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Industry Talk: Markus Sletten

By Johanna Alem Posted: 23. May, 2018

Meet Markus Sletten, head of booking and programming at Trondheim Calling and agent at Polar Artist.

Markus Sletten is a booking agent, promoter and festival booker based in Trondheim. He started his career in music at the concert venue and student house, Samfundet in Trondheim, and has since worked with a number of major festivals and events. Today he’s in charge of booking and programming at showcase festival and music conference Trondheim Calling, as well as his own roster at Polar Artist.

What has been your focus lately?
2018 started out with three sold out shows with my new promotion company Trondheim Konsertkollektiv, and yet a very successful edition of Trondheim Calling in February. My main focus though, has been my work as an agent at Polar Artist, representing acts like Broen, Hanne Hukkelberg, and Ola Kvernbergs new project “Steamdome”. I started out in 2014 only working within Norway, but during the last three years I have been expanding my territory to include other Nordic countries as well.

The most important piece of advice you have ever received?
I’ve received a ton of great advice from all kinds of people in the music business, but I think the most useful and tangible piece of advice came from a very weird Australian guru that gave away meditation and yoga lessons in exchange for fruit. He kind of wrapped it up in a hippie-esque package, but essentially he said that peace of mind and a good night sleep are essential to a productive workday. And then he taught us a meditative technique to “free your mind” from stress and make yourself fall asleep at any given time. It may sound “fruity”, but it helps to cope with the stress and long hours that comes with the job.

Your best industry-tip?
I think meeting colleagues and potential business partners face to face is very important and is something that’s easy to neglect in our times of digital communication. I used to get really frustrated by promoters and festivals not answering my e-mails or picking up the phone, but after meeting them “IRL”, sharing a drink and talking about totally unrelated stuff, they seem to have a harder time ignoring me. It might seem crazy to fly in to another country just to talk nonsense to someone, but it often pays off in the end. I was so lucky to be included in the Music Norway Masters program last year which helped a lot in getting in touch with contacts in Stockholm, Berlin and London.

What’s your golden moment to share with the rest of us?
The concert I will never forget, that made me delve into music on a much deeper level, and consequently made me the nerd I am today: Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark at Sting Jazz club in my hometown Stavanger. I was 14 or 15 years old and was just starting to move away from only listening to Metallica, Slayer and other similarly dated heavy metal bands. I’ve been going to a few afternoon jazz concerts, pretending to know what was going on on stage, but of course I was really too bored to pay attention. The real breakthrough of becoming a true pretentious teenager came after I snuck in to the Sting Jazz club, which was the Mekka of free jazz and leftist music at the time. Paal Nilssen-Love behind the drums, Ken Vandermark on clarinet, no sound system, mayhem for 3 hours straight. I had never seen or heard anything like it and was both repulsed and amazed by the fact that these two dudes could walk up on stage without composing or rehearsing anything and still deliver such powerful music. 15 years later, I still have the feeling of WTF after that show. #Freejazzisthenewpunk.

Why Norway, why now?
Norway has attracted a lot of attention within the music industry these last 10 years for it’s idiosyncratic artists and the distinct Nordic sound, but also the people of Norway are supporting music more than ever before, with streaming and ticket sales booming. We’ve had lots of internationally successful acts in the past, but the difference today is that we also have the local apparatus to support and develop artists emerging on the international market. We also have a growing national live industry that is much more compatible with the rest of Europe, with promoters delivering shows for the biggest headliners, not just in Oslo, but at festivals and arenas all over the country. Why not Norway?

Who in the Norwegian music industry deserves a high five?
That will have to be my colleagues/bosses Eirik Søreide of Polar Artist and Thomas Ryjord of Trondheim Calling who have put an endless amount of energy in building the agency and festival up from scratch, having an enormous influence on the music industry in our region. And also, high five for establishing a place for me to make a living. High five!

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