Sometimes they take on the role of a mentor, sometimes that of a friend: “Matches Music” is DAVID BUDER’S and JAKOB BOUCHAL’S own agency since 2018. In addition to clearly defined business conditions, what matters to them is always what suits the respective act. Strongly rooted in the club scene and active as DJs themselves, the business economist DAVID BUDER and the lawyer JAKOB BOUCHAL have an excellent feel for the business. They talked to Ruth Ranacher about their career, about time, energy and visions.
“THE CHANGES THE MUSIC MARKET IS SUBJECT TO REQUIRES A CERTAIN FLEXIBILITY IN TERMS OF HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF.”
The business purpose of “Matches Music” includes artist and event management as well as music publishing and film production. Is “Matches Music” more an agency or more a label? What came first?
David Buder: We see ourselves primarily as an agency for artist management which is where our journey began. We don’t really see ourselves as a label in the conventional sense for the time being, we don’t do A&R, so we are not actively looking for unreleased music for our own label. However, the changes the music market is subject to requires a certain flexibility in terms of how you see yourself. Beyond our core business we therefore provide or arrange a wide range of related services, from event management and booking to commissioned compositions and film production.
What are the advantages of offering both? Are there also disadvantages?
Jakob Bouchal: Because we have a professional infrastructure and the necessary know-how in several areas, we can exploit synergies again and again: For example, we currently operate a handful of labels for some of the bands we manage, and can therefore handle releases quickly and easily ourselves. By the way, we recently started offering this service under the name of label management not only to the bands we work with, but also to other music creators and even companies.
Why did you found “Matches Music”? What did both of you do before that?
David Buder: I am a business economist and I also studied audio engineering, Jakob is actually a lawyer. We are both active as DJs and actually met each other a few years ago at Fluc in Vienna when we were playing. After organizing a few concerts and club evenings together, it quickly became clear that we had similar ideas and visions – and at the beginning of 2018, a sporadic collaboration led to a jointly managed company.
We created “Matches Music” mainly out of our own passion for music, but also because we saw a concrete need for it in the Austrian music market. We know the characteristics and challenges of the music industry first-hand and would like to use this experience and our network on the one hand and structured and strategic work on the other to support and promote musicians in their artistic development.
“LEARNING BY DOING”
Was the path that led to agency and label more learning by doing or did both of you complete music-specific training in addition to your studies?
Jakob Bouchal: David studied audio engineering at the SAE Institute, I have many years of experience as a freelancer in music journalism and we are both trained musicians. Learning by doing is probably the best explanation, however we have acquired a large part of our knowledge through our work over the past years. If necessary, we are also happy to draw upon the skills and experience of friends and colleagues in the industry.
As mentioned before, “Matches Music” offers artist management. Experience shows that everyone understands management to be a little bit different. How far does your offer go and what does it include?
David Buder: As anywhere where people are working together, the relationship between the artist on one side and us as management on the other depends to 100 percent on the people involved and this also determines how intensive our cooperation will be. What works great with one band won’t work at all with another: Sometimes we rather take on the role of mentors, maybe even friends, while in other cases it would be completely inappropriate. Regardless of the individual arrangement, the basis of the cooperation must primarily be of a business nature and the mutual rights and obligations need to be clearly defined.
Accordingly, our offer consists of a wide range of services. We are giving support to some artists primarily through operative-strategic work. For example, we work out time schedules together and ensure that deadlines are met, are taking care of organizational tasks, represent the artist’s interests towards third parties and handle contracts. Whereas in other constellations, we are one step closer and already involved in the musical-creative process, jointly conceiving an artistic identity, emphasizing aspects of content and initiating collaborations.
How do you split up your work in “Matches”?
Jakob Bouchal: Due to our different training and strengths, some task areas are obvious: David is clearly the first contact for calculations and project management, I am the contact for legal issues or communication. But we are both trying to keep an overview of all projects, are facing each other in the office five days a week and keep ourselves constantly informed. Besides we also have very similar ideas and demands and also a certain tendency towards perfectionism – this makes it easy for us to work on projects in parallel and to move individual tasks back and forth between us.
Do you remember a certain moment during the start-up phase from which you both grew? A mistake that happened to you in the music business that you are no longer making now?
David Buder: Not really during the start-up phase, but rather before that: the decision to take the step into self-employment, the commitment to spend so much time and energy on achieving a long-term goal. To say: “Well, and from now on we both work full-time for this common project!” – that was definitely a decisive moment.
“TO FIND A COMMON VISION”
“Matches Music” has a relatively small roster. When does an act interest you? What should he or she bring to the table ? How can one contact you?
Jakob Bouchal: The roster is not that small if you consider that every band is, so to speak, its own little cosmos with many different tasks and challenges which both of us are taking care of. The moment from which an act is interesting for us is hard to determine in numbers – for example, we’re currently working on two completely new projects that we’re in charge of from the beginning.
It’s just as difficult to define what musicians should bring to the table. First of all, we have to be enthusiastic about the music, we have to be behind it ourselves and be fans – of course, this is always subjective. In the end, however, it’s always about finding a common vision, and then it takes the willingness to invest time and energy on both sides to achieve this goal. As far as content is concerned, we have high expectations concerning the artist’s talent, and we also expect a certain degree of professionalism.
Moreover it is very important for us to work with people who have a similar view of the world as we have and with whom we share a lowest common denominator of ideas and values. We are both strongly rooted in electronic club music which was and is supported by a movement that stands for openness, tolerance and respect from its very history. We try to let these principles flow into our work. Precisely because the trend in society as a whole is currently moving in a completely different direction, we are not prepared to make compromises here.
It is very easy to reach us, you can find our contact details on our website and we can both be met regularly at concerts and other events. If you want to contact us, it’s best to send us an email with demos or invite us to a concert – we are always happy to listen to new music.
“THE AUSTRIAN MUSIC LANDSCAPE IS CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING A KIND OF RENAISSANCE”
You focus exclusively on acts from Austria, both in terms of booking and artist support. What are the reasons for this? Is there a goal that you are pursuing with this?
David Buder: We are working very closely with the artist, regular personal contact and exchange are very important to us. The focus on Austrian artists therefore has a rather pragmatic background – we both are living in Vienna. Furthermore, the Austrian music scene is currently experiencing a kind of renaissance and we would like to make an active contribution to transform the current momentum into sustainable structural growth and to position Vienna internationally as a music location beyond classical music.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start an agency him/herself?
Jakob Bouchal: Because the relationship between artist and manager is very much based on mutual trust, it makes sense, especially at the beginning, to focus on artists with whom one has a certain personal relationship: either because one belongs to the same circle of friends or expanded network, or because one has already brought projects to fruition together.
Especially in the beginning it is important to define a clear content focus and to have realistic ideas. In the music industry many things happen very informally and competitors are at the same time friends – but the market is highly competitive, even in the smallest niches.
Who would you like to sign? Where else could “Matches Music” take you?
David Buder: Our goal is not to jump on a bandwagon or chase trends, but to build something together with talented musicians in an organic and sustainable way – we are good at that and we enjoy it. Seen in this light, our answer should really be: We would like to sign someone whom neither you nor we have heard of at this point.
In the near future, we would like to expand our geographical radius of action. Right now we are working hard to gain new international partnerships and to deepen existing ones. In the course of this process we have to make many decisions based on entrepreneurial considerations. Nevertheless, we always consciously decide against relying on bulk – our own standard is not to subordinate everything unreservedly to growth as our ultimate goal. After all, the product we ultimately work with is always music. It’s all about art and emotions, and in the hectic pace of everyday life you tend to forget that. It is our goal to continue to pursue artistic visions without compromise, to hold up high the standards of content – and not to let our love for music get shortchanged.
Many thanks for the interview!
Translated from the German original by Julian Schoenfeld