Booking gigs has always been a pain for indie artists. And getting a booking agency to take you seriously is tough too. So Marcus Russel launched a new DIY platform to book your own gigs. It’s now huge, the largest database of gigs in the world, and is lending a helping hand to indie artists in Germany and Europe. But, as he tells us, this is just the beginning.
We caught up with Marcus for an exclusive indieBerlin interview.
Indieberlin: What gave you the idea to start gigmit? What was your motivation?
Marcus Rüssel: I’ve been working as a promoter myself for more than 15 years. In that time, I organised multiple gigs in different venues, was hired as a talent buyer in one venue and started my own festival which lasted for 9 years.
As you can imagine, my email address was around and more and more bands started to reach out and asked for the opportunity to play. I received between 400 and 800 applications a year. On the other hand, I started to work as a booking agent for bands that I really liked and later as my day job.
I had to book really talented artists like the German pop musician CLUESO with an 90-piece-orchestra, Hundreds, Norman Sinn or Marbert Rocel. But back in the days it was so hard to find the right contacts, deals or timings. Putting both together, I thought there must be a resource to find those online and a help for promoters to filter their applications. There was Myspace back in the days. But this didn’t help. 😉 So the idea was born and my co-founders Robert, Andreas and Christian from the tech side of things were super helpful to execute the idea!
Indieberlin: What were your hopes and expectations when you first started?
Marcus Rüssel: I truly wanted to change the way how bands get booked in the whole world and make booking more transparent. This might sound naive but I still have this expectation.
Indieberlin: Have your hopes and expectations been fulfilled?
Marcus Rüssel: There is no bigger database of gigs worldwide! This part is done. Check! But there is way more to do. We are the biggest booking platform in Europe, but cover mostly Germany and the UK. Next step is to close the net in Europe and get deeper into other territories. And Europe is not the end of course.
Indieberlin: Do you believe there is still a place for a conventional booking agency? Or should the DIY approach give musicians the ability to do that for themselves?
Marcus Rüssel: To be honest, I believe that self-booking will become the standard method for many smaller acts. I think that agencies will, of course, always remain existent and relevant. Moreover, we work with a lot of agencies to help them use gigmit to their advantage. Agents from the big German agencies Four artists, FKP Scorpio, Selective Artists or Landstreicher are registered with some of their acts and use gigmit already. Of course, we want to help them generate more business than trying to overtake their jobs.
I think the music industry should embrace all tech companies as much as they do it with Spotify.
Indieberlin: What have you learned about the music industry through running gigmit? What’s good about it, what works well, and what’s bad? What isn’t working and should be changed?
Marcus Rüssel: I learned that there are always more conservative people who are not interested in new tech development, and there are other people who see tech as a new opportunity that opens doors. Sony Music Germany for example, who recently invested in gigmit have seen a highly innovative company and idea and try their best to support us to grow in the music industry.
Marcus Rüssel: I think the music industry should embrace all tech companies as much as they do it with Spotify. Not only streaming will change the music industry (or has changed it already). There will be thousands of ideas popping up which need support and partnerships with the old school industry. But there are 100% more opportunities than enemies. Unfortunately, I couldn’t always feel this and I truly hope that new structures like the music tech organisation in Berlin will change this.
I know that 90% of the artists don’t do enough
Indieberlin: Do you think that most bands/musicians/musical artists do enough to promote themselves? Is there anything that you see that you think, oh, they could be doing that better?
Marcus Rüssel: I know that 90% of the artists don’t do enough. And I understand that it is hard for all DIY artists. But finally, this is the reason why only 10% make it. We at gigmit try to help and therefore we set up a guide with loads of insights what artists could improve.
Indieberlin: Is there anything that the venues could or should do better? Do you have any recommendations or advice about how venues could improve things for themselves and/or musicians?
Marcus Rüssel: Yeah. I understand it is hard to communicate with all bands. But every promoter should be clear about what the deal is and what the artists can expect. And, more important, the promoters should spend far more time in online marketing. It is so f**king important to tell your core audience a great story about this awesome band that plays next.
You need to keep being creative and deliver good stories about the bands you book
If you don’t have the knowledge how to use online marketing, no problem – there are 5 million agencies that know this part. You need to keep being creative and deliver good stories about the bands you book. Gigmit has recently started also offering cover gigs – like weddings, parties, etc – do you feel that that was missing from before? What’s your experience been with this? And is it something that you initiated or was it something that came from the bands’ side?
Never never never stop developing yourself.
Of course, the artists asked us! We got more and more requests to offer those gigs as they are mostly better paid. This step was to include individuals in offering gigs for private parties or events. Let’s say you’re looking for a music act at your next party but don’t want to offer your location permanently, this is for you. We had the chance to show this advertisement in the German TV.
So far, we started the platform only in Germany and only in the German language, which you can find at www.gigmit.de. Since we have all kinds of bands and DJs on gigmit, it was a very welcomed step. But this is still in development. We are far away of a fully operating service. I would call it an early BETA version and we have to learn a lot more.
Even as a free member you should use the chance to place your applications each week!
Indieberlin: Is there something that artists could do to make more or better use of the platform?
Marcus Rüssel: The most important thing is that artists fill out their EPK and then they should apply as much as possible to the gigs that we offer. This is what each artist should do no matter which pricing tier the band use. Even as a free member you should use the chance to place your applications each week! We see too often that artists have an EPK that is not even 90% filled and only apply to a handful of gigs. This is not enough to go one step further in your career. And, especially because gigmit offers thousands of gigs every month!
Indieberlin: Is there anything you’d like to say to users of the gigmit platform – whether bands or venues/promoters or both?
Marcus Rüssel: Never never never stop developing yourself.
Bands and musicians – if you haven’t yet then get over to gigmit.com and sign up – it really is a revolution in booking gigs!
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.