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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Frederik Diness Ove, Queer Music Agency

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Dev Mistry, global internal comms manager at DICE in London, UK.

The series continues with Frederik Diness Ove (he/him/his), founder of Queer Music Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Frederik Diness Ove is the founder of Queer Music Agency, which is an agency that aims to create more diversity in the music industry by representing queer artists and DJs whilst also fostering a strong community for queers and creating a safer space for minority groups.

Frederik studied marketing management and has had several C-level positions within different industries. In 2019, he established an association called Diversity Pop-Up, which organises events with the aim of creating more safe spaces and diversity and this led to him starting Queer Music Agency at the end of 2021.


Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
When I established Queer Music Agency (QMA) in 2021, the aim was to be a global company in the future, but of course, you need to start in one place. Since I live in Copenhagen, Denmark was the home market we started to focus on, which resulted in more than 150 gigs in Denmark during 2022. At the end of 2022, QMA got an intern based in London with the goal to organise our first concert abroad, and in March 2023, we held a queer concert there with great success. We were so grateful for all the support we received, and it showed us that there is a need for what we are doing worldwide, and now we are planning to organise a queer concert in Berlin, and more cities will follow.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
I am attending Roskilde Festival soon, and I am itching to see Lil Nas X live for the first time. I think and hope it is going to be an amazing queer concert, and it is so important to have big queer stars who can be an idol for the all the upcoming queer artists out there. I just wish for the future that queer artists will be able to become big stars as queer artists, instead of waiting to announce they are queer until after they have become stars.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Fight for queer artists and queer music, because we still need to put in a lot of effort to change the status quo with the lack of diversity in the music industry. Maybe it is not the most mainstream music at the moment, but I think queer music and artists will become more mainstream in the future, so keep fighting for what you like even though it is a niche now, but who knows maybe you will end up with the queer lottery coupon one day.

“Fight for queer acts… we still need to put in a lot of effort to change the status quo with the lack of diversity in the industry”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Not to make a business plan when I started QMA. I studied marketing management and wrote a thesis about business planning and development, and I am quite sure that my conclusion would have been: do not start Queer Music Agency because in general the music industry is very tough and competitive. But sometimes you just have to follow your heart and passion and don’t think return on investment or how rich you can get. I have definitely not done this for the sake of money but because I want to create positive changes in the world, even though it means less travel, restaurant visits etc. Most important is that I am proud of what I am doing.

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
When we have events that need to sell tickets because the live industry is such a competitive market, which often makes it very difficult to sell tickets, especially when you are representing upcoming artists and DJs with a very small fan base. You know it demands a great effort, and you learn not to stress about it because you need to accept the fact that you are always in a quite uncertain field where a lot of factors can affect sales. Maybe you could do more, but it is already not a lucrative business working with many upcoming artists, so don’t calculate your salary per hour. It also means that at some point you need to stop doing more, because you have other things to do as well.

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
I think we will see a tendency for festivals etc to become more specific in relation to their target group in terms of branding and programme. We see festivals with more than 30 years of experience shutting down and new festivals with a better concept, branding, and promotion [are becoming] popular instead. As an organiser, you really need to be able to offer a great overall experience, so everything from the programme, location, logistics, food, atmosphere etc need to be something people would like to spend their time and money on or else they will just choose another festival instead.

“I think we will see festivals become more specific in relation to their target group in terms of branding and programme”

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
I would love if more festivals had a greater variety in their programme; way too many festivals are booking the same mainstream artists. Of course, it is okay to book popular artists that people like to listen to, and it sells tickets, but in my eyes, festivals are also about experiencing new music, and I think festivals could better help upcoming artists. There could, for example, more often be a smaller stage close to a big stage, where upcoming artists could play. Also, radio and media could also be better at introducing “niche” music to people instead of the intense focus on mainstream music, and I think it would be very appreciated. We need more influential people with power in the industry to make some choices and try to change the music industry in a more diverse direction.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
Just STOP DISCRIMINATION, please! It should be so simple, and it would make the music industry a more equitable place to be and invite more people to be a part of it. Analyses made by the association Another Life is unfortunately showing that approximately 50% of all queers in the industry have experienced discrimination and that number is way too high in 2023. In the industry, I hope that more people that are privileged will make an effort to help make changes, because we still really need them, and you need to make an active effort to make it happen.

Let me mention an example from Denmark where an association for music practice rooms some years ago discovered that 98% of their members were white cis males, which is so crazy. Luckily, they thought so as well, and they started to make an effort to change their membership composition, which over some years has become more diverse. Every aspect of the industry needs to make an effort, but also schools, which contain the musicians of the future. The right support and influence for minority groups and also women, in general, can change who wants to follow a path of music, so it will be easier in the future for festivals etc to create more diverse programmes.

“In the industry, I hope that more people that are privileged will make an effort to help make changes”

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
It must be my very dear friend Camilla Trodyb who is head of PR and marketing at All Things Live. She was the first one I pitched my idea about Queer Music Agency, and she has been a fan and very supportive from the beginning and made me believe that I should definitely give it a go. In this matter, she was a much better support than a business plan will ever be. Before Queer Music Agency, I was not a part of the music industry, so it was very important for me to have an ally in her who believed in my project and who could help me open some doors, especially in the beginning.

Do you support any LGBTIQ+ causes?
Our main cause is to support as many queer artists as possible, so we struggle each day for that matter, and we hope that many more queer artists all over the world in the future will be able to make music a way of living. And believe me it is a struggle, so we ourselves need more support from funds etc to help us realise more of our projects. As a booker or a company or even as a private person, the best way to support upcoming queer artists is to book them and pay them a nice well-earned salary, so always feel free to reach me at [email protected] or +45 53531087 if you want to book a talented queer artist or DJ.

 


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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Meet this year’s queer pioneers

IQ Magazine has revealed the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – the third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee – are individuals that have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

The third instalment comprises agents, promoters, tour managers, marketing executives, consultants, founders and more – all of whom identify as LGBTIQ+ and, in the face of adversity, have made enormous contributions to their respective sectors.

In alphabetical order, the LGBTIQ+ List 2023 is:

Christina Austin, music agent, United Talent Agency (UK)
Hila Aviran, director of entertainment & tours, PixMob (US)
Johanna Beckman, senior creative curator and promoter, FKP Scorpio Sweden (SE)
Amy Greig, booking agent, Runway Artists (UK)
Adem Holness, head of contemporary music, Southbank Centre (UK)
Kane Kete, client development manager, Ticketmaster (AU)
Ippei Kimura, booking/marketing/tour manager, Creativeman Productions (JP)
Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager, Festival Republic (UK)
Stefan Lehmkuhl, freelance curator & live entertainment consultant, BMG/Ruined My Rainbow (DE)
Lucy Mackenzie McNae, tour manager (Josef, Twin Atlantic), Two and a Half TMs (UK)
Saskhia Menendez, innovator at Keychange, board of directors at F-List Music (UK)
Dev Mistry, global internal comms manager, DICE (UK)
Frederik Diness Ove, founder, Queer Music Agency (DK)
Boyan Pinter (Boiadjiev), founder/director, SPIKE Bulgarian Music Showcase (BG)
Scott Robson, event manager, ASM Global (UK)
Roman Samotný, director, Queer Slovakia (SK)
Marie-Christine Scheffold, senior booking agent manager, Selective Artists (DE)
Karim Siddiqui, senior booking manager, Live Nation (US)
Areti Tziorta, marketing manager, TEG Europe (UK)
João Pedro Viana, music agent, WME (UK)

Throughout the next month, IQ will be publishing full-length interviews with each person on the LGBTIQ+ List 2023.

Subscribers can read the full Pride edition now. Click here to subscribe to IQ from less than £8 a month – or see what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below.

Check out 2022’s cohort of queer pioneers here, and 2021’s cohort here.

Gold at the end of the rainbow

For decades, LGBTIQ+ culture was forced to exist on the fringes of society. Few queer artists were allowed to bring their whole selves to the stage, instead forced to hide in plain sight. This meant there was little to no representation for LGBTIQ+ music fans, and queer-friendly spaces in the mainstream were non-existent.

In Europe, in 2022, queer culture is increasingly celebrated. During this past month alone, Harry Styles headlined two shows at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium; Elton John stole the show at BST Hyde Park; and Years & Years delivered a “jubilantly gay set” on the Other Stage at Glastonbury. LGBTIQ+ acts and allies are taking up space on some of the world’s biggest stages. And this culture is big business at the box office.

“There are a load of artists who have made it and who are inspiring LGBTIQ+ role models – Years & Years, Sam Smith, Christine [& The Queens], Kim Petras, Lil Nas X, for example,” says Live Nation promoter Maddie Arnold, who is also an alumna of IQ Magazine’s LGBTIQ+ List 2021.

“I’m glad these days people are a lot less prejudiced; you have highly influential people like Harry Styles who will wear non-gender-conforming clothes on stage and celebrate the queer community through his lyrics and onstage performances.”

“You have highly influential people like Harry Styles who will wear non-gender-conforming clothes on stage”

Stadium-filling icons aside, the value of the pink pound is perhaps best evidenced by the emergence of specialist companies and festivals in the live music business that serve queer artists and audiences. The last 12 months have seen the launch of agencies such as Queer Music Agency (Denmark) and Gallos Talent (UK), ticketing companies like Red Eye (New York), and festivals including Flesh (UK) – all of which cater exclusively to the community.

But not just anyone can strike gold with the pink pound. While many behemoth brands and companies have cottoned onto the economic value of the pink pound (hello Pinkwashing!), few are able to truly connect with those audiences in the same way as those who have put down roots in the community. In 2022, it has never been more evident that representation pays.

Gaps in the market
More often than not, it’s the executives who are themselves queer who are best equipped to identify trends, spot gaps in the market, and develop new opportunities in the space.

Patrick Janssen, marketing manager at Live Nation GSA, is one such professional. During his previous role at Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion (KJK), he marketed the first one-queen drag tour in the German market with Sasha Velour’s Smoke & Mirrors.

“I thought, why is nobody setting up shows for these queens in Germany?”

Velour rose to fame in 2007 after winning the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the smash-hit reality TV competition searching for America’s next drag superstar. The series has spanned fourteen seasons (plus several spin-off shows) and airs internationally in countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel.

Thanks to the series, Velour earned acclaim on a global scale becoming a household name in certain circles, and yet… “When I spoke to friends, they were, like, ‘Oh, she’s going on tour in Europe, but she’s not coming to Germany,’” says Janssen. “And I thought, why is nobody setting up shows for these queens in Germany?”

Coincidentally, KJK was approached to promote Velour in Germany. The company’s CEO sought Janssen’s opinion who was readily equipped to report on Velour’s cultural relevance, fan base, and universal appeal. Fully immersed in the idea, Janssen ended up promoting the shows.

“I think if [the CEO had] had to decide on his own, he would have declined because he doesn’t know the audience or her background and career development – it’s not his thing,” says Janssen.

“It was really emotional to have brought so many people together to watch a drag queen”

Janssen’s alignment with Velour’s audience proved to be indispensable when it came to marketing the tour. “Another person on the tour marketing team might have spoken to gay magazines and run editorials and print ads, but the gay community is more digital than that,” says Janssen, explaining that he mostly relied on Grindr, a dating app that is geared towards gay and bisexual men.

“We had better click-through rates (CTRs) on Grindr than on Facebook and Instagram,” he continues. “On those social media platforms, I targeted different drag queens and the CTRs were good – like 10–14% – but on Grindr, the CTRs were like 20–28%. The product and the placement matched.”

The tour took place in spring and comprised one show at the Musical Dome (cap 2,000) in Cologne, one at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg (2,025), and two at the Admiralspalast (1,756) in Berlin. Despite Germany being in the throes of Covid-19 restrictions, the shows were a success – both on an economic and a social level.

“Everyone had a good time, and people left the venue with a smile on their faces,” says Janssen. “It was really emotional to have brought so many people together to watch a drag queen.”

“Another person on the tour marketing team might have spoken to gay magazines but the gay community is more digital than that”

“The second tour that was offered was Adore Delano [an American drag queen who rose to fame on RuPaul’s Drag Race and then American Idol] in September. This time around, my CEO didn’t ask me if we should do this, he simply asked which capacity in the general market I would recommend.”

In addition, the success of Velour’s shows attracted an offer from a UK agent for The Trixie & Katya Show, [two drag queens who rose to fame on the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race] who will tour in November.

Assembling the right team
As Janssen’s story illustrates, giving queer executives a seat at the table can have a direct impact on a company’s business and artist’s career. Though, as Live Nation’s Arnold points out, LGBTIQ+ artists don’t necessarily need a queer team around them to have the best chance of success.

“I definitely have my go-to agents when I find an artist that falls into this category who is looking for representation,” says Arnold, who promotes queer artists including Muna, ZAND, July Jones, PYRA, Alma, Lauren Sanderson, GIRLI, and Ashnikko.

“Some of [the agents] are queer themselves, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker”

“Some of [the agents] are queer themselves, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker. As long as I know they are inclusive, open-minded, and would be a good fit for the act, there’s definitely a conversation to be had. That being said… it’s always good to see if they already have LGBTIQ+ acts on their rosters.”

AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean, who works with queer acts including Duncan Laurence, Dhruv, and Will Young, and has launched an LGBTQIA+ club night/showcase called Melodaze, adds: “It’s always good to bear in mind that you can pick your team, whether you would like a queer marketing person and a female ticketing manager on the team, and think about all the options available that aren’t always traditional.”

Protecting the talent
Cherry-picking the right team is crucial to the success of any artist – no matter what their sexuality – but there’s an added layer of importance to that strategy when it comes to queer talent.

Even in 2022, LGBTIQ+ artists can face limitations ranging from unequal pay to discrimination to prejudiced language. With these considerations, it’s no surprise that the live music business has seen the launch of specialist companies that are well-versed in navigating such prejudice and protecting their talent.

“The drag events industry has always been a little bit of a Wild West”

Nathan Stone, the former creative director of TEG MJR and the creator of DragWorld, last year launched a new UK-based LGBTIQ+ talent management company, Gallos Talent.

The company is working with acts including drag queens Juno Birch and Joe Black (as seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK), and offers its services as a partner to events such as Trans Festival London and Cornwall Pride.

Discussing the reasons for launching Gallos Talent, Stone tells IQ: “The drag events industry has always been a little bit of a Wild West, which is something that has dramatically changed in the years since the huge success of Werq the World [an ongoing tour featuring drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race]. Before this, any club could put on events, change artists, cancel events, and withhold customers’ money – it wasn’t seemingly regulated in the same way.

“With artists of all sizes, it was always our priority to find partners who we know treat the artist well, as well as the customers, to stop these trends.”

“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry”

That sentiment is echoed by Frederik Diness Ove, founder of Queer Music Agency in Denmark, which aims to provide non heterosexual talent with better opportunities to break- through in the music industry.

“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry,” he tells IQ. “This industry is very much dominated by cis-gendered, white, straight men, and therefore we try to rally so we can hopefully stand stronger.”

While both agencies were launched with a mission to level the playing field for queer artists, both founders claim there’s a gap in the market for their specialist services.

“Whilst drag is a mainstay in the UK, there are still many European markets that are just beginning to get these events travelling through their countries, so that is really exciting to witness and be part of!” says Stone.

“Whilst drag is a mainstay in the UK, there are still many European markets that are just beginning to get these events”

Catering to the fanbase
According to AEG’s Pean, the choice of live space can be crucial in promoting queer artists and making their audiences feel safe and included. “It’s important to know what spaces work for a queer act and audience,” she says.

“There tends to be a more diverse roster of people that work in these spaces as well, which creates the right environment and means that there is expertise and understanding of what the act needs.”

But many who IQ spoke with said more can still be done to make venues more suitable for a community that has historically been marginalised. Gender-neutral toilets at venues are a priority for AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean. “It will take more time in venues that are owned by bigger corporations, but it feels like things are moving in the right direction,” she says.

Live Nation’s Arnold agrees: “The provision of gender-neutral toilet facilities is definitely something that should be thought about when putting on these types of shows; with adapted security protocols ensuring all staff members are fully trained and respectful of the audiences.”

“The provision of gender-neutral toilet facilities is definitely something that should be thought about”

Specialist crowd management agencies, which comprise exclusively of queer people and promise “a community-specific approach to security,” are becoming a common fixture in queer nightlife – particularly at club nights. Arnold also points to the importance of buddy systems, which are set up on online or at the venue and help solo gig-goers make new friends.

“A lot of ticket buyers are always looking for someone to go to the show with, and it’s great that a lot of artists promote buddy systems on their social media platforms so that fans can find other fans to go to the shows with,” she says. “It’s definitely the venue’s responsibility to ensure all fans feel safe and welcomed, whether it be a queer show or not.”

Pean adds: “It is also down to the person running the show on the day, taking care of the artists and making sure they are comfortable in their working environment.

“The promoter rep is also the one to brief the security staff and venue manager who relay [the information] on to the rest of their teams. You tend to see that once that ethos is implemented, it sets the tone for a night before a single ticketholder has walked through the door.”

These elements are crucial – but often overlooked – ways of connecting with queer audiences and capitalising on the kind of loyalty that has boosted queer artists from grassroots venues to world-renowned stages.

“From what I’ve been lucky enough to see, [fan bases of queer artists] are much more diverse, and very loyal,” says AEG Presents’ Chloe Pean.

“There’s no good way of explaining it, but the environment at a LGBTQ+’s person’s show is special and warm. You will have people that come who are fans of the music and then other fans that come for the community element and some for both!”

 


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Queer Music Agency launches in Denmark

Denmark has gained a new agency that will exclusively represent queer artists.

Queer Music Agency will provide non-heterosexual talent with better opportunities to breakthrough in the music industry, according to founder Frederik Diness Ove.

“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry. This industry is very much dominated by cis-gendered white straight men and therefore we try to rally so we can hopefully stand stronger,” says Diness Ove.

“I would not have [launched Queer Music Agency] if there was no problem with the lack of diversity and oppression of minorities. I hope that in five years’ time it will no longer be necessary, and then I am more than ready to change the profile of our company.”

The agency will offer a number of services to its artists – acting as a record label, management, booking agent and promoter.

“Unfortunately, there are far too many minorities who feel oppressed in the music industry”

Queer Music Agency has already announced its first event at Rust (cap. 670) in Copenhagen on 18 December.

The event, dubbed Queer Concerts, will showcase several of the artists on the roster including singer Sander Sanchez.

Sanchez has previously participated in the Danish Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark’s selection for the Eurovision Song Contest), performed during prestigious festival Aarhus Festuge and closed the ceremony for this year’s WorldPride event in Copenhagen.

Currently, the Queer Music Agency roster also includes 21-year-old queer activist and emerging DJ Nova, artist and producer Taralillah and 23-year-old Irish/danish rising star Ella Costello.

Diness Ove says there are plans to represent 20–25 queer artists by this time next year.

The ILGA-Europe ranks Denmark as the ninth-best country on the continent for LGBTI people, based on how the nation’s laws and policies impact the lives of queer folk.

 


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