We sat down with Marcus Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) and online booking platform gigmit, to discuss the challenges of breaking into the music industry, the impact of COVID-19 and how he is championing up-and-coming talent in an innovative and unique way.
Hi Marcus, how are you?
I am very well, thanks!
What exactly is INES and why did you set it up?
INES is the project of gigmit that I am most proud of. We finally made it happen to create a platform to support and accelerate spreading European music all over Europe. We believe there should be one music market in Europe not only national music markets. It is so hard to spread the music over borders. Still. You might not think that but it is. With the help of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union in 2017, we finally got the co-funding to support the best acts from now 22 European countries and the music professionals around. The project basically involves all the showcase festivals in these countries who choose the best talent and music professionals and give them financial or travel support to come, play and network. The whole project is technically facilitated through gigmit. On the platform, all festivals and their calls can be found and artists can directly apply by submitting their profile that they need to create once not 100 times in different ways.. 🙂
What have been some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced since setting up the INES programme?
You are the circus director between festival interests and the EU regulations. I think we managed that patiently and with hard work to show that my team and I deliver an excellent job to develop the project and the partnership.
Apart from that to achieve gender balance was a huge challenge and we are on our way there. We just analysed last week how we are doing and I am totally proud of that… see here: https://blog.gigmit.com/en/gender-equality-in-live-music/
Most recently, COVID-19 is challenging festival cancellations in our network but I want to highlight how our Swiss partner dealt with it: https://blog.gigmit.com/en/corona-live-music-m4music/
Are there any notable success stories to come out of the programme that you can share with us?
The initiative is very fresh so hard to tell all the successes already. Acts like Cari Cari (Austria) or Giant Rooks (Germany) broke internationally and there are many more that played over 5 festivals and building their current music industry partnerships in these countries. Imagine what it means for an artist to have that when you only played your own country before? 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.
Let’s talk about your other venture, gigmit. What’s the idea behind that?
gigmit is not just another company. gigmit is the founding partner and coordinator of the INES project. We have been working with many festivals and artists before launching INES and we work now even closer with each other which is great. The idea behind gigmit is to connect every artist with the right festivals and clubs as easy as possible. It seems very logical to us to initiate projects like INES to support that aim and deliver the technical infrastructure for projects like this. On gigmit, having more than 100,000 artists and 8,000 festivals and clubs, we see a lot how difficult it is to get seen abroad and/or to play abroad. Music professionals have no chance to be supported in building connections in different countries. To sum it up: There is a huge need and we are entrepreneurs who tend to jump into spaces where there is a need.
You’ve been working in the music industry for almost 20 years now. What have been the most significant changes that you’ve seen since you started out?
Streaming and the way how people consume music. I haven’t experienced anything more impactful in the music industry. The question I had was how this affects the live music industry as it obviously changed the recorded music industry already 180°. My answer is that fans are more trackable than ever before and that impacts decision making in the live music industry. While festivals and venues where looking into previous ticket sales in the past they now can look into real-time streaming and fan data on social media. At gigmit, we have been working on that topic for over 2 years and allow promoters or bookers to access this data now on the gigmit artist profiles.
Would you say you have a specific vision of how you’d like to shape the nature of the music industry in terms of how burgeoning artists get themselves noticed?
I do! I want to see artists or their managers or agents to connect to their profile and get their tour and festival booking done as simple as to book a car on uber. Data is so powerful but needs a connected community. We already represent over 100,000 users and aim towards 7-digit-numbers. I hope I see that happen in the next years…
What advice would you give to young musicians trying to make a name for themselves in such a competitive environment?
Work hard and create unique outstanding music. If there is a recipe, I would say it is about the music first, and artists should find out on their first small shows how the audience reacts to this. Only if it works out great, the music part is “done”. 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. Ed Sheran played hundreds of small gigs, accepting small or no pay before he actually made it. This is what makes the difference.
If you weren’t in the music industry, what else could you see yourself doing?
I like to see myself supporting measures against climate change, supporting gender balance and supporting how new ideas and business get started and grow but why not doing it within my company? I definitely try to solve all aspects within the music industry and maybe act as a role model for others.
Thank you for your interest!!!