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The New Bosses 2021: Age Versluis, Friendly Fire

Continuing a series of interviews with the 2021 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Age Versluis, promoter at Friendly Fire in the Netherlands

By IQ on 20 Sep 2021

Age Versluis, Friendly Fire

Age Versluis, Friendly Fire

The New Bosses 2021 – the latest edition of IQ’s annual celebration of the brightest young talent in the live business today, as voted for by their peers – was published in IQ 103 this month, revealing the 12 promising promoters, bookers, agents, entrepreneurs that make up this year’s list.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2021’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous 2021 New Bosses interview with Jenna Dooling, agent at WME in the UK here.

As one of the worst drummers in his hometown, Utrecht, Age Versluis realised that organising shows was a better option. During his music management studies, he interned for a festival, a venue, a record label and a promoter to help him decide what his next step would be.

Having interned at the first edition of Best Kept Secret festival in 2013, Versluis remained at Friendly Fire, where he became a promoter five years ago. He has since developed a roster that includes Khruangbin, Fontaines D.C., Black Pumas, Cigarettes After Sex, Phoebe Bridgers and many others.

Friendly Fire also runs an open-air venue in Amsterdam throughout the summer, which Versluis operates.

Do you have a mentor or anyone you turn to for advice?
Roel Coppen [agent, promoter, co-owner, Friendly Fire] has taught me everything about spotting talent and working out a long-term approach for an artist. For the last couple of years, I have been learning more about bigger shows and collaborations from Rense van Kessel and Lauri van Ommen in our office.

What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
The biggest highlight is convincing an artist to trust and play multiple shows in the Netherlands early on in their career and then to see that confidence pay off. For example, with two amazing sold-out nights for Khruangbin in Paradiso, December 2020.

“Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone”

What advice would you give to anyone trying to find a job in live music?
Go to shows, lots of them, talk with the people at the door, at the stand, at the FOH, production staff, everyone. Volunteer for as many things as you can sustain. Go to conferences, panels, and try to get a quick meeting in for some advice/feedback with someone that inspires you.

The pandemic has been hard on us all – are there any positive aspects that you and Friendly Fire are taking out of it?
Yes, it’s been hard but we’ve also seen relationships improve with the people we work with. We’ve tried out new things, dipped our toes into livestreaming, have unwillingly learned everything on socially distanced shows and have kept on a few of those new things.

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Several things. We should work to diversify the people we work with and in all aspects of what we do, in regards to underrepresentation.

“We have all been busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we plan for shows that are actually happening”

Also, accommodating and setting boundaries for work and personal life – although that’s been getting a lot better the past years. As a young new promoter with no network, I loved gaining managers’ and agents’ trust at that earliest stage. I believe in spreading out who you work with, so you can learn from all sorts of people.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to work on new outdoor concepts and specialise in that part of live music, as I really like the novelty of it. So far the majority of my shows were in the Netherlands, but we are doing more outside our territory now, and that’s something that I hope is going to stick.

What’s the biggest challenge for you and the Friendly Fire team now that the business is emerging from lockdown restrictions?
We have all been very busy juggling shows and limitations, now it’s important that we focus and plan a workflow for shows that are actually happening. The biggest challenge will be building up customer trust to buy tickets again.

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