I have a soundtrack in my memory of every important moment of my life.
Growing up, my dad played the drums and my mom loved dancing. I have a soundtrack in my memory of every important moment of my life. When I was in college, I studied philosophy, while I threw underground electronic raves in the mountains when the police were shutting down the clubs for underage drinking.
I would stand at the door of the big, empty houses we used for the raves, charging 10.000 pesos per person. My friends set up bars with alcohol they bought from liquor stores and we always knew someone who would come as DJ. We even had a trampoline in the house once. Everyone was jumping, so we named our raves “Jumping Raves.” We did 20 of these events and it was a lot of fun, but we didn’t know how to manage a business so decided to stop.
Around the same time, my dad was dying of cancer, and I realized being a philosopher wasn’t a great source of income. My dad called a friend, who got me a job working for an automobile manufacturer in marketing and sales. Then another company recruited me to manage their accounts for big advertising agencies.
I was settled in my new career, until my cousin called to tell me that the biggest recording studio in Bogota, which had five recording rooms used for advertising, soundtracks, and TV, was looking for a Sales & PR executive. This studio was starting a record label with an ex-Universal Music executive. I started promoting a couple of tropical pop boy bands in partnership with a major label distribution. Within a year we had the artist of the year, three songs in the top ten, and headliners for big festivals. One day we did seven shows with the same band!
I was the band’s personal manager and I would spend my day monitoring how many times my clients played on the tropical radio station. Since my background was in radical techno music, the switch in genre wasn’t easy, but once I got to know the musicians it wasn’t a problem anymore. I enjoyed my job a lot.
Soon, tons of bands reached out to us. My boss had a promotion dynamic in place, which was a great recipe for emerging talent. We became the hot label. I had glamorous friends and traveled a lot. Every weekend I had 3 or 4 shows to manage, with logistics, contracts, sponsorships, and schedules.
My work was great, until we did our first international tour.
The tour was a nightmare! Starting with the fact that the most important show was at a festival in New York and was for promotion only, which meant no money went to the artists. We did a couple of other shows in small venues in other cities, so we needed to pay for airplanes, hotels, and food too.
Then, of course, there were issues with the visas. One of the visas got denied, and my boss had to call people in the government to get it approved. We lost our original tickets, but we got the visa approved a week later. It was very stressful.
At that time we didn’t have a tour manager or a technical person with the knowledge of how to deal with these issues. It was a struggle. We worked with local promoters, and did shows with no soundchecks using a mixer with 8 channels when we needed at least 24. The bars were a very different niche for us and the crowds didn’t enjoy the shows. It was a bummer. The stress of improvising an international tour as an emerging band was too much.
We still lived in the stone age back then. I hacked together webpages and Myspace accounts for the bands, but that still wasn’t customary in the industry. We didn’t have the budget for this type of thing, and innovation wasn’t the priority.
A couple months later, I got into a relationship with a famous singer, who I brought into our firm. Needless to say, it was a train wreck. I ended up fired, and his band continued with the firm.
My next job in the music industry was with a bigger management company.
They only managed one artist, but he was big internationally, with MTV and Grammy Awards. He had two managers. One was for PR, and the other was a technical manager. I loved this, because the tech manager provided sound and lights. They could manage the tour, so I was personal manager just had to organize logistics and be with the artist in all the activities.
I learned a lot from this company, but I also learned there wasn’t a standard process to follow in the music industry. Everybody has a different method for achieving their goals.
I soon realized I could do this on my own, without working for a management company.
I talked to my friends and family, and I started a company in partnership with my cousin and two friends. I found an emerging emo band with millions of plays on Myspace. They had it all: the songs, the look, and the talent. On top of that, their live show was very exciting.
I talked to them and became their manager. We wanted to focus more on entertainment with this new company. We wanted to do corporate events. We got the Xbox Soundtrack deal, a national tour, with a soundtrack, downloads in the Messenger tab, and a concert release party with many bands.
We soon had contacts with conference organizers and press managers. Bands often hired us to do their album release parties. We became a 360 service, where we helped bands with all their needs.
Then Depeche Mode, one of my favorite bands, announced they would be playing in town. At one of our release parties I contacted their promoter. I told him I was prepared to work for him. He gave me the job, and he gave me the opportunity to work with more big bands.
I was doing hospitality, seeing what the bands wanted for backstage or for their hotel rooms or restaurants. Most of the bands came from England, so their schedule had to flow like clockwork. If they said they would meet you in the lobby at 12:45, they would be in the lobby 12:45, not 12:40 or 12:50. This was something that always amazed me.
The music industry became my life. I was assisting cultural markets. I was invited to be a guest on panels. I worked with more bands and with many different genres: world music, electronic, tropical, rock, alternative, pop. I also worked with producers and brands.
Working with cultural markets is when I realized I needed to create something to help the music industry.
Cultural markets are talent showcases for world music. Most of the crowd at the events are talent buyers, promoters, bookers, and media. They are like small versions of SXSW. In those conferences and market workshops, I saw that the talent buyers and bookers were getting press kits and demos from bands, but those demos were abandoned in hotel rooms because it is too expensive to carry 40 or 60 CDs in bags with you.
I also started to get emails from bands from the U.S. and Europe desiring to tour in Latin America. This was especially difficult because there wasn’t a big enough database of venues and festivals where the artist could find contacts. Not having a booker or an agency in another continent managing a tour for you makes it almost impossible. You can do it, but with too much effort, and the outcome is just like my first tour experience in the U.S.. There is too much stressful improvising, and there is a big waste of money.
I realized that if this is the way talent buyers from festivals organize their talent databases, with a drawer full of press kits, there is no way emerging bands or world music bands could find a spot in international shows. After years of working with bands and festivals, I knew I could make a professional tool for them to solve these issues. So, I moved to Silicon Valley, got together a fantastic team, and founded Massive Act.
Massive Act connects festivals and venues with artists, in an easy-to-use platform, helping emerging artists perform for bigger crowds, get big, and have fun doing it.
The best is yet to come.
/ Story written by Emma Basu /