Industry Talk: Malwina Witkowska

Malwina Witkowska was introduced to Scandinavian Jazz by her dad at early age, and moved to Norway from Poland to study in 2018. She started her own booking company in 2020 and is now representing jazz artists from Norway, Japan and USA.

Skrevet av Kristiane Lunde 24.02.2022

No Earplugs photo Signe Luksengard
Malwina Witowska (foto: Signe Luksengard)

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I remember chatting with Johan Hauknes and telling him about my plans to dive into the unknown music industry, and he told me: Document everything you do, your volunteer and freelance work, all the concerts you get to organize. Describe it and praise it to others. But also - be humble and curious! You need just little of the theoretical and organizational knowledge, and so much of your curiosity, passion and the musical and practical aspect. Be interested in everything and everyone around you. Throw yourself into what you know nothing about, and maybe you will learn something new. And this mindset has been my driving force ever since.

Tell us about yourself and your way into the music industry to where you are now?

It all started with choosing Norwegian language, literature and history for my bachelor degree. My dad introduced me to Scandinavian jazz and was constantly playing Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s or Mats Gustafsson’s projects at home. Discovering jazz, but also its more free and improv versions went on, and I started a master degree in Scandinavian languages in Poznan, only to travel to Oslo for the Erasmus exchange program in August 2018.

As an exchange student, I attended various courses and in one of them I decided to write my term-paper about one of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten albums - Village Songs, Den Signede Dag, where I got to do a short interview with Flaten and the vocalist, Gunvor Fagerhaug Gustavsen. A couple of months later, I invited Flaten to play a duo with Fredrik Ljunqvist as a surprise 50th birthday party for my Dad and our whole family in June 2019 at a small polish wine yard. Arranging this event gave me so much encouragement and made me realize that I wanted to work with this professionally.

I decided to apply for a one-year post graduate programme in Culture and Arts Management in Oslo, and at the same time I was also volunteering at my favorite venue: Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene. It didn’t take me long to dream about working there as a venue host. Today I can proudly say that I’ve been representing Victoria as a host since February 2020.

In autumn 2019 I started diving into exciting freelance work and just helping out musicians. The very first artist that offered me a job as a booking agent was Otomo Yoshihide - the avant-garde Japanese guitarist, whom I knew through my Dad. In the beginning of 2020 I also met Jonas Cambien who was looking for someone to take care of booking tours as well. After agreeing to work with Otomo and Jonas, I established my own booking agency, No Earplugs. I am now grateful to be working with my friends and musical heroes at the same time and I am proud to say that this work is my biggest passion. I am currently representing artists from Norway, Japan and USA: Jonas Cambien Trio, Cortex, Andreas Røysum Ensemble, Marthe Lea Band, Kalle Moberg in his trio with Paul Lytton and Phil Wachsmann, Otomo Yoshihide, Chris Pitsiokos and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten with his two groups - The Young Mothers and a new project (Exit) Knarr. I have also been a part of the Footprints Europe program since 2019 where I represent the Austrian/Czech quartet - Purple Is the Color. I am focusing more and more on sustainable touring and ecological, social and economic aspects of working in the music industry.

What are your plans moving forward? And your goals for the future?

I want to focus on booking and tour management for a while now, especially on mastering sustainable touring. The sustainability topic is now more important than ever and I would like to change the way the music industry works when it comes to touring, but I cannot do it alone. The ecological, social and economic aspects are crucial, and we all need to take action and start implementing changes in the way we work. Participating in the Footprints Europe program is my first step. I’d like to engage in different projects in the future, which tackle sustainability, touring and also social and economical aspects.

It is also important for me to keep on expanding my network, travel some more and attend EJN Conference and Jazzahead regularly. Right now I am focused on Europe, but in the future I will definitely expand on other markets like Japan and the USA. I’d love to try collaborating more with other booking agencies, and also try to find my own and unique way of being an agent. Do things in a more feminine way and show that there is a lot of good and positive power in emotions, energy and feminine flow. My dream is to also be an organizer one day, creating my own festival or a concert series.

Do you have any tips for others in the industry on how to work globally?

- Have a lot of patience. It takes time to build up a network and get yourself out there to be seen and heard. I also feel that consistency is the key to almost everything.

- Travel. Meet people, talk with them, tell them about you and your work. And be curious about others, listen, show that you are genuinely interested in them.

- Attend bigger and smaller festivals to get an overview. That’s where you get to meet more or less the same people every year, so eventually the relation with them will grow naturally.

- Remember the audience. I feel that it’s so important to get to know them too, to be a part of the audience for a bit, find out what they know, what they listen to and what they would like to see more of in the program.

- Find the right people. Focus on authentic relations, pay attention to the details and connect with others.