IN DEEP WITH ERIC E. VAN MONCKHOVEN (MUSIC4YOU)– by Araceli Tzigane, Mapamundi Mùsica
Eric is a Belgian settled in Sicily, founder of the agency Music4you. He is one of the regulars at Womex and other events, so you might have met him.
The last time we met was in Brussels at the meeting of the European Folk Network, last November. He is the kind of profile with whom I can feel more or less identified: an independent agent working from a country of the South of Europe facing many difficulties and surpassing them with courage.
He contacted me in July with the idea of translating some of the content from Mapamundi Música’s monthly newsletter into the Italian in his new initative: World Music Lab Italy. I welcomed the idea with open arms and the first one has been the interview with Olivier Rey from Babel Music XP, that you can read here in English and now also here in Italian.
I am very happy that Eric wanted to share this content to make it easier for the Italian community of world music. And I though his World Music Lab Italy deserves more attention too. So find here below a little interview about it.
Mapamundi Música – What is WorldMusicLab?
Eric Van Monckhoven – World Music Lab is a combination of two concepts: World Music & Business Lab. Many artists, including those involved with world music (world, folk, roots, trad, ethnic, etc.), do not see their activity as a business. They don’t easily understand that accepting to become an entrepreneur or making a living with their music shall not automatically transform them into greedy capitalists. Very few artists make a living being only “creators”.If you’re not sponsored by someone or some institution, you need to access the market, distribute your products and services and sell them to be able to pay your bill at the end of the months. This is an integral part of today’s musician job. You can always dream that a label or an agent shall make the work for you, but this will not happen easily, unless you already have some reputation. And when it happens, if you don’t know anything about contracts, sales, production, etc. you might go the wrong way..
“Many artists, including those involved with world music, do not see their activity as a business.”
The main idea behind World Music Lab is to help artists become their own bosses, get acquainted with the business side of their activity and be able to create a blueprint that works for them. For us this means “education and training”.World Music Lab is still a very small baby. We have to assess the artists’ needs, and also test and validate the idea and concept. It all starts with Italy because I’m based in Sicily.
Mapamundi Música – Why did it start?
EVM – It started during the covid-19 crisis. In March, I was in lockdown and I saw that I could not go anywhere with my activity as a booking agent. I had to look into a new direction that was not too far from what I’m doing as an agent. By experience, I know that artists do not get proper training in “musician business”. Most of the time, they have good artistic proposals (not always), but they don’t know how to market and sell them. In the end, much of my job has to do with coaching the artists with whom I’m collaborating, give them a blueprint to develop their career, and help them get to the next level.
In Italy, very little is done in such a direction. Of course, I might be wrong because I’m not involved that much with the music sector in Italy. But it looks to me that music schools do not train artists in the music business. There are some master courses at the university level, etc. but the approach is very academic and it’s not for everyone. I’ve always been interested in capacity building and action-learning. Action-learning tackles problems through a process of first asking questions to clarify the exact nature of the problem, reflecting and identifying possible solutions, and only then taking action.
“Much of my job has to do with coaching the artists with whom I’m collaborating, give them a blueprint to develop their career, and help them get to the next level.”
Italy is a big country and there is no true effort to support music creators at large. Some music genres are supported, but when it comes to world music, much is left to the artists themselves and the private initiative. Nothing to compare with what happens in France or Scandinavia, to say something.The year 2017 saw the birth of Italian World Beat (IWB), a new brand and platform to promote the Italian world music sector, in particular at regional and international events like Babel Med Music, Womex, Visa for Music, etc. The idea came from two music professionals who put their own money, contacts, and experience in the project to bring under one roof artists, festivals, venues, labels, etc. representative of the sector. The result was amazing and highly welcome by the international world music community.
However, much work still needs to be done in Italy to strengthen the sector, especially at the “grassroots” level with the artists. World Music Lab-Italy can be seen as a startup project of IWB, even if we have not formalized it yet because of the situation of emergency imposed by the novel coronavirus. But we shall meet soon and see what steps can be taken together to put the project forward.
Mapamundi Música – What are the services that you offer?
EVM – At this pre-startup stage, we are offering a basic information service through our blog/website (beta version) and facebook page. We also have a monthly newsletter and we have published two mini-guides: the first one deals with the use of VirtualWomex and the second one is introducing the artists to the European showcase festivals, which are good places to market themselves, grow their list of contacts, etc. All the information is available in Italian because the use of English is a real barrier for many Italians.
Mapamundi Música – What are the future plans?
EVM – We hope to become a training provider for world music artists (both online and offline), with a specific focus on business and digital education, and internationalization (music export). This of course does not mean that we’ll need to create all the courses and learning paths ourselves. We’ll have to build working partnerships with various stakeholders. There are already a lot of valid contents available on the internet produced by artists and professionals on how musicians can run their own business and benefit from various income streams. Here again, the main issue is the language. Most of what is available is in English.
“We’ll have to build working partnerships with various stakeholders.”
But without looking so far, our future plan is to run some workshops in various Italian cities to discuss the project with the potential beneficiaries, scout their needs, collect their ideas, and check their interest. We had planned to run such workshops earlier this year but the covid crisis has forced us to slow down our enthusiasm. And while many things can be done online, I believe strongly in face-to-face meetings.
We are also working on a short introductory course that shall explore some important issues: how the music industry is changing in the digital age? What does that mean for independent artists? How to build a personal brand? How to find a niche and grow a fanbase? Based on the participation in the introductory course, artists could choose to enter a kind of startup acceleration program or more conventional blended education programs on specific topic (music marketing & promotion, production, etc.).
Mapamundi Música – Who are you and what else do you do (related to music)?
EVM – I’m originally from Belgium but I feel to be a citizen of the world. For almost 40 years I have helped local communities, social enterprises, non-profit organizations all over the world as an eco-social consultant and grant writer.
Besides that, I have always had a strong passion for music. But I’m not a musician. In every country I visited – in Africa, the Mediterranean, Finland, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia – I’ve been impressed by the diversity and richness of local cultural and musical traditions. I decided to bring my own contribution and started Music4You to promote some artists with whom I have a special feeling and affinity and find them gig opportunities. My motto is “Live Music with Roots”. Of course, this was before Covid-19.
- Portrait of Eric, provided by him
- World Music Lab Italy logo, from the site at Facebook
- Banner from the Facebook cover of Musci4you