This week’s post will be a little different from some of my previous works. I had the opportunity to contact Birgitta Haller, the Artist Manager for Billy Momo, an up- and-coming Swedish band, and founder of Big Is Promotion. She was kind enough to sit down and answer my questions, and put me in contact with Oscar Harryson, the lead guitarist of Billy Momo. I will posy my interview with Oscar later this week. Here’s what we talked about.
Me: Tell me about your experiences as an employee at CBS/Sony Music. What was your position?
Birgitta: At that time, I was working as a temporary office assistant. I got tipped off by a colleague that CBS Records was looking for a marketing assistant. She happened to know the newly employed Marketing Manager who was looking for this assistant, so she told him about me and said I would be perfect for the job. I started to work there in 1987, at the Promotion/Marketing Department. My main duties were producing sales sheets and other material for the Sales and Marketing Department, I produced ads and also the weekly release sheets and a newsletter called Off The Record that was distributed to record retailers all across Sweden. I also assisted during promotion visits and concerts.
Me: What was your interest in the music industry?
Birgitta: I started working in the music industry for the love of music. Working at the source, so to speak, gave me a chance to really marinate in music, widen my horizon, listening and learning about all sorts of music that I never would have discovered on my own. I had the opportunity to be part of discovering and developing several Swedish artists and bands – from signing to breakthrough. A truly inspiring and creative thing to be part of.
Looking in the rearview mirror I was fortunate enough to experience the rise and fall (and rise) of the music industry. I was there when the CD was introduced, when the marketing and promotion budgets almost had no limits and if you didn’t ship 50.000 units of a new Mariah Carey album in Sweden, it was considered a flop.
Me: How did you find yourself as a medical secretary? Describe your time there.
Birgitta: My time in medical service were a few years before the music. I took two terms of studying shortly after my high school studies. These studies had me ending up as medical secretary at a university hospital, Huddinge sjukhus, just outside Stockholm. I was quite young and I thought it was really interesting and exciting to see the world of medicine, to work with people who really made a difference, curing and caretaking. I assisted many PhD’s in writing their theses on different medical topics. My boss was a Greek well known and respected orthopaedic professor, specializing in scoliosis. When I left, he wrote the finest recommendation letter I’ve ever received.
Me: Where are you from?
Birgitta: I was born in Uppsala, Sweden but I grew up in the countryside, in a very small village called Fjellskäfte, in the middle of nowhere, mid Sweden. When I was 11 we moved to Stockholm and I have lived here since then.
Me: What made you decide to become a self employed Artist Manager?
Birgitta: The self employment actually came before the Management part. I made the decision to get self employed when I became a mother. I’ve been told to start my own company ever since I left CBS/Sony Music, but never found out what I would do. when I became pregnant, I was working with V2 Records in Stockholm. During the end of my maternity leave I was dismissed from the record company. This was 2004, the first time the music business really took a serious dive so I was actually not that disappointed. This gave me time to really land in being a parent, and also to think about what I should do next. After some time I started to work for a record distributor doing promotion, and this is when I really found ’my thing’. I helped two of the distributed artists with promotion, and they pushed me into starting my own business and became my first clients. I thought: “If I dared to have children, I dare to start my own company!”
Me: Was that before or after you met the individuals of Billy Momo? How did you get involved with the band specifically?
Birgitta: This was 8 years before Billy Momo. I started my business in 2006, doing PR and promotion. I was contacted by Tomas and Oskar from Billy Momo October 2014, regarding a promotion campaign in Sweden. The person who was supposed to do the promo work in Sweden suddenly backed out and they had to find a substitute. It just took a quick listen to hear that they really had a good thing going, and I said that I gladly would like to do it. A couple of weeks into the campaign they had a release gig for their first single and I was totally blown away by seeing them live. They have a really unique and visual presence on stage. The guys told they were looking for management, and to my own surprise, I found myself saying I would consider doing it. Two months later, January 2015, we signed the deal.
Me: Tell me about the trials and tribulations of assisting in the band’s success? Any unique stories of your time with Billy Momo?
Birgitta: Everything with this band is a unique story, since they are my first management signing.
First of all: getting to really know a band consisting of seven individuals takes time, see how they function together and as individuals and how they create and compose.
And, the toughest part of any promotion or management mission is to transfer the total excitement and enthusiasm you feel for a band over to someone else. I truly see that this band have huge international potential and I am truly convinced that this band will make it. You just have to reach through the chorus of every man and woman in the business saying the exact same thing about their project. Billy Momo is not really for the mainstream radio, they make music that has to be discovered through other channels. I know that both the US and the whole of Europe will love this band, they just have to get a chance to see them. We’re constantly looking for openings to perform and find new audiences and co-op partners. The guys are very open minded and curious.
One of my very finest memories (so far) with Billy Momo was the trip we made to Napa, California in March 2015. Half of the band was invited to perform at the publishers’ evening at the food and wine festival Live In The Vineyard. We had two very intense and socializing and great days and nights in the town of Napa. We made friends there who still begs for the band to come back again and perform. Here’s a little mini documentary from the trip:
Me: What is your inspiration for the posts on the Billy Momo blog?
Birgitta: The blog was my suggestion to start with but they master the posts with their own inspiration. I truly believe in being web visible and the guys love to tell stories about their music and the band. This is a chance for the audience to really get to know the band, their inner feelings and fears, and the joy of being Billy Momo.
Me: What are your favorite artists to listen to? If you could have a drink with any artists, alive or dead, who would it be?
Birgitta: I listen to music almost every waking hour. Sometimes it’s music that I chose myself, and sometimes I find myself humming tracks that my 14 year old daughter loves. She discovered My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco some time ago, and I’ve listened to their music a lot through her. We also share the love for the soundtrack to La La Land. My own two house gods unfortunately both died last year. Ever since I was young I have loved David Bowie. Some years later I discovered Prince. Both these artists mean very much to me and has formed my taste in music for a very long time.
Me: Last question. Do you have any opinions about my blog? Any critiques or criticisms?
Birgitta: I like your blog. I think blogging about truly specific things, things you love and care about, will get you followers. For me personally, I like to read blogs with smaller fonts (like a magazine type of font size).
Again, thank you, Birgitta, so much for taking time out of you busy schedule to answer my questions. I can’t wait to show you all the next part of my interview with Billy Momo’s Oscar Harryson.