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  • Elise Damême

Meet the project partners behind new music education program Initiative Pop (apply before 28/02!)

Initiative Pop, a digital educative program co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, offers to support young artists, new music market players and entrepreneurs in building their music career in The Greater Region (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate) in 2021.

In a 12-month period starting Spring 2021, 40 participants will have access to online panels and webinars on the topics of Marketing, Booking, Distribution, Creation, Finances, Business Development and Organization.

A long-time believer in the need of accessible education for a stronger, better and more diverse music industry, Compass Music founder and director Géraldine Zanaska is thrilled to be involved in this new and exciting project. She will take part in the project's pedagogical task force and supervise the module "The music industry: Globally and Regionally".

Below, we interviewed Jean Christophe Gerard from France and David Dehard from Belgium, the project manager and a partner for Initiative Pop. Make sure you apply to the program before the deadline on 28th February 2021 !

1. How was the Initiative POP project born and who initiated it ? Who are the main partners involved in it, where are they based and what do they do?

Jean Christophe Gerard: It is basically the latest achievement of a permanent cooperation process between members of the Multipistes Network – gathering since a decade representatives of entities assigned to support, with public funds, the stakeholders of the popular music sector in the Euroregion coined the Greater Region. Members of the network have originally teamed up to scout, support and promote bands and artists from these territories, mainly to support and guide emerging bands and artists on their paths to professionalisation through jointly run support devices, including artist residencies, training actions and live promotion. We’ve been running a yearly cross-boarding artist support program, which can be regarded as a vocational and career guidance scheme for talented newcomers, intended at paving the way for professional integration.

We are furthermore committed to collect, qualify and deliver knowledge about the sector and to foster peer-to-peer connections amongst all professionals involved in this transnational ecosystem, with the ambition to empower them with the assets provided by a relevant networking, to reach a sustainable level of activity.

Initiative Pop, as a formal education and training scheme, actually embodies another concern: whatever the quality of the artistic offer emerging from our 4-nation soil, there’s still a gap. Our organisations, all of general interest and therefore institutionally-funded to take up the vocational training responsibilities in the field of popular music, are required to identify, from a grass-roots scrutiny, the upcoming range of specific skills and to address them through a corresponding training offer. Initiative Pop, as a formal education and training scheme, actually tackles the issue and aims at filling the lack of skilled enough facilitators, living and working from this area and committed to represent the interests of bands & artists and to deal with the various aspects – on a daily basis – of any musical project’s business issues requested to secure a path to professionalisation of its stakeholders.

David Dehard: When I was phoned by Jean-Christophe, the project was already written. He was looking for a partner in Belgium and in he saw me on a panel. I was speaking about cooperation within venues and Europe and how it was important for the music sector in Belgium to participate in a European project. It was clear cut that I was the right person. I just had to say yes to his excellent proposal.

2. As the Logbook's readership is very international, can you explain where and what exactly is the Greater Region for those who aren’t familiar with it?

JCG : The Greater Region is the E.U’s largest Euroregion, centered on Luxemburg and spreading over 3 neighbouring territories, that is to say Grand Est in north-eastern France, Wallonia in southern Belgium and Länder Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland in Western Germany.

This geographical zone overlaps with the heart of so-called Rhine Europe, a dynamic and open cross-border area, which concentrates nearly a third of the EU's population: 100 millions of its inhabitants.

DD : Actually, only a small part of Belgium was considered a part of the Greater Region. But I think it’s much more useful to make this project accessible to every people involved in the Belgian Music Sector.

3. What type of lecturers and mentors can we expect to see involved in the project ?

JCG: As training providers, we are bound to cater for state-of-the-art knowledge delivered in accessible forms, while connecting participants with a range of professionals, experts and specialists, at the same time, to consolidate their set of skills being acquired and to trigger ambitions amongst the most talented and imaginative of them.

That’s why we very early made the decision to recruit a task force of pedagogical supervisors, each of them with a significant international experience, covering the widest spectrum of expertise in the music business and acquainted with teaching and mentoring processes and committed to do so. We assign them the responsibility to respectively adapt and implement the program we had designed from their joint perspective. 4 out the 6 of them will nevertheless be given the lead in each of the 4 prominent thematic issues. This flexible process is meant to allow them to hire the most relevant interveners on each and every topic dealt with.

DD: We are going to send the best ones. People who perfectly know their fields : musicians, concerts organisers, bookers, managers. They will be able to talk about all the specificities of the Belgian Music Sector.

4. Why do you think it’s important to accentuate training on the “DIY” side for music professionals at the moment ?

JCG : Music industry has shifted from a prominent business model to artist-centric alternatives which alters the traditional boundaries between sub-sectors and requires an evolving set of skills to the individuals assigned to identify, manage and secure the sources of incomes and revenues generated by the art forms of Popular Music.

What is coined mainstream music, from a global perspective, used to be and still is profitable. It remains in the hands of the heavy-weight music industry – namely the industrial players referred to as the majors (Universal, Sony & Warner) – which owns and exploits two thirds of the music market supply. Recorded music - the industry's main traditional income – nowadays focuses on a limited offer, which mechanically affects the spectrum of genres and aesthetics available for the music lover as a consumer because it requires huge marketing and promotional expenses to achieve a substantial return on investment. Creating musical contents matching with the acknowledged professional standards has, meanwhile, been made accessible to a broader range of musicians, whereas production means and tools went cheaper. Digital and web-based technologies at the same time, have produced powerful tools and applications to serve the specific purposes of emerging artists and bands in most of the business-related areas, through a disintermediation process.

It has subsequently permitted to a growing number of outsiders – representing bands and artists - to join in the music business in a Do-It-Yourself mode and to promote a quality alternative offer, left aside by the A&Rs of the prominent music industry. Solid musical projects, with both a relevant artistic background and activity, at some point, are referred to as small business units once they choose to embrace a career and those newcomers – previously prevented from stepping into a formerly non-contestable market – are now given the opportunity to break through.

DD : I’d like to say : « You are never better served than by yourself ». Bookers and managers are really busy and they don’t have the time to take care of too many bands at the same time. It’s not very useful for an artist to be the last name on a catalogue.

If an upcoming artist wants a full-time person to work on its project, he is the best person to do it.

5. What are the opportunities the Greater Region can offer to young artists and music business entrepreneurs?

JCG : It is as much an experimental playground for initiatives and projects as a gateway to four attractive music markets of the E.U.

DD: To train, get contact and to tour. We all have small territories. But all together, we have a great territory.

6. Can young artists and music entrepreneurs benefit from a network of venues or structures within the Greater Region to set up their project?

JCG : We can claim a kind of soft power. Our entities are, on their respective hinterland, identified as information, resources and support providers by artists, bands and aspiring professionals and of course, active professionals, be they venues, promoters, agencies and institutions. L’Autre Canal in Nancy, France, and Rockhal in Luxemburg have once been both pioneering cross-boarding cooperation within the Greater Region, alongside Belgian counterparts. Now, Court-circuit in Belgium has joined this program and benefits from extended institutional prerogatives, whereas POP RLP is still expanding its activities in Rheinland-Pfalz with a comprehensive support of its line Ministry.

DD: Yes. Because you can find all informations about these venues on a website. For example, in Wallonia, all main music venues are members of our networks. So when we organise a call for musicians, names of selected artists are shared amongst our members and these artists are kind of « highlighted ». Participating in our call for application is the best way to be seen by structures. If artists don’t use these , they really are missing something.

7. Who would you like to see apply to take part in Initiative Pop? Any specific criteria?

JCG : We have intentionally defined a broad profile for our target audience : they are individuals assigned to represent bands and artists - filed under any popular music genre with both a significant live activity and a solid production background - provided they are currently co-opted by any entity whose main activity consists in providing services and/or guidance to foster career development.

DD : Good bands, only good bands!

8. How will you define success for the Initiative Pop initiative ?

JCG : There’s no magic! The program features key learning objectives for the participants that we will be evaluating at the end:

  • Understand and interpret the globalised shifts affecting the music sector,

  • Identify and improve the weakest of their business-related skills,

  • Develop critical and creative thinking and non-formal skills

  • Experiment collaborations and diversify their activities and sources of revenue,

  • Build supportive community relationships and an accordingly professional network

This latter community aspect remains very crucial: if, in a few years, a new breed of project developers having gained the capacity to build and experiment new paths to professionalisation and to promote alternative models of career development and meanwhile, there’s a peak of transnational initiatives originating in the Greater Region, this will be a pretty satisfying signal.

DD : I hope the participants will manage a very long career as artists or music entrepreneurs

9. Can you each name one artist or band and one individual music business entrepreneur from your local town that you think we should pay attention to?

JCG : Not just one but 3 promising professionals who already have a significant experience in the music business, and made the choice to work for themselves:

Lucie KOURGOUSOFF - Laisse Lucie Faire – Administration, Label and Edition services

Florence COLLIN - October Tone - Record Label, Booking agency and Promoter

Tiphaine GAGNE - OH LA LA Agency – Management, Administration and Production

DD : The winner of our big contest « Concours Circuit » - which gather music business professionals from the French Speaking Part of Belgium, with a jury of about 100 people. The name of the winner will be only known on the 14th February, so watch this space!

10. Do you think the current pandemic can lead to positive structural changes in the music industry, and if so how?

JCG : The crowd of true music lovers now tends to favour much smaller gatherings and, being refrained from travelling abroad (as well as international bands being prevented to tour beyond their borders), they are indeed re-discovering their local scene. Consuming pattern of music for the youth has also changed nowadays.

The time has definitely come to question oversized business models and develop alternatives to follow new consumer trends and think of how to make a decent living out of music.

DD : Maybe regarding ecology, yes. We consume less than before. But then, wasn’t the music sector a little bit too energy-consuming? Are we going to manage this in a better way in the future? Let’s think about this!

Apply to the Initiative Pop education program here.

Deadline : 28th of February 2021!


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