Yes OK the pandemic cruelly hit the music industry all over the world, the UK was particularly affected, because in addition the quarantine coincided with the launch of Brexit. That highlighted the vulnerability of one of the epicenters of pop culture, where it is estimated that a third of local musicians could leave their profession from this juncture. For this reason, the artists are on the warpath against the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his administration.
“The pandemic was a mixture of several things. Among them, bad political decisions,” corroborates the Argentine Felipe Mina Calvo, ATC Live booking agent: one of the most important artistic representation agencies in the European nation. “The industry itself advocated ways to save independent rooms. And on the other hand, the government distributed economic aid, but that relationship was made at discretion,” he says.
Not so different
As it happens in this Argentine summer, in the British summer period the recitals returned with social distancing, which included self-concerts and bubbles. Other features that unite both countries were the development of live streaming and illegal raves. “There have been no more clandestine parties for a few months,” Mina Calvo clarifies. “People came out to play as best they could. The other day I walked near the Recoleta Cultural Center, and I saw a band in a square. That also happened there. “
Although sooner or later the continuity of live shows and parties will return, tours will never be the same in the UK, nor for its musicians and djs. “It will be more complicated for them at the cost level”, warns Felipe. “International artists will continue to go, but the most complicated effect will be for the British when they leave the country. Although everything is yet to be defined, the tax part will change, where there are differences with other European countries. What’s more, merchandising and equipment that entered without problems because there was only one control, today they are stranded at the border.”
While monitoring the evolution of the new normal for the British music industry, Mina Calvo took advantage of the interim to return to Buenos Aires to visit his own and hone his crusade. And it is about the only Argentine agent immersed in the underworld of managing artists and setting up tours in the United Kingdom (In addition, there it is one of the two best-positioned Latin Americans in the field). Your agency, for example, has the exclusivity of the representation of Nick Cave, and is responsible for containing and circulating Figures such as Mayer Hawthorne, Santigold, Beach Fossils, PJ Harvey, Johnny Marr, Metronomy or The Magnetic Fields.
“It is a very receptive country”, describes the 29-year-old lawyer and musician. “Its colonialism involved mixtures of cultures of all kinds. The important thing to attract attention is that the artist has a story to tell. When that exists, people are very receptive and non-judgmental about music. But it is essential that the message fits. “
What is the message that best fits this moment?
–There is a great care for the former African colonies, in an attempt to claim, include and start giving back. It is looking over there much more than before. But although there is greater reception to the different, you need to tell the public why they have to go see you and why you are going to play.
Are you interested in what happens in Latin America there?
–In recent years, started to take a little more flight. But I haven’t seen projects that connect yet. I do not think it is for a quality issue, but for the language and the story to tell. Relationships are not as developed as they should be in terms of know-how. It is a different way of working. Even compared to the rest of Europeans. Los Bitchos is a band led by a Latin American woman, based in London and that mixes cumbia with psychedelia and surfing. And people react to such a proposal. The same is not the case with reggaeton, because they have grime, which is a mix of trap and very local hip hop. But there is the interest.
Then the attention is paid to their former colonies …
–Beyond smuggling, they had no presence in Latin America. It is a region that was far away, and there is not that back and forth of understanding that they had with the Commonwealth.
Except for Australia and Canada, the music of that commonwealth has little to do with pop and rock.
–In 2021, I don’t think there is music from anywhere. Although they invented pop culture, there are a million artists of that kind who are not from the United States or England. Why is rock in Spanish a subcategory when everything is rock? Perhaps because I was born in Argentina, and because our culture is open and curious, I don’t discriminate rock in English, French or German. I listen rock. Obviously, there a language barrier that is very difficult to cross because many people need to understand. But it is true that it is difficult to stand in England as a rock band singing in another language.
The United States legitimizes Latin American music, why don’t the British trust its criteria?
“ We are on the same continent. Beyond that, borders Mexico, which is one of the rock capitals in Spanish. And there is a lot of Latin migration, which helped us to make it easier for us logistically. Latino projects first make themselves known in the United States, and then go to the other side of the Atlantic. And it happens the other way around, but with other genres in particular. To give you an idea, the level that Rosalía handles in the world does not have it in Great Britain.
That distance also carries over to football: there are few Latin American players in the Premier League.
– The Argentines who play or know each other there are few: Ardiles, Agüero, Tevez, Pochettino, Maradona… The Latino is not on the map of what would be an ethnic minority. Not many Brits have the opportunity to come to Latin America, but those who did fell in love.
And you, why did you go to England?
—I am a lawyer, and in the middle of my career I returned to my passion for music. Later I got involved in management, and I started giving artists a hand to sign their first record projects. When I finished studying, which was before the rise of trap, Rosalía and reggaeton, I didn’t understand why the groups that I like here had no place in Europe. That was a bit of the trigger, and I decided to check it out. Until I formally managed to enter the music industry, they spent two years of self-management in a country where I did not know anyone. When I decided to leave, I contacted an Argentine friend, Andrés Atkinson. He went there to study set design and lighting. In fact, he worked for the Pet Shop Boys, Mogwai, Keane, and Arca. There he was my sponsor, my mentor and the one who showed me little by little where I could go and what to do. I wanted to leave the entire Spanish-speaking area of influence.
Get out of the ghetto
In these two years at ATC Live, Felipe Mina Calvo added Fito Páez and CA7RIEL and Paco Amoroso to the catalog of the firm. “I came to the firm because Andrés Atkinson works with an artist named Fink, and he introduced me to another of my godparents: Sumit Bothra, a very talented manager leading PJ Harvey’s career. When we got together, the first thing he told me was that he was not going to give me a job because he had nothing to offer within his orbit. But he suggested that I develop my ties with Latin America. That’s how I started, and we keep in touch until one day he asked me to help him with Fink, because I was coming to Brazil and I wanted to do dates in Chile and Argentina. I spoke with several local producers, and nobody wanted to take it … “
And what happened?
– I didn’t have a job, I had few cards left, and I started doing calculations to do it myself. I borrowed money, and I called him to tell him that I had solved the tour. When that happened, I asked him again to throw a center on me. And he got me a meeting with who is now my boss, Alex Brudford, owner of ATC Live, and agent for Nick Cave and Fink. It was a thing of times. As Rosalía and the Latin boom took off, we got together, knowing what was going on, and I introduced him to 12 Latino artists to pay attention to. He asked me if I wanted to be a booking agent, and from there I started to travel the world.
What did they know about Latin America?
—Nothing. I was the first agent to bring Latin American artists to the ATC Live roster. I believe that Rosalía was the turning point for them to understand what was about to happen. When I saw the big announcement in Piccadilly Circus for their Village Underground show, I knew we had arrived. Latin America is run in Great Britain by the Americans. The British stayed out, and they realized they missed a piece of the cake. In a survey that was done this year there, it was learned that only 1 percent of UK agencies work with Latino artists. And we are talking about a market that bills millions per year, because Latin America is the region of the world with the highest amount of streaming on Spotify.
For which Argentine artist would you put your chips to work it in the United Kingdom?
–With a project like CA7RIEL and Paco Amoroso, with the ATR BandWith the right message and the right people, the audience would drop their pants.
If a local artist wants to try his luck in Europe, what should he do?
—Do not aim at the Latino community, but at multiculture. Any style would work. I would ask the question backwards: Why do you want to go to England? If you think it would serve to legitimize you, I tell you that you don’t need it.
Put that you have a lot of faith …
–You should have an agent there, who knows the modus operandi, and you will need to invest in that new square. Because it works as long in advance, the project is planned for three years onwards, As minimum. I understood that there you can tour 15 cities. Sometimes attempts fail because they have no organizational support. But the possibility is for everyone. Everything is more “do it yourself” than it seems.
And would this artist have a place in the media?
– The traditional media continue to function and coexist with the new ones. The BBC continues to set trends. They are people who really raise a lot of information. Recently, one of his shows played the new thing from Tall Juan, an Argentine artist based in New York, with whom I work.
And on the other side of the glass, coming here must be an exotic experience for a British musician …
“ Very exotic. And I’m not saying it. As everyone goes there, that passion that is lived here when they come does not exist. The business today goes through streaming, and the content that you can generate by making that trip. If you do, it will be a place that you will have for a long time. Though there is mistrust, instability and there are not so many links.
You work one of the capitals of musical trends, how do you get to establish what is coming?
– Leaving Dua Lipa and Machiavellian plans to make money, new scenes and trends happen when you generate empathy. And we return to the cultural message: I mean that what you say resonates with the other because it is so universal and is so in the collective unconscious that, beyond the lyrics and the music, it arrives and is imposed by the conditions and a common feeling. So it is no accident that the revival of British punk is more current than ever. If Dillom got together with an English boy, they would surely talk about the same things. If none of that got here yet, it is because we are increasingly looking inward.