PROJEKTA is a new music management and export consultancy based in London, Reykjavik and Brussels. It was formed by three individuals: John Rogers, the face of UK indie label Brainlove Records and an experienced music industry multi-tasker & publicist; Vasilis Panagiotopoulos, a manager and publicist working with clients such as SPOT Festival, Popkomm, Kimi Records and Icelandic quintet Rökkurró; and Hildur Maral, an active player in the Icelandic industry and a member of the Iceland Airwaves advisory board, having worked in various capacities with the Bedroom Community label, Reykjavik Film Festival, her own Jonsvaka festival.
The company has a growing roster of exciting and original artists, working to create a robust international framework and strategy for their releases, publishing, publicity and booking. The acts on the company's roster include Greek indie-rock quartet FILM, Icelandic five-piece Rökkurró and UK artist Napoleon IIIrd, who's second album "Christiania" received universal praise in the UK's music media upon it's release last November. Plans are afoot to bring "Christiania" out Europe-wide in 2011 and to continue the success of his recent European tours, industry showcases and festival appearances.
The most recent PROJEKTA signing was Apparat Organ Quartet. This legendary Icelandic electronic ensemble's five members include celebrated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and four other seasoned veterans of the Reykjavik music scene. The band have been going for over a decade and have a very impressive live history that includes performances at thePompidou Centre and Central Park in NYC, Roskilde, Pukkelpop, and London's ICA. The band are about to release their second studio album "Pólýfónía" via Danish label Crunchy Frog, and plans are in motion to unleash their incendiary live show across Europe later in 2011.
Interview with Vas, John and Hildur.
What is all this Projekta business then?
Vas: Well, “ekta” in Icelandic means “authentic”. We thought combining the words “projects” and “ekta” made for a good description of what we do.
Who is involved in this thinly disguised plan for World Domination and what are yr backgrounds?
John: I’ve been working in the industry for the last decade now, first as a music writer and editor, then on the other side of the fence as a print & online publicist for everyone from Warp to Moshi to One Little Indian to IMX and EMI. During this time I started a DIY indie label called Brainlove, doing pretty much everything - A&R, producer hookups, product management and design, dealing with distributors, events, booking, publicity planning, international development, and lots of tedious but essential day-to-day label matters. Add it all together, and there’s a good overview of how shit gets done that I think translates into the right skill set for management. This step with Projekta feels very natural.
V: I’ve got a completely different background: European politics and media, but I’ve always had a great love for music and anything around it. A few years ago I started freelancing for various UK music media such as Clash, Drowned In Sound and Wired.co.uk. and started to manically attend all European showcase festivals and conventions. I gradually got to learn how the industry works and made some contacts, which eventually earned me a few clients in media and management, such as doing press for Spot Festival in Denmark and management for the emerging Icelandic act Rökkurró.
H: As for me, the guys approached me since we already knew each other a little and they knew of my previous experience in various fields of the Icelandic music business. They are both lovers of Icelandic music and wanted to work closely with Icelandic bands. It felt really natural and of course I was on board, the project sounded exciting.
You've already signed a few pretty cool acts, can you tell us about them?
J: I’ve been working with Napoleon IIIrd for years now - I saw him at his second ever show, I was astounded by the imagination and talent on display, and it’s gone on from there. It feels great to watch his music and his profile flourish, especially internationally - there’s been a huge response to his last record, “Christiania”, and deservedly so. Our other (newest) UK signing is Gazelle Twin, a dark, surreal and brilliant solo artist. Have a look at her website for an interactive stream of her debut record, “The Entire City”... www.gazelletwin.com
V: FILM are well-known in Greece - where I’m originally from - and have done some serious gigging, with support slots for The Cure, Flaming Lips, Iggy and The Stooges, Placebo and New Order. Unfortunately due to the isolation of the local music business they had no profile abroad. I helped them out by bringing them to Spot Festival, Popkomm and Iceland Airwaves but also by organising a collaboration with Rökkurró’s lead singer, Hildur Kristín, a release on Kimi Records and a remix by FM Belfast. That led to my collaboration with Rökkurró, securing a publishing deal and a series of successful European appearances.
How did you get AOQ on board? Did you bribe them with star wars figures, for example?
V: Yeah, their favourite figure was Chewbacca! It also played a role that Hildur was doing press for them already...
H: I had been working with them some months ago promoting their album Pólýfónía in Iceland. I’m a fan of the band and so are Vas and John so it felt natural to approach them right away, and lucky for us they felt the same way.
J: I’d seen them at Airwaves and had my mind fully blown, so I’m very happy to working with this band. What they do is really special, it’s right up my street.
What will you be taking care of for them?
V: Their much awaited sophomore album Pólýfónía will be released in Europe on 2 September on Danish label Crunchy Frog. A UK-release will follow in November. We’re in charge of coordinating all practical aspects, be it talking to their labels and various booking agents around Europe, arranging travel or coordinating PRs in various territories. I think artist management is all about taking care of the practicalities as well as keeping an eye on the bigger picture and coming up with bright ideas...
You are based in "London, Reykjavik and Brussels" - doesn't this interfere with the all-important alcohol-bonding rituals of a fledgling company?
J: We try and squeeze in some time working in the same city each month, which means a lot of travelling, but I love travel so that’s fine by me. We find that working together, we spark off each other and good ideas happen fast, so it’s important to create those windows of time. But the combined reach of our network, being based in three different countries, is a huge bonus for the company, and our bands, and helps things unfold quickly.
V: Yeah, already in 2011 we met in Oslo, Reykjavik, London, Brussels, Tallinn, and Cologne.
H: There was some drinking & bonding.
Talking of which, was the company conceived on a napkin in a cafe/bar? Or is there some other anecdote connected with the inception?
V: John and I have been talking for a long while about the sheer amount of talent in Iceland and the almost complete lack of management. That got us into thinking...
The key overlap of interests - aside from yr musical passions - is...ICELAND! Does that feel like one of the major glues that binds you all?
J: Iceland is definitely one of the things that brought us together. We all have a love for the place and it’s people and music.
H: I met both John and Vas because of Icelandic bands I had been working with. So it definitely has some say in it!
What other artists have you signed from Iceland and who else do you have your sextet of beady eyes on?
V: For the time being Apparat Organ Quartet and Rökkurró. In the last few weeks we met a few other acts and we are waiting for some others to record new material. We are definitely interested in working with more Icelandic artists.
Why does the world need another Management Agency?
J: Well, you could say the democratisation of recording technology means bands are developing earlier than ever - so there are more “finished product” artists emerging from bedroom studios with release-ready music at very early stages. And in the thorny, complex, fragmented world of the music industry, it takes years to even get orientated and get a grasp on how things work, between press, publishing, booking, labels, legal... artists need managers, or they’d never have time to make music. We’re here to guide things and make it work.
What sets you apart from other Management Agencies? As in, why should bands sign with you, y'know, aside from the obvious fact you're all lovely and charming and genuine and have great experience in the music industry and loads of really helpful connections?
J: Well, I think different companies have different ideas and aesthetics and ways of approaching things, and I feel like Projekta has quickly established an identity that rings true with the kind of artists we want to work with. We all want both our methods and our roster to be as much about respecting and understanding the art-form as managing the business - we want to establish a benchmark of quality in the acts we sign. When people really love what they’re working with it makes everything work so much better.