Following an unprecedented number of international applications from thousands of promising artists over the course of 2019, the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) recently announced the full list of nominated artists for its trailblazing INES#Talent Programme. In a unique initiative co-funded by the European Union and initiated by online booking platform, gigmit, a total of 133 acts – hand-picked by 19 participating festivals from 19 different European countries – now have the opportunity to further their international careers by performing at multiple music festivals and industry showcases over the course of 2020. We sat down with Marcus Fitzgerald (Founder of INES and CEO of online booking platform gigmit) to discuss the initiative as a whole, and to further understand how INES is championing up-and-coming talent in an innovative and unique way…

Hi Marcus, Happy New Year and welcome to DMC World. How are you today?

Oh, I am good, thanks! Happy New Year to you and the DMC World readers…if I am allowed to still say Happy New Year?

Where in the world are you answering this interview from?

I am just back from Eurosonic in Groningen (NL) but finally managed to be in our headquarters in Berlin. Great city.

For members of our audience who may not be aware, who is Marcus Fitzgerald?

I don’t know either. Can you tell me? Actually, I decided to take my wife’s name in August 2019. The name Fitzgerald is pretty fresh. Ok, but what I stand for and stand behind is gigmit. I am the founder and CEO of this platform that we call the leading platform for live music booking and artist discovery in Europe based on its 100,000+ bands and DJs and 8,000+ live music promoters, festivals and clubs. I am pretty proud of that one. 

How did you first get involved in the music industry?

I promoted my first show at the age of 15, a hiphop show with friends from the record store. After that one, I got addicted and did probably over 300 shows, mostly hiphop but the older I got the wider got my range of music to indie/alternative, pop, rock, reggae, funk, jazz, world music, house and techno.

Please can you talk to us about the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) and the concept behind the project?

INES is the project of gigmit that I am most proud of. We finally made it happen in creating a platform to support and accelerate spreading European music across the continent. We believe there should be one music market in Europe not only national music markets. It is so hard to spread the music over borders. Still. You might not think that but it is. With the help of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union in 2017, we finally got the co-funding to support the best acts from now 22 European countries and the music professionals around. The project basically involves all the showcase festivals in these countries who choose the best talent and music professionals and give them financial or travel support to come, play and network. The whole project is technically facilitated through gigmit. On the platform, all festivals and their calls can be found and artists can directly apply by submitting their profile that they need to create once not 100 times in different ways…!

How do you go about choosing which showcase festivals take part each year? Is there a specific set of criteria for joining the programme?

The festivals choose the most promising acts based on their know-how and experience. There are no formal selection criteria which I find very important as it would take away the creative aspects and talent which is hard to express in numbers.

Why did you decide to set INES up in the first place?

There are only very small support schemes for artists to play and tour abroad. On gigmit, having more than 100,000 artists and 8,000 festivals and clubs, we see a lot how difficult it is to get seen abroad and/or to play abroad. Music professionals have no chance to be supported in building connections in different countries. To sum it up: there is huge need and we are entrepreneurs who tend to jump into spaces where there is a need. 

We understand the project is co-funded by the European Union. How did that come about?

It was hard work and a long process first of all. However, the EU supports projects on a European level. We managed it to develop the INES project with 8 festivals from 8 countries and have been growing to 22 festivals from 22 countries now. This shows how relevant the topic is and that the EU should support it. We are glad to have been selected and could use the funding to help artists, music professionals and festivals to grow and develop on a European level.

What’s the link between INES and your other company gigmit? How do the two compliment each other?

gigmit is not just another company. gigmit is the founding partner and coordinator of the INES project. We have been working with many festivals and artists before launching INES and we work now even closer with each other which is great. The idea behind gigmit is to connect every artist with the right festivals and clubs as easy as possible. It seems very logic to us to initiate projects like INES to support that aim and deliver the technical infrastructure for projects like this. 

Will the INES project continue into 2021? And if so, when will applications for next year’s showcase festivals and artists open?

We are already developing the future of INES. We plan to have spin-offs, non-commercial partnerships and commercial partnerships. How exactly the project will look like in 2021 is not been decided yet but it definitively makes sense to create a free profile as an artist or promoter now and get informed as soon as we come out with new initiatives: www.gigmit.com

Do you have any specific goals for INES over the next few years?

Definitely. We do want to cover Europe as a whole and we want to support more artists and pros to connect. We believe that in 10 years time, Europe will be a whole different and more connected market. gigmit and INES work hard on it to drive that development in the right direction.

For more info on the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) please visit https://www.ines-festivals.eu