After working at Gigstarter for six years, our Head of Marketing Tom van der Velpen is leaving us for a new adventure. We spoke to him about the early days of Gigstarter, his highlights and plans for the future.
How did you end up at Gigstarter?
‘Six years ago I saw an advertisement on Facebook in which Gigstarter was looking for someone to do the communication for them. At the time I was still working on my Master Communication Science and thought: What a great company! I would love to work here next to my thesis. When I was invited for an interview, there was an instant connection with the team.'
Tom van der Velpen
What did an average working day look like for you back then?
‘It was very different at the beginning, because I was only working two days a week. I started the week on Wednesday and whenever I would get to the office my colleagues Mark and Paul had all sorts of new plans that we were going to work on. From improving the website to thinking of new possible business models. That was the starting period of the company, a very energetic time with many new ideas. A working day would include all sorts of different tasks, which is kind of still the case now. It was at a smaller scale back then, because we were just starting out and needed to grow.'
What at Gigstarter did you find the most educational?
'A lot! For example, how many musicians there are and how everyone has a different drive and ambition to make music. There are great musicians that make music next to their regular job, in the evening hours. You also have fulltime musicians that live from making music. And then there's also the people that would like to live from it, but it's not really working out, so they combine it with jobs. Like this you have a lot of artists with different stories as to why and how they are making music.'
'The same goes for bookers. We have had many different types of bookers, from concerts for one person to bigger events. People tend to underestimate how many artists and live music is being booked in general. There are so many possibilities and we as Gigstarter still contribute to that.'
And what did you find the most educational in terms of personal development?
'I have grown a lot in writing articles and blogs. When I started out, a lot of people had to check my articles and correct them if needed. Now, at the end of my career at Gigstarter, I'm really good at writing and even guide others in making content. In terms of personal development I have also grown a lot in supervising interns and the development of products. Gigstarter gave me a lot of skills. It is the perfect job to start out with!'
In what areas or ways have you seen Gigstarter grow over the years?
'You really notice that many more people know the company. When I started at Gigstarter, I always had to give an introduction and people often thought I was talking about 'Kickstarter', the crowdfunding organisation. Sometimes I would have a conversation with someone for 10 minutes, only to have them say: 'Oh, you are not talking about the crowdfunding platform.' afterwards. But nowadays I notice that people really know our name. The brand awareness has increased enormously. I haven't had a conversation like the one mentioned before in years. That's how you can tell that Gigstarter has grown.'
Raoul Michel - Sweet Sophia during the Gigstarter Quarantine Sessions, one of Toms favorite artists
Did you do many things differently at Gigstarter in the past?
'At first we were only focussed on the Netherlands, but nowadays we are in eight European countries. We used to be happy with every call we got. Everyone would get personal attention and we'd follow up on if everything went well with the booking. Nowadays we get so many calls that we can't do that anymore and we have improved and automatised the system so that everything runs smoother.'
How does it work if you want to start up in a completely different and new country?
‘Spain was one of my highlights, because we had a launch party there. Colleagues Paul and Erik grew up there and have a big network of people that they know. At the launch party we had a band and it was cool to invite all our contacts. The most important part is that you translate the website properly and that you show up in person as well. When I was working in Berlin for Gigstarter it went a little differently. We did translate the website, but there weren't many things happening yet. It was a lot of talking with people from the music industry and trying to plant seeds for possible future collaborations.'
What activities did you enjoy doing the most?
'I really enjoy highlighting an artist properly. So finding a nice way to tell someone's story or show a performance in a way that more people pick it up. For example, the garden gigs this summer. It's cool when different people pick that up and want to start organising events like that themselves. This way you can promote both an artists and drag other people into it as well. If you do this, live music will become more interesting for a broader audience and I really like that.'
What were your biggest challenges in your work at Gigstarter?
'At the beginning it was hard to find the right focus for the company. We work in the music industry and there are so many fun possibilities. New ideas pop up every week: from renting out sound equipment to creating a new page. Finding that focus was a big challenge, but brought us to booking live music. A lot of starting companies find it difficult to find their focus in the market, but it's especially challenging in the music world because there are many amazing things you can do.'
What was your most impressive moment at Gigstarter and why?
'One of the many highlights was a Gigstarter Café in our building. The whole building was live music. There was an artist upstairs and in the basement there was a band from France. They had driven from France and had to play until midnight. After the performance they had a coffee and drove back to Lille. That was rock 'n roll.'
After some coffee and a group-picture, the French band Holispark went back to Lille
How long has the Gigstarter Café been around?
'From the beginning, actually. We think it's important to have. It's nice to be an online platform, but it's important to stay in touch with friends of Gigstarter and see our artists playing live. That is cool.'
Which Gigstarter artists have you become a fan of?
‘Plenty! I would like to name Raoul Michel, the singer-songwriter from Haarlem. Mostly because he has been on Gigstarter from the start and you see him grow every year. That's nice to see. The Happy Suspended also made a real party at the last Artist of the Year. There are so many cool acts and most of them radiate joy whenever they are on stage. I feel like that's important.'
People in the music industry are three times as likely to get mental health issues. How did you prevent this and do you have any advice to other professionals?
'One of the most important things is that it's a fun industry to work in, but you need to properly decide what's work and what isn't. If you go to an event to network, that's work as well. It's good to realise that. You don't have to be present all the time. It's like that at Gigstarter as well. You already work during the day, so make sure your evenings are free otherwise you keep on going. At the beginning I used to do a lot in the weekend as well, but that really affects the way you start your Mondays. Of course this may be different for other functions, but there are plenty of fun things. Invites for shows, network events and more. Manage it for yourself. It's okay to skip a night, even if people asked you to come. You don't have to go to everything. I feel like this goes for both artists as other music industry professionals.'
What advice would you like to give the people that want to work in the music industry?
'If you have drive, can plan, know how to manage your things and also have a passion for music, then you stand a good chance at many companies. Combine this with an internship that suits you and meet people who work at places that you would like to work. You can get in quite easily like this. Many people want to work in the music industry, but if you work hard and are passionate, everyone stands a chance. There aren't many positions, but hardworking employees are rare as well. Make sure you become one.'
Why are you quitting Gigstarter?
'After six beautiful years it's about time for a new challenge. I have given it my all and learned all I could learn at Gigstarter. It's a perfect moment to give the stage to my talented successor, Solène from France.'
What's your next adventure going to be?
'Good question. I don't know. The first few months I will be zooming out for a bit and do nothing. I'm going to look around and see if I find something specific that inspires me. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the music industry. Maybe something marketing or something else. But yeah, first I want to catch my breath from this beautiful adventure. I gave it my all, so it's good to give myself a break before I jump onto the next adventure.'
What will you always carry with you to other jobs?
'At Gigstarter we work with a small team, but we have a huge impact. We almost have 10.000 artists! It has always impressed me how much we can do with a small team. When the communication is good and tasks are clear, you can reach a lot. So whether I'm going to work at a big or small company, I will always remember what's possible. At some companies they have entire departments for that.'
What is the most important tip you want to give your successor?
'Enjoy it and get to know the artists as well. They all have a different story as to why they started making music and it's special to hear that. You will learn that by getting in contact with more people, on- and offline. Your view on the possibilities will become even broader because of it and you will know why people started making music. It's broader than everyone thinks.'
How would you describe your time at Gigstarter in one sentence?
'An amazing, musical adventure.’
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