“There will always be people trying to sign artists in an unethical way…” – Guest Article with MWDJ
After inviting Aeros and Rossumedia to share their stories on Alive At Night, we’ve taken a different approach for our next guest article and have invited a professional working on the business side of the industry. Representing the prominent bookings agency ‘Most Wanted DJ Agency,’ it’s our pleasure to welcome Daniël Verstegen as he shares his story with us. Speaking in depth about working in the professional sphere of Hard Dance, Daniël will let us in on some challenges he faces, provide some information about contracts and give advice to budding DJ’s and those wanting to pursue a professional career in the scene.
My career in the scene began as a DJ…
Hi! I am Daniël Verstegen and I work as the General Manager of Most Wanted DJ Agency. I’m 28 years old and I currently live in the beautiful village Overveen in The Netherlands, which is near Haarlem and Bloemendaal aan Zee.
Now that we’ve spoken about the basics, I’m going to tell you a little more about myself and how I began working in the industry…
I’ve been purchasing dance music compilations since I was around the age of 11 or 12 and once I entered High School I got into contact with the harder styles. As I was still underage I wasn’t allowed to visit events, so to stay updated on the latest music I’d record every Harder Styles DJ on cassette. When I turned 13 I brought myself some second-hand belt-drive turntables and a crappy mixer and began collecting Hard-house and Hardstyle EP’s. Later on, I began mixing Hardcore as it was more in line with my tastes, however I never had the intention to become a DJ or play at big events.
It wasn’t until I entered a pretty big DJ’ing contest and made it to the semi-finals when things started to kick off. A couple of months later a pretty big Hardcore name contacted me and was enthusiastic about my performance and tracklist during the competition. This resulted in me signing with Masters Of Hardcore Bookings and I actually ended up playing on several big stages at Masters Of Hardcore, Dominator, Emporium, Syndicate and also multiple times on the holy grounds of the Hemkade 48.
It was such an incredible experience and probably a dream come true for many aspiring Hardcore artists, however I soon discovered that working ‘behind the scenes’ was more of my thing as opposed to being in the spotlight. With this in mind, I went back to university and started a ‘Media & Entertainment Management’ course. During my degree, I said yes to every part-time job in the events sector and in turn I met a load of new people. During my internship I returned to Most Wanted DJ (former Masters Of Hardcore bookings) and set up the entire merchandise brand within the company. Later on I was also involved with the record labels the company is running and became responsible for all Hardstyle bookings within the company. Now, I’m currently the General Manager and I’m extremely happy with my career so far!
**Daniel speaking at the HDE conference 2015 as a part of the Agency panel**
Most Wanted DJ Agency: Who we are and what we do!
It all started with ‘Masters Of Hardcore Bookings’ back in the mid 90’s. Representing the best in hardcore for many years, the agency soon wanted to cater for the ever-expanding Hard Dance movement, thus switching the name to Most Wanted DJ and signing Hardstyle artists such as Crypsis and Chain Reaction, who were classified as talents at the time.
Nowadays, we represent hotshots like Angerfist, Radical Redemption, Miss K8, Warface, Korsakoff, Tha Playah, Noize Suppressor and many more, however we also on focus heavily supporting forthcoming talent. Guys like Crossfiyah, D-Sturb, Sub Sonik and Meltdown are just a few examples of young artists with great potential.
As an agency we have two types of clients. One is the artist of course, and the other is the promoter. For our artists, we assist them on all kinds of levels. First and foremost, the primary tasks are running the bookings and their management. Within marketing we can additionally help artists build a strong merchandise line. We also offer platforms for our artists to release music; we have talented and experienced people within the company who can provide assistance with productions and offer tips and feedback in the studio.
For promoters, we offer a diverse roster of artists with sounds that cover Hardstyle, Freestyle, Hardcore and Terror. Besides acts, we also offer concepts and (album) tours around the world. This entails the promoter providing a budget and MWDJ arranging the artists, artwork, transport, trailers and promotion.
The foundation of MWDJ relies on people who are heavily involved in the Hard Dance music industry for years and are (or were) artists themselves. This adds another dimension to the company as we see situations from an artists’ perspective and are aware of the things they need to be successful. In my opinion, having that core understanding is one of our biggest advantages.
There are a lot of misconceptions that arise when it comes to booking agencies, so I’m going to briefly speak about this now. A lot of supporters aren’t aware of the fact that a whole team is involved in an artists’ career and that the business side is mostly handled by agents and managers. Another misconception is that when an artist is signed with an agency, the fees rise enormously; however this is all based on the rising popularity of the artist and the marked forces.
On a side note, there are certain things that a bookings agency is responsible for and things the artists themselves are responsible for. We are mainly responsible for arranging gigs, promoting the artists to event organisations, taking care of the business aspects, making sure that the conditions are correct, ensuring the artists’ schedule is smooth, payment is fulfilled several weeks prior to the event and all necessary information is provided to the artist (flight tickets, hotel information and transport). If an artist experiences problems during the weekend, we are there for him or her 24/7 and are ready if flights need rescheduling, a replacement needs to be arranged and so forth.
An artist if of course responsible for his/her own act and music. We can assist with the marketing, however the artist is accountable for this too. The administration is also up to the artist, same goes for not trashing the backstage area. Behave yourselves artists, behave! 😉
**Radical Redemption & Crypsis – two key artists on the MWDJ roster**
Have you got what it takes to be a professional…?
What I really love about my position is the variety of jobs that I do within the company. Besides handling the booking requests and communicating with dozens of promoters a day, I also work with artwork designers to develop new merchandise items and have contact with many product factories all over the world.
Besides the production, we also run a few merchandise web-stores and my job is to ensure that they are running smoothly. Alongside my colleagues, I’m also involved in the release and marketing schedules for several artists and labels, developing and selling concept tours and of course, having daily-basis meetings with artists! There’s never a dull moment!
One of the biggest challenges I face is that you can’t please everyone. We have plenty of very popular acts and unfortunately an act can’t perform at more than one gig at a time. Unfortunately we also experience promoters that don’t take the provided conditions or requirements very seriously – those people can ruin your whole day or weekend…
For those who want to begin working in the industry or within a bookings agency, there’s a few ways to get your foot in the door. You should offer yourself to all kinds of event organisers as a Runner at events, volunteer for Artist Handling or even try to get yourself a stage management job. This way you’ll get to meet a lot of artists, managers and event organisers. Another suggestion is to take up an internship; I’ve been an intern and a few of my colleagues also started their career as an intern.
Another word of advice is to keep updated on the scene; an agent in the harder styles needs to have a passion for the music and industry. It sounds cheesy, however there’s so much happening with events, releases, announcements and forthcoming talents and if you aren’t keeping yourself updated by pure interest then you’ll be rapidly overtaken. You also have to be precise; a small typo can have unpleasant consequences for both the artist and promoter.
Working in bookings is no 9 to 5 job, artists will contact you at night with all sorts of questions and of course you’ll be attending events throughout the weekend, although that doesn’t really feel like a ‘job’ for me.
Another key word of advice is to stay humble, work hard and don’t be a show-off. This way you’ll maintain good relationships with promoters, artists, locations and other professionals.
**Daniel & MWDJ-signed Warface**
Scouting & recruiting new talent.
Recruiting new talent is one of my favourite parts of the job. I enjoy hearing new music from unknown and upcoming names and giving these talents a stepping stone is vital in growing the scene. The downside is that there’s a lot of ‘crap’ that comes along with it, however signing a talent in the early stages of their career and working alongside him/her to achieve their goals is awesome!
One thing I must point out is that (for me) it’s all about the music. This has to be on-point, otherwise I can’t assist you. Of course I can also check if others have previously spoken about the artist, if they’ve gained Soundcloud and YouTube plays or have had their tracks supported by an established name.
Sometimes you will experience an artists’ career ‘drop.’ When things get to this point you have to be honest with them and let them know what they can improve on, otherwise they cannot work on it. This may be how they handle their social media, however from experience most of the time it is the music. These days there’s so much new music being released at an extremely fast pace and the artist really needs to deliver, otherwise they will soon be forgotten. In some ways, the artist really needs to produce a ‘big hit’ to take the next step in their career. Unfortunately this is very difficult; I can’t help the artist to produce a hit and sometimes producing a hit is a matter of luck. As an agency, we can only show our support by pushing their music and help with their future plans.
**Next-gen headliner on the MWDJ roster, D-Sturb**
Contracts, contracts, contracts…
Let’s get down to it; there is a lot of talk about contracts so I’m going to share some advice for forthcoming producers and DJ’s. Before signing a contract, it’s important to show it to a specialist who can advise you. There is a lot of ‘lawyer talk’ in a contract and a critical look at a contract can prevent future dissatisfaction. I always respect artists who come with questions and feedback on the contract, this way I know that they take it seriously!
If you’re an upcoming name, speak with other talents that have recently signed to the agency. This way you will be able to gain more insight on how satisfied others are with the handling and service before you sign the contract yourself. New names deserve a lot of attention from the agent, so you should ensure you are receiving full attention.
We at MWDJ believe that the right guidance, expertise and transparent communication are foundations to great success. An artist’s hard work, effort and pure talent will ensure a spot on a great stage, not a shitty contract or giving in to threats… There will always be people and agencies with bad intentions that will try to sign artists in a unethical and disrespectful way. However, only the unconfident and uninformed artists will sign with these agencies and I truly believe that they will end up without success. I can only speak for Most Wanted DJ Agency; I believe that our roster of artists in correlation with the stages they perform on prove that our vision is the right one.
The harder styles is an ever-growing scene with new names appearing left, right and centre which calls for an increase in competition. Personally, I’m going to stick to the strategy and keep things personal and creative…
What’s next for me and MWDJ: As a General Manager I can’t grow within the role, however I have so many goals that I’d like to accomplish within the company. I’d like to see more MWDJ artists in line-ups, more visible artist merchandise around the globe and more music flooding the fans playlists! I really have the best job in the world!
As for MWDJ, we want to stay the world’s leading artist agency in hard electronic music!
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