Following an unprecedented number of international applications from thousands of promising artists over the course of 2019, the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) recently announced the full list of nominated artists for its trailblazing INES#Talent Programme. In a unique initiative co-funded by the European Union and initiated by online booking platform, gigmit, a total of 133 acts – hand-picked by 19 participating festivals from 19 different European countries – now have the opportunity to further their international careers by performing at multiple music festivals and industry showcases over the course of 2020.
We sat down with Marcus Fitzgerald (Founder of INES and CEO of online booking platform gigmit) to discuss the initiative as a whole, and to further understand how INES is championing up-and-coming talent in an innovative and unique way.
Hi Marcus, thanks for taking the time to chat with FestPop!
You are very welcome. Thanks for your interest in the project.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers who may not know you.
Sure. My name is Marcus Fitzgerald. I live in Berlin and I am a true live music lover. I’ve been working as a concert and festival promoter for almost 20 years. In 2012, I founded gigmit. If you haven’t heard of gigmit yet, it is one of the top online platforms in Europe to support festivals and clubs for booking artists and vice versa. On gigmit, there are more than 8,000 festivals and clubs as well as over 100,000 bands and DJs and counting.
How did you get into the music industry and what is your favourite part about it?
I would call myself this DIY guy. I loved hip-hop and felt there should be more shows. So I decided to promote my first show at the age of 15. It was a hip-hop show with friends from the record store. After that one, I got addicted and did probably over 300 shows, mostly hip-hop but the older I got the wider got my range of music to indie/alternative, pop, rock, reggae, funk, jazz, world music, house and techno. I love live shows. I feel that’s where the most fun and emotions are which is why I am still working in that part of the business.
You are the founder of the Innovative Network of European Showcases (INES). What led to the creation of this project?
After gigmit has been established, I have seen more showcase festivals using gigmit from different countries in Europe. To name a few: Ment Festival Ljubljana, Liverpool Sound City, Westway Lab in Portugal or WAVES Vienna. These are showcase festivals, which have been inspired by their role models like SXSW (Austin), Eurosonic (Groningen) or Reeperbahn Festival (Hamburg). I decided to visit these festivals and learn more about them. What I found out that all are great festivals in their national markets but there is huge potential for a European perspective and a wider exchange. Luckily, a few years later we got financial support from the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union which enabled us to kick-off the non-profit initiative INES to easier connect artists and music industry all over Europe.
How was the selection process? What made a successful applicant?
The INES Talent programme has an open call every year in summer. All 22 participating festivals then pick the most promising talents from their home countries. That’s a tough part. What is “most promising”? If there is a recipe, I would say it is about the music and the network around the artist but also about initial following on a national level. The festivals know it themselves through their experience working for many years in that landscape and their goal is to create success stories. So I feel, the INES talents represent the best and freshest music that Europe has to offer. A good overview can be found on our Instagram channel as we have created an art piece to bring them all together and on our Spotify, there is a new playlist with all the acts.
How did you find yourself bridging the gap between festivals and up and coming artists?
I am not sure if there is a gap. I understand that it is hard for artists to get booked. However, all festivals need fresh talent as the festival-goers demand new music and new experiences that they can’t get at the festival next door. We believe in open and transparent structures and that festival can create an even better programme that way which is why we have created gigmit. This part is of course very important to us. All INES festivals benefit from fresh talents through open calls. These calls are facilitated through gigmit. Every artist can create a profile and apply in one minute. We even made a Youtube video about it. No artist needs to send hundreds of individual emails to the festivals anymore. Our movement here is just the beginning towards open access to talent and to festivals. That way we believe festival experiences will become better and more diverse in the future.
What are the challenges that young artists face when trying to break into the music industry?
It has become incredibly simple and fast to produce music and distribute it globally. It is great to see but sometimes I feel artists could use a bit more time before they are “discovered”, “featured” or demanding their first signing. Ed Sheran, for example, played hundreds of small gigs, accepting small or no pay before he actually made it. On these first small shows, you see how the audience reacts and I would say it is still about the music. Unfortunately, great music alone is not enough but the best marketing without outstanding music won’t bring any artist far. The “package” around that music is key to get more shows, business partners, and finally fans. That said, the biggest investment needs to go into photos, videos and that kinda thing but the biggest work afterwards needs to go into finding gigs, getting recognized. I see too many artists applying once or twice on gigmit instead of 100 times or even 1000 times.
What’s your hopes for INES in the coming years?
I hope we will have all the countries in Europe involved. Maybe even promote European music outside of Europe. Apart from the countries, within the initiative, we also develope the technology of gigmit behind INES to an extent, that artists get a handrail where they should play first based on where listeners and fans actually are. The whole streaming economy helps us the actually access this data. Of course, we want to see a transparent ecosystem where everybody earns more to develope artist careers and festivals further and diversify our music landscape.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with FestPop!
Thank you, guys!