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The New Bosses 2023: Katja Thalerová, LALA Slovak Music Export

The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous interview with Jamie Shaughnessy, a music touring agent at CAA. The series continues with Katherina Thalerová, an artist/production manager for LaLa Slovak Music Export in Slovakia.

Katherina Thalerová graduated with a Master of Arts at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. For the past five years, she has been leading partnerships and sponsorships of the SHARPE festival, an international showcase festival in Bratislava, which is the main project of the LALA Slovak Music Export office, where she works as a project manager.

Katja’s love for music is mirrored by her work as a booker and manager of several Slovak bands (including Tolstoys, Sam Handwich, God and Eve). As a production manager, she is involved in the indie regional Flaam festival and seasonally in the biggest Slovak music festivals, such as Pohoda, Grape, and Next. In addition to these projects, she occasionally collaborates with other festivals, cultural events and artists.

She is currently studying for a PhD at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (Theory and Dramaturgy of Music), where she also lectures on a number of subjects. Katja’s is also part of the emerging DJ duo Benefits with Friends.

When did you first realise you wanted to have a career in the music industry – and is anyone else in your family involved in music?
I realised I wanted to make a career in the music industry quite early on. My first realisation was when I was a teenager and I was fully influenced by the Slovak national radio station Rádio_FM (an alternative radio that played totally different music than commercial radios). This was one of the moments for me and then I found out that Pohoda festival exists. I think I was around 12 or 13 years old. The first time I went to Pohoda was when I was 16 and from then on there was no turning back (haha). Of course, all this could not have happened without my mother, who, although not from an artistic background, introduced me to music and art and built a lifelong love for them in me. My cousin plays in a smaller band, but generally family members around my age, we all have seven years of music education at elementary art schools and I studied piano and saxophone.

You and Michal Berezňák were behind the launch of the music export office. Can you tell us a bit more about it and some of the initiatives that it undertakes both in Slovakia and elsewhere?
LALA Slovak Music Export was established in 2016, I enthusiastically joined the team in 2018–2019. I have been working for LALA as a project manager for the last three years. Currently, we are running LALA together with my dear colleague Michal Berezňák. Our activities are focused on education (we love it when people learn about things that help them build a career) and the popularisation of work in culture. We actively hold networking events and our activities, especially, are aimed at connecting the Slovak music scene with foreign countries and presenting it to peculiarity. The biggest project of LALA is the international showcase festival Sharpe festival and conference, which we are extremely proud of. We also participate in its preparation with our dear Táňa Lehotská and a whole team of other great people.

Sharpe music festival and conference has been a big success in its first six years. What plans do you have to develop the event?
More than developing the event, our goal is to stabilise it in the form it is and how we see it working. We do not have the ambition to rapidly increase the capacity, we want the festival to operate consistently. We want to bring the best dramaturgy (we reached the number of 60 performers), and offer a stimulating and interesting conference part. Furthermore, we want to continue working with students more during the conference. An integral part of the development of the event is its partners, whether local or international. This is an important thing for us, on which we want and will work intensively. Our ambition is to retain visitors and attract new (curious) visitors who want to discover new fresh music from Slovakia and beyond.

“I would very much like people to respect each other’s work, to eliminate unnecessary rivalry and envy”

In terms of expanding your network of contacts, are there any events, platforms or forums you attend that you would recommend to others?
I am so happy that there are many things to be shared among the people! Sharpe music festival & conference, Pohoda festival, Flaam festival, Next festival, Grape festival, Sieť Anténa, Rádio_FM, LALA Slovak Music Export, Full Moon magazine (CZ), Ment festival (SI), Eastern European Music Academy (international) – a top online academy that delivers créme de la créme lessons from the top of the European music industry for 12 weeks. Together with Music Export Ukraine (UA) and Mastering the Music Busines (RO) we are part of this stunning project

As a New Boss, what would you like to change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
I would very much like people to respect each other’s work, to eliminate unnecessary rivalry and envy. When people appreciate each other’s work, treat each other with respect, we will be able to progress better as a society and especially help each other. Related to this is the humility and modesty that people can exude.

It is important to inspire people and stay true to work in culture, because it enriches people, positively develops society, creates space for self-expression, encourages people to think out of the box, develops their mind and sensibility of perception of functioning in society and brings inspiration. Culture positively affects people’s lives and it is important that it does not disappear and remains here through various carriers.

Do you have a mentor, or anyone you rely on to bounce ideas off?
My mother has been my mentor throughout my life. She is a (voluntary) target of all my (crazy) ideas. My huge inspiration since my teenage years is Michal Kaščák from Pohoda festival. I can rely on my colleague Michal Berezňák, who also inspires me and of course on my partner.

What one thing would you like artists, fans, and other music industry professionals to learn about your country to persuade them to visit listen to some Slovak bands and artists?
Most of the artists of the alternative music scene are humble people whose expression is filled with pure love for music. Slovakia in general ranks among the smaller countries, but the tenacity and joy of playing is very great. A strong cultural community operates in Slovakia. It creates a feeling of lightness of being. And, Slovaks are very hospitable nation.

What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
My highlight has been that I am surrounded by great inspiring people, who spark me every day. Also, being a part of several Slovak festivals, such as Sharpe festival, Pohoda festival, Flaam festival, Next festival, MELA, Fest Anča, Febio fest, Grape festival and many other fantastic events. Yes, festivals are my passion.


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