Viljar Siljan’s way into managing artists began during his years in college. He started networking and working freelance, while spending time trying to understand the music business. He read a lot, and as he puts it, “asked a lot of stupid questions,” which led him to meet his colleague and boss, Jon Leiulfsrud at Compro Artists. He was eventually offered a full time position as a manager, and now after 1,5 years he is also a partner.
“I am doing the things I enjoy the most; building the careers of unique, musical talents – as well as building a modern music company in the ever evolving music business. In Compro Artists we work on all of our projects together,” Siljan says.
His main responsibilities are managing the careers of brenn., Beharie and Jimmy Smash, while also assisting Leiulfsrud in managing the careers of Adam Douglas, Kyle Alessandro and Synne Sanden. In addition, Siljan has the main responsibility for their label services as well as overseeing all their digital activities.
The band, brenn., is set to play the renowned orange festival in Denmark this year, Roskilde.
“What has been on your to-do-list lately, and what takes most of your time?”
“Lately, I have spent a lot of time planning the rest of the year for brenn. They are having an incredible year so far, and it is so deserved that two of the most dedicated and hard working guys I know are going to play a dozen festivals this summer. That is including Northern Europe’s biggest festival; Roskilde. This has sparked interest from Denmark, which is interesting. They are releasing a lot of new music this year as well, and for now we are releasing it through our label, which is super exciting.
“I have also spent a lot of time setting up the team around Jimmy Smash, who have quite a list of tracks lined up. We just started working with Playground Music, which makes us confident about our setup in terms of spreading their music and managing their career in the years to come. Beharie, our newest signing, is being introduced as an artist this year, so we are spending time focusing on introducing him to the world in the best way possible, and trying to build a functioning team around him.”
“What takes most of my time is managing and building the career of our artists, obviously. I have my main responsibilities, but Jon and I assist each other where it is natural.”
“The most important piece of advice you have ever received?”
“Probably advice everyone has heard when growing up, but my mom said that honesty is the best policy. And, it really is, because you can connect the idiom to so many things, whether it is being honest to the people around you, or yourself.”
“Any helpful tips and tricks for a way around the industry?”
“To build on the last question it is important to be honest and open about your flaws; there is no way that you can be an expert in everything. If you’re always the smartest person in the room, you’re surrounded by the wrong people. But, as a newbie on the rise myself, I also want to share some advice with other newbies; you will meet experienced industry people thinking they know best, reasoning their actions by saying they’ve been around for 10-20 years. Most likely, your ways of doing things are just as good as theirs. So you have to find a balance, don’t just limit yourself to other people’s advice and ways of doing things.”
“To be able to do so, you need to stay up to date, be fearless, and of course innovative. Not keeping up to date just by staying up until midnight waiting for New Music Friday to drop, but staying up to date across different industries. The music industry is so dynamic and there is no limit to what you can implement from other successful companies or industries. My second tip goes out to everyone, but especially newbies and people trying to establish themselves in the industry. You will meet people saying that it is important to get out, network and get to know people. It is super important. But don’t forget that hard work beats everything. We as industry professionals would not be here without the artists and people dedicating their life to creating music and everything creative that follows. Not everyone can be artists, so when you are given the responsibility to be their trusted partner; don’t waste that opportunity.”
“Why Norway, why now? Where are we going?”
“Norwegian artists are great at staying ahead of things, and creating new sounds. It has been that way for some years now, so I don’t know when or if it will stagnate. A shout out to all the Norwegian artists, and music companies pushing borders. I recently spoke to a Swedish manager about this. He looks to Norway, because he feels that his colleagues in Sweden have «cracked the code,» and kind of stopped being innovative. I am not in a position to label the Swedish music industry so I won’t, but maybe that’s why Norway is still interesting for the rest of the world, because we still feel like we have something to prove?”
“Anyways. If we are going to keep the Norwegian music business competitive, I think we need to continue professionalizing the industry as a whole. When it comes to management companies, I think more of us should embrace the fact that we are stronger together, like the booking agencies have done. I don’t see the point in having 100 management companies consisting of one manager and an intern. And no – the special relationship between an artist and their personal manager does not have to disappear. I just believe that the artist, and the company working with the artist, would be better off having several managers that knows what they are doing, rather than having companies with one person being responsible for everything.”
“Who in the Norwegian music industry deserves a high five?”
“Morten Gjersum! Always available, and I can always count on him getting things done. That is my cup of tea, when it comes to work ethic. He works at Stageway and is brenn.’s booking agent, together with him we have the perfect setup to build their career further. Another high five goes to Marius Mordal in Stavernfestivalen – for always pushing me and being a great friend!
“In general, every single person that dedicates their life to create and facilitate the beautiful art that is music, deserves a double high five. Keep pushing forward!”