This week’s Industry Idol is Tobias Fischer, the Editor-in-Chief of the leading music website Tokafi.
What are the first, most important steps a young artist needs to take when they embark on their career as a performer?
Ask as many knowledgeable people as possible for their opinion and listen to them. Separate the useful from the irrelevant. Define a goal. Break down the path to attaining that goal into small, attainable episodes and set up a strategy. Then put everything to work to reach it.
From my personal experience, all of these paths invariably start with the same thing: getting away from non-musical day jobs and focusing on earning one’s living from music – for as long as you’re giving your dream a shot, there should be as little room for compromise as possible.
What was your first job in the music industry?
I co-founded an online mag dedicated to anything from industrial and experimental to pop, rock and metal. Very different from tokafi.com. There was a lot of freedom in trying out different formats, setting our own agenda and building something from scratch – an exciting time!
What skills do you think are needed to succeed in the music industry?
I’m not sure that the music industry is really all that different from any other business today, but an essential aspect to me seem to be finding a balance between what your audience wants and setting your own agenda. It may seem as though there is a tendency towards consensus and playing it safe. But deep inside, people are longing for someone to do things differently.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt during your career?
That turning one’s laptop off will not ruin your career – hard work is a precondition, but if you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The moment, when, in the act of writing, you’ve managed to describe an intangible musical idea with the seemingly insufficient tool box of language.
On a typical working day, what’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
My office is in my apartment, so the first thing would be to get dressed 😉
Do you think there is anything in the classical music industry that needs to be changed? If yes, why?
Artists should not wait for things to change by themselves, but take them into their own hands: Forget about getting on a label, which will most likely not provide you with the support you need anyway. Start conceptualising, organising and releasing your own albums. Start building your own contacts with the media. Find a PR company and a distributor that will work with you as a team. Make use of existing venues and structures, but try extending into unusual locations and building new networks as well. Embrace the web, communicate with your listeners and find ways of allowing them to actively support you. And most of all: work on developing your own style rather than imitating those who have come before you.
From my own perspective as a journalist, I feel the media, who have given up on reporting about classical music in an engaging way, are partly to blame. We need new formats. We need new styles of writing about this music. We need journalists who can cross over from electronica and sound art to classical and contemporary composition and back again.
Are there any young musicians, emerging venues, exciting companies, composers… etc that you are keeping your eye on?
German conductor Jörn Boysen is one of the most exciting artists out there at the moment, someone who is unafraid of voicing his opinion and doing things differently in a refreshing way, yet with an astute understanding of history. Zeitkratzer, an ensemble from Berlin, have started a series of what I believe to be incredibly important recordings of contemporary work from a variety of genres. And Tomas Phillips is probably my favourite composer at the moment – one of the few artists capable of combining the sensibility and instrumental delicacy of Morton Feldman with a delicate brand of electronic micro-noise. His Quartet for Instruments seems like an exciting new direction.
Other composers which come to mind are Dobrinka Tabakova, Jörg Widmann and James Aikman – all people with a deeply personal vocabulary.
Where do you read about classical music?
In books mostly. Richard Taruskin’s History of Western Music especially is a constant source of inspiration.
Where is your favourite place in the world for classical music?
My living room 😉