What do you do as an artist manager if your biggest act wants to call it quits? And how do go about bringing together a fragmented local game industry? Two entrepreneurs shared their stories during the 10th edition of Founder Talks at DOT Groningen.
Artist manager and music and publishing label co-owner Walter Flapper and game entreprenerd Mendel Bouman discussed international success, the Noisia breakup and professionalizing game development.
From cleaner to Transformers and Jay Z
Walter Flapper manages DJ and producer acts like Noisia, Zonderling and Posij, and co-owns two music labels and a publishing label together with Noisia members Thijs de Vlieger, Nik Roos and Martijn van Sonderen. He studied history and worked as a cleaner, when his friends from Noisia asked him to be their manager. “I thought, why? I don’t know the first thing about music! But I guess they saw the entrepreneur in me.”
Drum ‘n bass producing trio Noisia took off big time. Shows around the world, playing festivals like Glastonbury, a deal with Jay Z’s publishing label and working with greats like The Prodigy, Deadmau5 and Skrillex - who crashed at Walter’s place for a couple of weeks while writing his breakthrough hit at the Noisia studio in Groningen. And one of Noisia’s songs was also featured in a Transformers movie trailer.
Breakup and new focus
Despite international success, Noisia announced they will be breaking up after 2020. “I was actually the one responsible”, Walter says. “Being together so long as producers is actually an amazing feat in and of itself and I think they’re some of the best technical producers in the world. But the three of them grew creatively, in different directions. And that’s totally fine, growing is a good thing. But it became increasingly difficult to set up tours, produce albums and have fun together in the process if you have different creative visions.”
“It felt like an obligation and staying together because they felt they had to. I made the decision to quit as manager and that caught them by surprise. But we’re friends and that means we can openly and honestly discuss it as friends. I think it was a relief for all of us and it gives us the freedom to grow and focus on new things. The support we got from fans was really amazing and also a bit weird, because it felt like we were watching our own funeral.”
A Jack of all trades
Indietopia founder Mendel Bouman didn’t feel like choosing and specializing in a single thing. “I write, make music and I was looking for an industry where I could combine all of my passions. That was the game industry and it was very fragmented in the Northern Netherlands at the time, with no effort to bring everyone together.”
That was how Indietopia was born, now the second biggest game hub and accelerator in the Netherlands and also a publisher. First anti-squat in an abandoned building at the Grote Markt, later at startup hun Het Kwadraat. The step towards renting an office there was difficult”, Mendel says. “Not every game developer wanted that, because it meant making more money to pay for it. But I think professionalization is important, and that means getting an extra job or expanding your business model.”
Business development and marketing is something Mendel considers vital for succes. “There’s something like 60 games being released every day and the industry changes constantly. Guerilla marketing is no longer as effective, because everybody’s doing it. And Youtube or Twitch influencers are flooded with requests to play new games. Old fashioned advertising still works, but you’ll need money to make money.”