Hi Claus, as you usually never see interviews with managements, I figured that it would be interesting to read about the other side of the business, too, for once :)
Hi Alex, thanks for giving me this opportunity to explain a bit about what we at Intromental do, and yes, I do agree that it's not often that this side of the business is represented in the media.
Do you get many interview requests for yourself?
I do get some, but not that many. The main focus will of course have to be on our bands, not on me or on my company, so I don't complain, haha.
In 1996, after leaving Metalized Magazine, you decided to start Intromental Management. What had prompted you to begin managing bands?
Well, the short version of a long story is that I had worked at Metalized Magazine for many years, both as a journalist, but also as a member of the editor-staff. I was one of those who arranged the interviews, booked advertisements for the magazines etc - basically having my hand in everything. Through that I got a lot of contacts in the business, from record labels, bands, media people to booking agents etc and when I got tired of working for Metalized, I had to find use of all those contacts. I thought about starting my own magazine, but I didn't want to compete with my friends at Metalized and my other idea was to start a record label, but for doing that I needed a lot of money which I didn't have. So, I decided that I wanted to help the musicians in finding their record deals, getting them out on tours and so on - in other words, start up a management.
And could you maybe give us a short wrap up of how things started up, which bands you started with, how things evolved etc. etc.?
When I started up Intromental Management I had contact to a few Danish bands that I really liked. The first band I signed was a band called SHANE, which was Melodic Prog-Rock. The band stayed together for a year and then broke up - actually just when we had a record deal in place for them. The funny thing is that 2 of the guys now play in CHROME SHIFT, who I've been working with for the past 2 years, so you could say that some things come full circle : The next two bands I signed was MANTICORA (then known as MANTICORE) and WUTHERING HEIGHTS (then known as VERGELMIR). Those two bands had something special about them that I really liked and I signed them on the spot. For WUTHERING HEIGHTS it started out a bit rough though, as they were involved with a label who expected their music to be Folk/Gothic, but instead it proved to be Symphonic Prog. Metal with Folk elements. The label didn't like the final product, so we had to find a new label and more or less build up the band from scratch with new musicians etc. Anyway, WUTHERING HEIGHTS have stayed with me since the beginning and it really works well. MANTICORA have a special place in Intromental I would say, primarily because it's a bunch of very cool guys and their singer is my close friend and now my partner here at Intromental. I like their music a lot and we've been through ups and downs together over the years. From there on things started to happen, more and more Danish bands contacted us and eventually also bands from Sweden and Norway got in touch with us. When we reached that point where we saw international acts getting in touch with Intromental, we decided to really give it all we could and we made it into a professional company, instead of just a part-time thing. From there on things have just evolved to the point where we now have 25 bands from all over the world, have record deals in even the most far away places and have arranged lots of tours, festival appearances and so on.
If you look back over the years, how has Intromental Management, the people, the workload etc. changed?
When I started Intromental it was basically me and a friend sitting in our dorm packing up envelopes with the promo material for the labels and the media, calling the bands now and again and just having a lot of fun with it. Well, the fun is still there of course, haha, but it's much more serious now. I have 4 other guys working with me, all of those are really good at what they do and all of them have a lot of say in what happens with the management and the bands. Lars takes care of our economy and he is also the one responsible for our booking department. Martin and Benjamin take care of our promotion towards the media and Erik is our webmaster. Everything that has to do with contracts and band/label relationships is my job. A typical day for me starts at 9 in the morning checking emails, replying to what I've received during the night etc. At 10, Lars arrives at the office, and we then work till 4 or 5 in the afternoon with the European bands, European labels and European booking agents. A couple of nights per week Martin and Benjamin comes out to the office and works from 5 until 10 o'clock in the night, but since both of them have a day-job besides Intromental, they do most of their work through email from home or from their other job, haha. Then I usually work on the American bands and labels during the night, often until way after midnight. So you can easily say that it's quite a time-consuming job I have. But you know, the good thing is that I have this huge apartment, so we run the office from here and I just have to go out one door and in the next in order to have some privacy whenever I need that.
You mention on your site that you go for quality, not quantity. Now I can imagine that it is next to impossible to give certain criteria for what a band has to be to be taken up by Intromental, but what are qualities that a band has to throw in to be considered in first place?
That's really a difficult question, I'd love to say that they have to be themselves and just sound original, but the harsh reality is that if a band is "too" original it won't have a chance of getting signed with a label later on, so I also have to think real hard about the potential of a band before I sign them. An important factor for a band we would be working with is that they are aware of their own potential and are willing to do what it takes to get somewhere. It's not just finding a management, having them send out a demo and the next day you have a deal at your hands. It's about attitude, being willing to take chances and often about putting some money into it all. If a band can't live up to that, we don't want to work with them. A thing I'd like to mention here is the fact that our motto "quality, not quantity" have been misunderstood by some - I've heard people complain about the fact that we have 25 bands and it seems like a lot, and how would we be able to do a proper job for all of them?! But the thing is, that as I've said above, we are 5 people working here and all of us know exactly what our job involves, so having 25 bands is not a lot when you think about it. I don't feel at all that we compromise on the "quality, not quantity" thing, we have the number of bands that we can handle and the bands we have seem to be satisfied with the job we put in for them, otherwise they'd be free to leave.
Are there any things that you say "No!" to right away?
90% of our bands are in the Power and Progressive Metal genre, so that's a good pointer as to what we're looking for, we like these genres and we "understand" them in terms of which labels and which media people would be interested in them. We do have some Death or Thrash Metal bands (PERSEFONE and INVOCATOR), but it's not our main focus those genres. When we do take on bands like that, it's because we're totally in love with their sound and simply cannot resist the chance of working with them, but signing a typical Death or Black Metal band would never happen. But in terms of saying "No!" I can't really think of anything, since all bands have a certain quality; it's just about matching that quality with what we're looking for. Although, I do have to say that we would never work together with a band that's trying to put some kind of agenda on top of people's head, such as a neo-nazi band or some religious cult, that would never happen, no matter how good that band might be musically.
You are offering bands a whole plethora of services concerning promotion, web site, shopping at labels, contractual advice etc, what do you demand of the bands in return?
All their money - haha :) Seriously, what I demand is that they are ACTIVE, meaning that I have experienced many bands who release an album and afterwards just disappear or lay low for a long time. It's not very satisfying for us to be working with such bands and it makes us feel "useless", we need our bands to be out there promoting their release, doing interviews, playing live, or at least be working hard on their next product. I need the bands to be in touch with me on a regular basis. Many of the bands I talk to every day through email or on the phone and that always makes it easier for me to know what they want and when they are ready for me to do this or that for them. In terms of what I demand from the bands money-wise, it's of course a "business-secret", but I want a certain percentage of their album sales and a monthly fee for being on the management.
Apart from the "regular" management, you are also offering a few other things, like Intromental Productions, promotion for labels and booking. Could you tell us a bit more about this, please?
The Intromental Productions is our own "record label", which we don't really use that much. It's more like a safety precaution in the case that we don't find a record label interested in releasing the album or in the case where we have a product that isn't supposed to be a real album as such, but more like an intermediate thing. We have released a.o. the first MANTICORA mini album, the first ARCHETYPE mini album and the first ANTITHESIS album like that. Our Intromental Promotion Department is a unit we set up in order to promote certain record labels to the media in either Scandinavia or in all of Europe. In the past we've worked with Scarlet Records and Prophecy Productions on their Scandinavian promotion and right now we work with DVS Records for Scandinavia and Lucretia Records and Sensory/The Laser's Edge on all of Europe. Our booking department is mainly for our own bands, but we have arranged some concerts in Denmark for bands such as STRATOVARIUS, RHAPSODY and ICED EARTH.
As far as promotion (of labels) is concerned, there are tons of magazines and even more webzines out there. Which criteria do you have for a magazine/webzine to be taken up on your promo list?
That's a really good question, cause I receive so many emails every day from small webzines and radio stations around the world, that ask to being included on our promotion list. As you might have guessed it's nearly impossible to send out promo CDs for all of them, so what we do is sit down and evaluate which media we find to be the best in each country and then whenever we get new ones that seem to be genuine and interesting we try them out one time, if they don't review or airplay our stuff and don't show any interest at all in doing interviews or promoting the material we send them, they go off the list again.
Which band(s) that you have/had under your wings would you view as the biggest successes of the Intromental history? And which the saddest chapters (if you want to talk about them in fact...maybe without mentioning the name)?
It's difficult to say which have been the biggest success, since there are many ways upon which to base the judgement for that, but in terms of selling the most albums, I'd guess bands like BEYOND TWILIGHT and TIME MACHINE have been up there. It's also very satisfying for me to watch a band like WUTHERING HEIGHTS or MANTICORA grow with each release, since they've been with me from the beginning. The saddest chapter is without a doubt SINPHONIA, this is a band I put a lot of personal effort into promoting and getting to release their two albums, but because of a lot of stuff happening when they recorded their second and last disc the band split up at the same time that the album got out. My brother was the keyboardist in the band, and because of all the shit that happened, him and I have lost our good relationship. Now we only talk with each other when it's absolutely necessary, such as Christmas with our parents. Him and the rest of the band have their take on what happened and I have mine, we simply don't agree on it. It might seem a bit ridiculous, but to me it proves that business and friendship don't mix well, and since the company is so important to me, I had to take a professional instead of a family point of view here. There have been some other "sad chapters", but it's more of legal kind than personal, so in the end they don't matter that much.
There are countless record labels out there, some big, some tiny, how hard is it to separate the crop from the crap, to make sure that the label actually is serious and with enough resources to actually survive and release and promote up to standards?
It's hard, believe me :) I've made some stupid judgements in the past and believed everything that certain labels have promised, only to see them fail miserably and I've had to explain to the bands what went wrong. There are so many people in this business who are fake. It doesn't really have anything to do with the size of the label, whether I want a band to sign with them or not, it more depends on what exactly I believe that label can do for us. If a label have big money behind them, a good distributional net and does lot of promotion, then it's of course interesting, but perhaps the deals they offer binds the band on hands and feet for the rest of their lives and then it's a "no-go" from me. The alarm bells start ringing to me the moment I see a label that wants to secure worldwide rights for a long period of time and for several albums. I'd rather have my bands sign only for few albums at a time and with different labels for each territory (Europe, USA, Asia, South America). If one of the labels turns out to be bad, it won't jeopardize the band for the rest of the world. Over the years I've learned which labels to trust and which to stay clear off.
As you have been in the business, at first as journalist, now as managing director, for many years now, how do you see the development of the Metal scene in the past few years?
As both good and bad, I think the focus on Heavy Metal is returning, probably due to the whole Nu-Metal scene exploding on MTV and stuff like that. It seems like it's becoming legitimate to play Hard Rock again and people don't look at you as if you're the devil any longer, haha. However, I am definitely not a fan of the Nu-Metal and lots of those releases in that genre sounds like crap to me. The real Heavy Metal scenes is definitely alive and kicking, just watch the number of releases each month, it's almost crazy how many new bands there are. Sometimes it's too much though and now that it's becoming so easy and cheap to record at home with the use of computers and some good software, a lot of bands that are far from "ready" puts out stuff that is just horrible. There seem to be some labels who signs lots of bands, just to keep a certain flow of releases and while it in some way overcrowds the scene, it still have that positive effect that it makes it more interesting for new talent to get their stuff together. I think the Metal scene is here to stay and the fact that so many artists are out there today, although the Heavy Metal was so looked down upon in the nineties proves that point.
There are more and more measures enacted against unauthorized downloading of songs and albums, after the uncontrolled downloading had run wild completely. As a manager, I guess, you can also see the problems this downloading has/had presented bands with. Could you tell us a bit about your experience with this?
It's a subject that I've gotten a lot of heat for on certain message boards, haha. I have a strong opinion about it and since I'm one of those that can't keep my mouth shut, I tend to run into trouble. Basically I think that MP3's can be a good promotional tool. I think it's good when a band wants people to hear their musical style, that they have an MP3 or two on their homepage. However, I don't like the idea of giving away MP3's of all songs and I especially do not like it when it's "supposed fans" of the band that is swapping around the songs. We've experienced that an entire album of one of our artists was to be found on the internet before the band even got their own copies of the disc. The label of the band had sent out the promo CDs to the media one week and when we received the promos ourselves the next week, we'd already found the album several places on WinMX and Napster. That's not good. We've talked to some of our labels about using some kind of copy-protection on the CDs, but the problem is that it costs more money to manufacture and the effect is so low, since it's easy to find ways to get around the protection. And besides it's gonna piss off some potential buyers. It's really a difficult subject, but in some way, I hope that there will be invented some clever kind of copy-protection that can't be bypassed.
How do you think that the internet has changed managing and promoting bands?
It's made it a lot easier that's for sure. When we started out with Intromental, we had lots of phone conversations with our bands, but now everybody have internet, so I can just go online on AIM, MSN or ICQ to talk to the bands, whenever I want, it's easy : Besides that, the internet is a brilliant promotion tool, where homepages, MP3s, newsgroups, webboard etc all matters. I couldn't do my job half as good and easy without it, that's for sure. The many webzines are a great thing for us, we have good contact with a lot of them and they help us to great extent on promoting our bands. In general I'll say that the Internet is a blessing to the music world. Our own homepage, http://www.intromental.com, is our face to the outside world and we think it looks quite nice :
I know that this potentially takes away work from you (paid work, I mean), but is there any basic advice that you would give new bands, what they should really be careful about? (Maybe also to make them "interesting" for a management company)
It's quite simple: when you get offered a record deal, make sure that you have somebody with knowledge read through it, a lawyer or a manager, otherwise you can way too easy end up screwing yourself and hurting your own career even before it starts. Be conscious about the way you present yourself, there's nothing I hate more than getting a CD/demo from a band, who have a handwritten piece of paper where it says "We're band X, and we play this or that kind of Metal and we need a deal" and nothing more … explain more about yourself. And perhaps the most important thing for a band who wants to get to the next level: don't send out things to management companies, booking agents, record labels or media people until the product is good enough. You'll just risk that they will turn you down now, and when you send the next new product they won't even care to listen to it, because they've already one time found you horrible.
To end this interview, I have my traditional last question: What is your favourite question about Intromental that you have never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?
I don't think there's any specific question I've never been asked that I really want to answer, haha, but since my friend Lars always ends his interviews for our webzine (www.intromental.com/webzine) with this question, I might as well ask myself the same thing: Which beer is your favourite beer? The answer: Carlsberg! :)
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