A booking agent’s insight: Paul Simmonds

Decoded Magazine sits down with Paul Simmonds, a booking agent at the Dutch booking agency We Are E. We Are E is one of the best and best known agencies in Holland with artists such as Olivier Weiter, Arjuna Schiks, Patrice Baumel, Edu Imbernon, Affkt, just to name a few.

We are curious how he got into the profession, how he deals with unprofessional promoters, touring the US and ADE.

Hey Paul, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I imagine you are a very busy man. As the festival season is coming to an end, what are you up to this time of year?
Hi! My pleasure! I’m quite sad to see the festival season ending, I always like the outdoor events, but now it’s time to focus on the club shows and NYE of course.

You started out as a promoter / organiser of underground techno parties. Do you feel that helps you in your current profession?
I think it does. I know how a promoter thinks and what he looks for in an agent, this way I can try and make working together as fast and pleasurable as possible. The other thing is I might have a better understanding when a promoter says there’s only a small budget left for an artist as I know where he’s coming from.

How did you get into the booking agent profession?
I was working as a promoter for a few years and befriended some artists, by booking artists for my own events I knew most of the Amsterdam agents as well. At the time a friend and DJ asked me if wanted to help him make a plan for some international shows and started talking to his agent as well. I had spoken to this agent a few times about one of our resident DJs who was still without an agency and I said you should sign him! He was interested but didn’t have the time so he asked me if I was interested in being his agent and he would teach me how it works. And so it all began. After a while, I started working at We Are E and that has just been amazing, I’ve been there for about a year and a half now and I’ve learnt so much from Pieter and Kelly. The best thing is we’re are really close and if we think of something we just do it, there is a total feeling of sky is the limit. That’s why I think the agency has been so successful over the years and is growing every day.

I see that you are a DJ yourself. Is that just for fun or do you want to DJ more?
It’s something I love to do! But only as a hobby. I’m surrounded by a lot of good music on a daily base so I think it’s natural to get a clear taste for music. I have been DJing for about 4 years now but I just play locally to where I live. I think in my position it can get confusing, first as a promoter I never wanted to book myself and now as an agent i’d rather have one of my artists playing a certain gig then myself.

You work with some great artists from the Netherlands and also some big international names. I heard you guys are representing a bigshot like AFFKT now as well, how did that came along?
Well in this case I was already working with Kid Culture and he had released on Sincopat (Affkt’s label) and he told me AFFKT was looking for an agent for The Netherlands. So we started to work together and we had a really good connection from the start. After about a year AFFKT approached me and asked if I wanted to represent him worldwide and obviously I was very happy about this! So we’ve been working together worldwide for about a year now and it’s been amazing, it’s great to work with people who work on their music with al their heart, in turn this gives me the drive to push even harder for them.

Recently a couple of riders went public and we got to see what ridiculous wishes some artists have. What are your thoughts on that, how is that with the artists at We Are E?
I mean I think riders should be necessities only. I’m not talking about the technical part of a rider but mainly the hospitality. I understand people have a certain drink they like and I think the promoter should supply it, but within reason. I don’t like the fucking diva behaviour, as a promoter is always had to laugh when I saw a rider of a reasonably ‘small’ artist and they had an expensive sort of champagne on their rider. Fuck that, you can have a beer or a glass of vodka and that’s it.

Do you think you have to protect your artists against the dangers of an artist life or could they manage themselves?
Well, I think most artists are too professional to be dragged into the darker side of life. I mean all temptations are there but if music is your life then that’s also where the focus is. It’s also not my duty to babysit, but if it would affect their performances I would say something about it for sure!

Promoters are a fairly unregulated workforce and the levels of professionalism vary from person to person. It is often felt the less professional promoters give the industry a bad name. Do you believe that to be true or are things improving?
Well I think 90% of the promoters are great. The standard of how to work varies worldwide but I think mainly everybody tries to be professional. The other 10% however consists of sly promoters who try to make deals directly with the artists or promoters who like to party just a bit too much at their own events. In the end everybody has to take it seriously and most of the bookings are professional.

Do your artists get asked a lot to play at the wrong kind of events?
Luckily, no. I’m not sure if there is something as a bad event, only events that wouldn’t fit. But usually the promoter knows what would work for his events. Sometimes I do get a request for something that just doesn’t fit but then it’s easy to just say no.

You recently went on a US Tour with Affkt, tell us about that. How did that came along and are you going back soon?
Touring the USA was something me and AFFKT wanted to do for a while now. I started looking for promoters and good events across the US and I tried to make contact. It took me about three to four months total to finalise the tour but i’m happy it all worked out. I wanted to join him for these shows because I believe it’s important to see how the ‘scene’ is over there and also to make a personal connection with the promoters. Funny enough AFFKT is on his second tour at the moment just 4 months after the first one.

What would be the dream artist you want to represent?
To be honest I feel quite blessed at the moment. All artists I work with  have a great personal connection with and they are ridiculously talented. But if you’re talking about a dream, I would love to work with an artist like Dixon. I think that would be really interesting to work with an artist with a clear image, a clear sound, a solid label and great events. Also the challenge of handling so many request and opportunities would be interesting. Although I must say I like it a lot to start building with an artist from the ground up so you experience everything. I would love it that I could be talking to one of my artist in ten years time saying: ‘Remember when were struggling to get you one gig per month?’ (this conversation would obviously be taking place on a private jet with my face on the side of it haha)

So, what do you have in store for ADE, any cool stuff we should know about?
ADE is always crazy! So many meetings and events to go to. The stand out for my personally would be the Sincopat Showcase at Feijoa on the 17th. We’re just doing a small networking event but what’s better than drinking cocktails and listening to good music surrounded by nice people?