’s solo career and more of the Chicago scene is very inspiring.
Small team, personal services and pragmatic with ideals… maybe a bit like us haha!
Thanks to Mike & Jurjen at Good Music Company for taking part in this Q&A.
More about Good Music Company
Good Music Company is an international live music agency based in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) & Berlin (Germany) with the excellent concept that “we represent good music performed by great people in all the right places.”
Experienced in professional and customised services, GMC represents and develops careers of both emerging talents and internationally acclaimed artists in modern, contemporary jazz, electronica, pop & all their crossovers. Their current roster includes Snarky Puppy, Jeff Parker (whose European tour kicks off this Spring), Bigyuki, Avishai Cohen Quartet and new signing Marquis Hill – plus plenty more which you can check out on the Good Music Company website.
Although they are originally a pure live booking agency, they also cover artist management, marketing & strategy, concert promotion, programming and legal services.
Good Music Company’s work covers Europe, specialising in the markets of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
“With our personal and family-like approach we strategically coordinate & enhance the (live) careers of our artists in various European markets”