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The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: James Fleury, TicketSwap

Continuing a series of interviews with this year's queer pioneers, IQ speaks to James Fleury, marketing lead at TicketSwap in the Netherlands

By IQ on 02 Aug 2022

James Fleury, TicketSwap

James Fleury, TicketSwap

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) last month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster. 

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with Hatice Arici, promoting director/artist agent at Charmenko in Turkey.

The series continues with James Fleury (he/him/his), marketing lead at TicketSwap in the Netherlands.

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I think the milestone I’m most proud of is probably establishing my own agency Nouvague, which over time became internationally respected for the way it approached the promotion of classical music in a digital world. I founded Nouvague in 2014 through the Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise Programme, where I received a small amount of funding and a business mentor, and spent five evenings a week including all day Saturday and Sunday managing my friend’s restaurant in South London, in order to fund the early years.

Eight years later, I had notched a portfolio of clients which included some of classical music’s most successful artists, including Grammy Award-winners Joyce DiDonato, Eric Whitacre and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. In 2017, I was invited to give a lecture at the Royal College of Music; I was later informed by the college that I was one of the youngest people ever to lecture at the college. I am particularly proud of both achievements, as I felt that – as a gay, Anglo-Indian man – I held a valued voice in an industry that has been historically dominated by the white elite, and is still reluctant to show progressive change today. You learn so much from starting your own business; how to navigate people, perseverance and the need to constantly find creative solutions to barriers you or your clients are facing. I learned more about myself and my work in those eight years than I ever could have working for a huge corporation.

“My school in South London exiled me from all musical activity on religious grounds, after I came out as gay”

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
In the words of Dory “just keep swimming”. You’re always going to face people who take an obstructive view because they simply do not have the emotional capacity to understand or place a value on your identity. Those qualities are exactly what will set you apart creatively and intellectually from your counterparts, so bottle that up and keep swimming in the direction you want to go, regardless how hard it gets!

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Not going to university. Fun fact; I never wanted to work in music… I wanted to be a war correspondent! It wasn’t really my decision to leave school early, to be honest. Despite the fact that I was a terrible A-level student, the nail in the coffin was when the incoming head of music at my school in South London exiled me from all musical activity on religious grounds, after I came out as gay.

Music was such a huge part of my school life. By eighteen, I’d toured the world as a chorister, performing in some of the world’s most renowned classical venues and cathedrals, so once that door was closed, I instinctively knew I didn’t want to be there anymore. It was a huge blow to my confidence, as I had already chosen the university I wanted to go to, as well as the scholarships and summer programmes I had applied for in the coming years.

In one weekend, I went from having a 4/5 year plan to no direction at all which was pretty confronting. I took a full-time job managing a telemarketing and customer experience department for a television company in London, while at the same time singing for a choir in London. It was then that I recognised just how underserved classical music was with marketing strategists who understood how to build campaigns both online and offline, and that was the moment the seed was planted for Nouvague.

“It’s frustrating to have people treat you differently because you don’t meet their expectations of what a queer person should be”

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry
The one that to this day I encounter the most is the fact that – to someone else’s definition – you are not gay enough. I can’t even put into words how ridiculous this notion even is. It’s especially frustrating to have people treat you differently because you don’t meet their expectations of what a queer person should be. We are such a rich, diverse community of identities, that to be all ‘queer-washed’ as the same contradicts the very nature of why we became a community in the first place; to celebrate and protect individuality.

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place?
Well, let’s start by paying people what they’re worth! I saw the recent stats from Women in Control the other day, demonstrating how the gender pay gap is actually increasing. For queer people and those from ethnic backgrounds, this gap is even worse. Let’s start by paying our creators and executives according to their technical skills and more importantly, we need to keep pushing every day inside and outside organisations to achieve full transparency on what music executives are paid. In my eyes, salaries should be public company-wide, but we’re far, far away from that.

A cause you support
The Prince’s Trust. In short, this organisation changed my life. Their programmes positively impact the lives of so many queer and ethnic young people who have been impacted by a range of issues, including homelessness, crime, domestic violence, a lack of confidence or support at home.

“For queer people and those from ethnic backgrounds, [the pay] gap is even worse”

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
Will Young. His journey through Pop Idol was on national TV at a time when I was just discovering my own sexuality. Witnessing how the media treated him made me hyper-aware of how queer people were viewed in society. To see him still performing to full auditoriums today is a testament to his mental and emotional strength.

Your favourite queer space
Mighty Hoopla! I lost my Hoopla virginity in 2021, and was absolutely gutted to miss it this year due to work. I remember being hyper-anxious the first year – walking to Brockwell Park, talking to my friend Nicky about how the idea of 15,000 queer people in one space was quite an overwhelming and intense concept – but as soon as we arrived, all of those inhibitions evaporated.

Singing along to Gabrielle’s Dreams on top of my mate’s shoulders is core memory vibes! The East Creative gang have done a brilliant job at really developing the festival so it continues to meet the needs and expectations of all faces within our community, both online and offline. As a result, it’s become a highlight fixture in the calendar every year, and I’ll be back at Brockwell Park for the 2023 edition!


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