Backstage at Waves Vienna: What it`s like to be a showcase festival artist

Autor: Anna & Lise Marie (gigmit) Kategorien: Backstage-BerichteInterviews

For the past couple of years, our team has travelled to Vienna to work, party, and enjoy the fantastic WAVES VIENNA festival. We know a lot of upcoming artists as we are running the matchmaking platform gigmit, which a growing number of showcase festivals use as a solution for their booking process.
This year six members of our team were lucky enough to attend the 3-day long festival that took place at WUK in Vienna, an arts centre with 9 different venues and a beautiful tendriled courtyard. We all had different work to do. Some were there to talk to the festival organizers, while others hosted the member meeting that includes other festivals in the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES). The marketing team’s mission was to meet and interview bands to get a glimpse behind the scenes for K&M backstage stories.

Equipped with two fully-charged smartphones, a gimbal and two power banks, we rushed back and forth between the venues to film and interview numerous artists – all of them were INES#talents* – before, during and after their live show. We asked them about their experience at showcase festivals, along with other tips that they had for musicians looking to reach the next level. Here is everything you need to know if you want to play internationally in front of bookers, A&Rs, and other music professionals.

Waves Vienna is part of INES (INNOVATION NETWORK OF EUROPEAN SHOWCASES) – a network of
19 showcase festivals initiated and coordinated by gigmit. Part of the INES project is the
*INES#talent program, which enables promising talents to drive their international careers forward
by performing at up to 18 showcase festivals all over Europe. INES is comparable to a European
exchange program for live music.
gigmit is the live industry's digital tech-update – a data-driven matchmaking platform
representing easy booking for both live acts and promoters. The gigmit profile is the key to a global
network bigger than every individual’s reach. That’s why also more and more showcase festivals
use gigmit for their booking and discovering. Since the founding of gigmit in 2012, over 80,000
artists have used the platform to apply for gigs of all genres. More than 6,000 promoters have
registered with gigmit. So far, more than 30,000 gigs have been advertised on gigmit - with a total
order volume of more than eight million €.



We arrived in Vienna on Thursday evening. We had to rush directly to the first gig that we had pencilled into our calendars: SKETCHES ON DUALITY – a Hip-Hop Jazz quintet straight out of Vienna’s vibrant music scene. As we arrived, the band members were already busy setting up the stage and getting ready for their show. We followed them in what was supposed to be backstage: an area right next to the stage only separated by some kind of folding screen.
We spoke shortly about their backstage habits and how they were feeling about playing at Waves Vienna, and we helped them out with our LED light – they had to add some last-minute changes to their set-list. The band posed for a few pictures and then let them get ready to get on stage (yes, the stage was equipped with K&M microphone stands 🙂 ).

SKETCHES ON DUALITY played an energetic show to an attentive and cheering audience. Everything was on point – the band’s rapper Jahson The Scientist’s flow was in the pocket, and the group was as tight as a band can be. The venue was packed – which is not always the case at showcase festivals as some bands get overlooked. This was not the case on that Thursday night. It was great to see delegates and music industry professionals from all over Europe dancing and clapping in the first rows, joined by regular Viennese concertgoers. We later caught up with Jahson for drinks, and you could tell that he was happy with the show. It really was a great way to start our three days in Vienna.

THE MAGNETTES – Backstage Interview

We later met the Electro-pop singers of THE MAGNETTES from Sweden, who told us about their perception of audiences according to the country they were playing in…

gigmit: You have played a lot internationally. Is there an audience you really want to target now?
THE MAGNETTES: When we go back to countries where we already played, we remember how people are like in each country. And we hope that it’s going to be like the last time we played. Because in Sweden people are very stiff if they don’t have too much alcohol in their body! The UK is the kind of audience we want to play for because they are not stiff, they’re very open-minded to new music. And usually, to be honest, crowds outside of Sweden are more fun. We played in Germany there is always something happening there, we had guys walking up on stage, which was kind of uncool, but they usually give you something to react to. So at least that’s something, instead of just
standing stone-faced.

What’s the difference between playing in front of a crowd of professionals and in 
front of your fans?
At showcase festivals, the people out there are here to meet other business professionals and sometimes when we’re playing you can hear hundreds of people speaking in the crowd, but there are still 10 people giving you applause. Usually, people are networking but you never know how important it is to give these 10 people a good show. Because you don’t know what they can do for you in the future! But it is a fact that they don’t give you the same energy as the own fans give you.

How many showcases have you played so far and what did you learn from it?
We played – it feels like almost every showcase festival – but we played SXSW two times, we played Great Escape, we played Spring Break… We’ve been playing showcase festivals in the UK, Canada, the US, Asia, so it’s been a lot. We’ve definitely met a lot of people, and you learn a lot during showcase festivals; like you have a 15 minutes change over and the sound may not always be great but you’ve got to deliver every time and that’s a great lesson for any band: just getting through that hustle. So that’s probably what we’ve done: hustled.

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a showcase bubble?
Sometimes it feels like that. We played a lot of showcase festivals, which are great for up-and-coming artists, and we want to take the next step, sell out shows and play in front of people who paid for a ticket to see us and meet the ‘real’ kind of people. If you play at showcase festivals, it means that you are still at the beginning of something that can be something big. But it’s really good for you to play such festivals.

How do you network with people at showcase festivals?
If there are people to network with, we’re right there on the floor doing it. But people can be sneaky, and you don’t know what people look like so it’s good to have a manager to tell you who to talk with.

You spoke at the panel ‘Do you have what it takes’ about going international, what were the most important things to remember?
The conclusion through that panel was that it’s a lot of work, it takes a long time, and you’ve got to be prepared to hustle, make sacrifices and maybe do things that you thought you couldn’t do. Be open to people giving you advice or pushing you but always take care of yourself. That’s very important too.

NOAIR – Backstage Interview

Travelling with your manager is quite important at showcase festivals. On day 3 we met the Slovenian Indie Rock band NOAIR in the Artists Lounge with their manager. We asked them how they met and were told a love story…

gigmit: How did you find a manager?
NOAIR: Our manager is Lara, she is my girlfriend, so it was fate. And she is the #1 fan. I think that what is most important is that your manager believes in you, sometimes more than yourself. She gives everything for us, before the festival, during the festival and after the festival. We are a small band and the band managers need to do everything, PR, booking, logistics, you need to know everything. We met her on my birthday, we were jamming and then things happened, the rest is private… (laughs)

It’s your first time to play abroad. After MENT Ljubljana, this is your second showcase festival. How did you manage to play at MENT and now WAVES?
We didn’t know about the showcase network in Europe before. Via MENT we got connected with its organizer Andraž Kajzer. Everything went fast then. He told us about WAVES, what we needed to do and how we needed to do things. So first we were not so optimistic about playing abroad, we thought things like “should we do this, or is it too far…”? Vienna was the first choice, because it is near and it is a good strategic way to get out of Slovenia. First comes Austria, then Germany and the Eastern part of Europe. It is in the middle of everything. It is the best place to meet people who work in the music industry from the eastern and the western part of Europe.

How is playing a showcase festival different from playing a regular gig?
Showcases are different because you need to prepare before the festival. You need to arrange the contacts to invite them and you’re a little bit nervous because you know they know something about music, you need to impress those people. But they are also music fans, and they are focused on your music, so it’s better, they really listen. They don’t just come to drink and party. A win-win situation!

How do you prepare for showcase festivals?
You need to tell people, why they should be interested in you. You need to be prepared not only as a musician but also on the technical side, everything needs to be in its place, everything must work perfectly. We musicians have a lot of equipment, pedalboards and stuff. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to make it all work. You need to be prepared. There are no second chances. Most of the time when you play it is a one hour program so we are used to it. The most stressful about is preparing the setlist. It is difficult to choose songs because we like them all.

How do you prepare right before the show, do you have a ritual?
Before the concert, we are always nervous. You need to find a way to relax together with the other band members. Jacob, who joined us a year ago and his second gig was on MENT, an important gig, so he was very nervous, so we had to give him massages. But it is also a time when a band really connects.
Manager: Sometimes they hug each other, all of them, before a gig. They are longtime friends.
Band: Yes, we are huggers. ( laughs )

What is your goal at Waves Vienna? What do you want to achieve here?
The main goal is to meet some people. People from the music business like booking agents and record labels. So we can spread our music also outside the Slovenian borders. Maybe also to make some connections to arrange a tour outside of Slovenia. And, of course, we also want to present our music to the people in Vienna.

5 lessons learned from newcomers

  1. Bring your manager, if you have one and ask her/him to introduce you to the right people.
  2. Network, network, network. Don’t just play your gig and leave. Stay to talk to people coming up to you after your show. Prepare beforehand, do research on who you want to meet and have your business cards ready. Know what you want to talk about.
  3. Prepare the best songs and learn to do a quick soundcheck or line-check, since you won’t have much time before the show, and you want to use the little time on stage to impress music professionals.
  4. Even if you only have 5 people in your audience, and they are not your fans, among those 5 people could be this one very important person – for example: a booker who can enable you to tour in her/his country.
  5. Apply to showcase festivals abroad, but close to your home country to remain cost-efficient. Be patient. Some bands applied to play for 2 years, before they finally made it to Waves Vienna.

Key to a future

After 3 days full of interviews, live performances of emerging talents, panels, drinks and loads of fun we felt we knew much more about the music industry and why showcase festivals like WAVES VIENNA are so important and fascinating. WAVES, thank you for all that! Sometimes we felt overwhelmed – all this music to be listened to and discovered in only three days with only two ears! But it is exactly this that makes WAVES worth the trip: all these talents that are the key to a future vibrant music industry.