After three years of baby steps, Tallinn Music Week is suddenly all grown-up and sporting the latest in fashionable long trousers - they grow up quick these boutique events, don’t they?

There were notable changes to this year’s event; the dates had been moved one week later in the calendar, which meant some of us managed to get a few days break between the SXSW slog and hitting the Baltics: the conference had an improved professional aesthetic, with raised stages to seat the panels, colour-coded decoration and lighting, and a clearer time schedule throughout the weekend; and, most plain to see, was the fact that the delegate count had increased, substantially, by almost 50%. The place was FULL and buzzing like a beehive. There were plenty of first-timers present, chattering away like kids on a school trip, excited as heck to be in this most magical of cities to witness an event they had only ever heard wonderous whispers about.

The opening night, and the guests were herded towards Rock Cafe, a castle-like venue perched atop the hill that winds up and out of the city centre. Clutching delegate passes as if they were golden tickets to a chocolate factory, everyone mixed and merged with everyone else, grabbed fistfuls of free food when possible, necked complimentary wine and beer, and switched back and forth between the VIP balcony and the two rooms housing the stages. There couldn’t be a better way to kick off this (or any) festival than a set from Finland’s finest twisted-indie act, Rubik – a band that has come on leaps and bounds since their first appearance at Tallinn Music Week two years ago. As soon as the Finns left the stage, the pleased crowd swarmed over to the main room where Estonian pop princess, Iiris, was about to appear for her album-release performance. There’s been much interest around Iiris ever since she bounced on stage as a teenager at the 2nd edition of Tallinn Music Week and she proved in this, her biggest gig to date, that she is ready to fulfill her potential. This was all a pretty perfect way to get the Tallinn party started and everyone knew it.

We meandered out into the dark night, back down the hill towards the old town. There is something about Tallinn - its spires and steeples, cobbles and kellars that is completely fairytale-like. Tallinn Music Week is almost designed to ensure the visitor feels as warm, snug, spoilt, and safe as possible and it feels like each delegate is subjected to a dose of some kind of magic potion in order for them to feel immediately relaxed, open-minded, and in awe at the surroundings and set up of this, still relatively new, event.

Presenting its fourth edition, Tallinn Music Week is still very new amongst the many showcase conferences going on around the world but it has already gained an enormous amount of respect and recognition within the music industry, and is now starting to pick up awards for being one of the best new events in Europe. It’s an incredible achievement.

The secret to the success is that the event partly reflects the personality of its main organiser, Helen Sildna. Tallinn Music Week is a pure realisation of her original vision; cultured, passionate, dynamic, intriguing, inclusive, and soulful - everything she would insist on. The seamless mixture of classical, jazz, rock and pop is surely unique amongst the myriad music events already in the calendar. Despite its rapid growth, Tallinn Music Week somehow seems to remain a truly bespoke occasion. There is a feeling of specialness about being a delegate. It is easy to return from Tallinn feeling satisfied, with genuine new contacts, fresh perspective, and having discovered some truly fascinating new acts to explore further. We all hope this will continue.

Day two stirred and rose with the weak Baltic sun but there was nothing languid about the start to the event proper. A crammed main conference hall, gathered to be welcomed by Estonian President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves - a man who has made quite an impact on those who have previously visited this event and heard his inspiring, knowledgable welcome addresses. His relaxed yet accurate message, his genuine love and knowledge of modern pop & rock music puts a charlatan like David Cameron to shame (if Dave was capable of feeling shame, that is). The President stole the show and set the bar very high in terms of quality performances.  Having the presence of the nation’s head of state was a glowing confirmation of the value that Tallinn Music Week has earned for itself, but it has not always been the case that such lavish attention has been bestowed on the event. Only four years ago, the inaugural edition was met with a good deal of local sceptisicm and political indifference at best. A small band of international guests arrived, liked what they saw, and reported back that here was a place that deserved recognition, despite its position off the beaten path. The fact that the local attitude has been turned emphatically around and political interest is, clearly, extremely real, there is all the more reason to really grasp and appreciate the enormous, almost unthinkable challenge that Helen had to overcome. With a small team of loyal followers she set about making a difference with a tenacity, skill, and determination that is simply awe-inspiring and has already managed to give Tallinn Music Week not only a place in the local calendar, but has also firmly established the event as an International annual occasion.

to be continued

name: Helen Sildna.
job: Head of Tallinn Music Week/MD of Musiccase.
city: Tallinn, Estonia.
working on: Gathering feedback from the 4th edition of Tallinn Music Week and planning next year's event already.
favourite artist: Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Alina Orlova, Scott Walker, Kate Bush, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, Fleet Foxes, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Mari Kalkun, Ewert and the Two Dragons, Rubik, Orelipoiss, Hjaltalin, Nick Drake....
first gig: Rock Summer Festival in 1988.
highlight(s) of the year: Hjaltalin playing at a gorgeous little old town courtyard in Tallinn together with 10 more amazing Icelandic bands all around town, Björk’s “Biophilia” at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Gus Gus live at Iceland Airwaves, Ewert and the Two Dragons playing to a standing ovation at Tallinn’s sold out 1800-capacity Nokia Concert Hall, Mari Kalkun at the backstage of Song Festival Grounds on 20th August.
musical Hero: Scott Walker and Joni Mitchell.
listening to: some great Estonian music from the festival compilation: http://download.tallinnmusicweek.ee/

Meet Helen HERE

Name of company: RedBerg Agency

Type of Business: Agency & Promotion

City/Country: Helsinki, Finland

Year Founded: 2011

Employees and their roles: Juha Juoni (Agent/promoter), Tiina Vuorinen (Agent/promoter), Petteri Ruotsalainen (Production manager)

full roster

Goals for next 12 months: tour, tour, tour....

Biggest Challenge ahead: The Exploited's Australian-New Zealand tour. Lot’s of chaos and anarchy to come...

Company Motto: We aim to combine the benefits of both big and small operations into a company that serves artists and venues alike.

Key Projects: Shining, Reckless Love, Mayhem, The 69 Eyes, Poets Of The Fall, My First Band.....

What are the main things are you looking for at the moment: We are always looking out for more opportunities to book gigs/tours for our roster in new territories, sign new artists, start new partnerships...

The SPOT festival is supported and sustained by a very large section of Danish music in rock, pop and related genres.

The SPOT festival has 4 main goals:
  • To focus primarily on the newer Danish and Nordic music production
  • To bridge the gap between artistic ambitions and the commercial potential of the music
  • To support and further the cultural qualities of the music
  • To contribute in developing international networks through exchange of concerts and cultural and commercial experience.
The ambition of the SPOT festival is to create a promotion platform for the Danish and Nordic music. The festival’s repertoire is dictated chiefly by the will to support new bands and artists that are of a quality to succeed internationally.

The line-up comprises both debutants as well as more established artists who are recognized as being of interest to either national or international music promoters, cultural institutions or media.

Quotes about SPOT:

Forget Glastonbury! Hello Denmark!
SPOT – an altogether nicer kind of rock festival
Kieron Tyler, Mojo Magazine (UK)

The vast Majority of music I heard at SPOT massively exceeded my expectations..

…It is incredibly civilised. I have never witnessed a less drunken and debauched rock festival.
Neil McGormick, The Daily Telegraph (UK) – author of 2006′s worldwide music book bestseller ”U2 by U2”

I was not prepared for the quality of the commotion that hit me at SPOT. The festival had everything I like about the concert experience: a dynamite setting (Denmark in the spring), convenience (multiple stages within spitting distance of each other), down-to-earth hospitality (a great crew running the whole affair); and jubilant, knowledgable and inquisitive audiences.. …….. Be there. Or lose out.
David Fricke, Senior Editor, Rolling Stone Magazine (US), on his first out of five SPOT visits.

This festival is an example for all European countries who wants to display their talent and who wants to make an opening to its foreign markets.…. It amazes me how many talented bands there are and how good the quality is in general.
Dirk Steenhaut, culture journalist at Flemish newspaper de Morgen (BE)

The Danish music industry is peopled by some very smart cookies with some smashing ideas. While Denmark may be a bit like Ireland … its music industry is far more advanced with dozens and dozens of thriving, ambitious, professional, forward-looking labels, management companies, publishing companies and business which do all of the above and a whole lot more beside. And they also network like it’s going of fashion….

Oh and the city of Arhus is gorgeous. Well worth a visit.
Jim Carroll, The Irish Times (IE)

I’ve seen so many great bands here…
Ryan Schreiber (US), founder of the world’s biggest indie music site, picthforkmedia.com

It was an amazing weekend..
Julien Broquet, Le Soir (BE), music journalist for Belgiums biggest French speaking news paper about SPOT 2008.

For me, SPOT Festival, is like a big christmas three surrounded by lots of presents.It’s organised to perfection, the atmosphere is cool, and it’s easy to meet the right people. It really is an event you can’t afford to miss.
Jean-Pierre Moya, owner of the radio station Rockomondo (FR)

I was impressed by the festival and the level of the Danish acts I saw…Efterklang will remain a magical memory.
Jean Francois Jaspers, Collectif Jaune Orange (BE), manager/booker

The quality of the music is superb. I don’t think it’s possible to go to a festival in the UK today and find the same general high level of quality.
Christian Ulf-Hansen, manager, Plan C Music (UK), to Århus Stiftstidende, Danish newspaper

A lot of bands performing here at the SPOT Festival definitely have strong export capabilities….they can work in multiple markets including North America.
Sat Bisla, music journalist and organiser, A&R Worldwide, MusExpo, L.A. (US).

I had a great time and now I wanna book Tone, Le Fiasko, Said the shark, Munich, Slaraffenland, Murder… Where to start?…
Dieter Craeye, Café Maison (BE) (booker).

Great music has a way of erasing regional and linguistic borders, and if there’s one thing the 11-year-strong SPOT Festival can teach outsiders, it’s that Scandinavia is producing killer sounds in multiple tongues.
Jennifer Maertz, The Stranger, Seattle (US) about SPOT 11 in 2005

The SPOT Festival in general is one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to for a couple of reasons: I’m struck by the variety of what’s here, and actually of how bany bands, that I didn’t knew before, that I’ve since become big fans of……The Blue Van, Under Byen, The Raveonettes, The Figurines. They’re all bands that I saw here at SPOT for the first time…
David Fricke, Senior Editor, Rolling Stone Magazine (US)

The SPOT Festival sees over 90 indigenous bands showcase their Scandinavian talents for two days in the picturesque town of Aarhus in front of a smart and switched on crowd of Danish music fans. We had the chance to see a wide variety of acts on what is clearly a very proud and fast developing scene.
Matt Bennet, Clash Magazine (UK)

There is a fantastic atmosphere at SPOT, which you simply have to cherish. It’s probably the best of its kind.
Davis Barrat, a French music agent, commenting on SPOT 10 to Danish newspaperJP Århus.


The NMO presented a series of panels at this year’s Tallinn Music Week. Here is an abridged version of Paul Cheetham’s introduction to the panel on “Entrepreneurship In The Music Business“ which featured John Rogers (Brainlove Records), Brendan Walsh (Brending Consulting), Paul Baylay (25 Media), Dan Koplowitz (Friendy Fire Records), and Toomas Olljum (Made In Baltics Management).

Entrepreneurship is much more than just starting and running a company.  Apart from the obvious risks involved, it’s a process through which individuals identify opportunities in the marketplace and generate and utilise resources in order to create value in a product or concept that perhaps didn’t previously exist.  Entrepreneurs tend to be the more creative thinkers who become owners of their own destiny, either through their own choice or through necessity. The ones who I speak to tell me that they feel they have more freedom to think and to experiment than if they were employees or confined to a department in a company.  Perhaps for this reason, it is not uncommon that economic, social, cultural, and scientific change is quite likely to begin from the work of an entrepreneur.

But what does it take to be successful at this? There are, of course, many obvious attributes required: passion, energy, a positive disposition, perseverance, dedication, knowledge, flexibility, motivation, leadership......the list goes on. But it’s not enough only to have a huge love for what you do - in this case, music - as after all, the definition of an amateur is someone who does something purely for the love of doing it and that does not always lead to successful business. To be successful you should bring a balance of professionalism and amateurism to your approach to work - that is; be good at making business decisions while maintaining a genuine love for what you do.

You need to be able to mix expertise in your chosen field with a passion for what it is you are an expert in, and be able to apply careful planning AND blind faith all at the same time. In summary; a succesful Entrepeneur is someone who is somehow able to blend science with religion.

So, why do we need Entrepreneuers in the music business? Producer, Musician and Author, George Howard, writes this:“There has never been a better time to be a music entrepreneur. Fundamentally, entrepreneurs see problems and fix them. Given the state of today's music business, the opportunities for an entrepreneur to succeed are as high as they've ever been. In few other businesses can someone with little  - or no - capital or connections go from a bedroom operation to affecting culture on such a large scale in such short order“.

To know the answer to the question of why we need more entrepreneurs in the music business, we should look at the alternatives. For me, the music industry has changed beyond belief in recent years. The big companies have disintegrated.  Individuals have broken off or been cast away and have gone in their own direction, packaging and selling their expertise as a service back to the remaining large companies, as well as to other smaller, entrepreneurial operations.  The music business is less of an industry and more of a community of experts, a network of advisers, gathering together and helping one another to survive.  Not too long ago the music business was a big, glamerous industry.

Huge corporations held the keys to the few doors that offered a way in to the higher levels of the business.  As we move away from that recent history we realise what an enormous, distasteful, and quite depressing con it all was. A scam that Tony Soprano would be proud of.

Talking of which, I used to recommend a book called “Hit Men“ by Fredric Dannen, as a fine example of how the music business operated, particularly the all-powerful major label recording industry, especially the US labels. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a behind-the-scenes documentary-style description about how the major label system grew and cornered the market in ways that are most interesting to read about.  The book describes itself as “the highly controversial portrait of  he pop music industry in all its wild, ruthless glory: the insatiable greed and ambition; the enormous egos; the fierce struggles for profits and power; the vendettas, rivalries, shakedowns, and payoffs. Chronicling the evolution of America’s largest music labels from the Tin Pan Alley days to the present day, Fredric Dannen examines in depth the often venal, sometimes illegal dealings among the assorted hustlers and kingpins who rule over this multi-billion-dollar business.“

I’ve had this book for about 12 years and read and re-read it several times. I’m just finishing it again now. The time I read it previously was about 6 years ago – at a time when social media as we know it was in its infancy or didnt even exist yet.  When I read it back then it still felt like an accurate portrayal of what someone could expect if starting to deal with major labels and major companies. So, I’m actually slightly shocked to read it now and realise that in just a few years that this book suddenly feels of very little use as a reference to today’s record industry.

It describes in full, lurid colour a time of big, big sales, huge deals, untouchable global superstars, and massive egos - especially of those running the companies, such as Walter Yetnikoff, David Geffen, Morris Levy, for example.

This is also a story of corruption, deceit, extortion, abuse of power, and, for want of a better term, artistic slavery.  More pertinently, it shows just how few people have been in control of so much of the business for so long.  I read this book now and I don’t recognise this closed version of the business any more and I’m really rather pleased about that.

For those of us who are suddenly the older guys in the business we remember this era very clearly. This is the business we grew up in and tried to work in. It’s all we knew.

We’ve lived through a revolution and it felt enormous and terrifying but in the end left us energised and excited.  But some didnt make it. They couldn’t adapt as the hurricane of change swept through and destroyed everything we knew in what felt like the blink of an eye.  It has been a heavy time for everyone and it’s not quite over.  But I feel the ground leveling off. There seems to be a calmness and a sense of hope that the worst is over and we are well under way with rebuilding and modernising the world we live and work in.  The people in this room here today are some of the ones that managed to survive. Just about. For now it feels good to be here and to be able to pass on our knowledge and our experiences, to others who might need this advice.  In return we are being kept alive in this new era thanks to the motivation we get from the new generation, the younger, more energetic people who arrive with new ideas, innovative methods of working, amazing new inventions, and, of course, new music.  Personally, I find all this vital to my own view of where I am in the business these days.  I’ve discovered that the more I try to give to others the more I seem to receive in return. It’s recipricol, it’s altruistic, it’s creative,  and, above all, it’s enjoyable.  This is, I think, the essence of the new music business.

While everyone sat around talking about what the next music business model would look like, these new people came in who didn’t need, or intend, to wait – and, anyway, they didn’t even know what the old music business model had been.  They just got on with creating their presence in the industry. There was never really a well-thought-out music business model in the first place, it just grew randomly and wildly for several decades, so there is no point in trying to harness or comparmentalise the vast amount of newness in the industry, it seems.

Finally, to all of you here who are just starting out and want to be a manager, a musician, an entrepreneur, a someone, but feel that you are struggling to make your mark, I recommend that you listen to all the very smart people we have on the panels today.

I suggest you ask questions about anything you feel you need to know – however embarrassing or stupid you might feel. Just ask. I promise you, it could make all the difference.

To prove this point: Our special guest today is Mr Ed Bicknell, one of the most successful artist managers of all time. The very first seminar I attended many years ago, Mr Bicknell was the guest speaker there too. He was an amazing speaker, I was absorbed and mesmerised by his stories of success and achievement. To this day I don’t know how I got the courage, in a room full of strangers, to put my hand up to ask him what I thought, even then, was a very naive question. I asked him “How did you know what to do?“. He laughed and I felt  awful, like I’d asked the most stupid question ever. But he wasn’t laughing at me. It was because his answer to my question was “How did I know what to do? I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing!“.  To hear this from a man who, even at the time he claims he didn’t know what he was doing, was actually managing an artist that was heading to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic was exactly the reaction I needed to hear. The idea that there was some secret exam I must pass or a certain Gateway to Knowledge I should discover was instantly erased.  It showed that even the most successful people need to start somewhere, and it’s usually at the beginning, with no idea of how to do what it is you want to do. “Just go out and do it and see what happens“ he concluded and I heard angels singing in my head. The next day I “began“ working in the music business.  I’d like you all to remember that.

I’ve passed this little story on to everyone I’ve ever met who I’ve tried to help to get started in the business. I’m sure Ed won’t remember the conversation but I definitely do and it certainly made all the difference to me.

I hope that the panel we are about to present will be able to answer enough questions for you, show the diversity that exists when it comes to the kind of entrepreneur that operates in the music business, and leaves you all with the spark of inspiration that might be the thing you need to go and get started on your own career as an Entrpreneur in the music business.  Thank you.

This speech was delivered as part of the Estonian Music Managers Master Class Programme in Tallinn, Estonia on 31st March 2012.