This is Daniel Somlo of the Budapest Hungary music industry and scene. We have met him in a very relaxed state at Mastering the Music Business conferences in Bucharest and he told us of the action-driven music scene from our neighboring country, as he is now the A&R of Eastaste, collaborating as a booking agent at Budapest Showcase Hub and part of the amazing community New Kids from the Bloc that are creating a web between the former Eastern Bloc countries that Romania is a part of.
His past endeavors found him working with BalconyTV Budapest, constantly trying to promote the music and talented artists around him. This man is also an active musician in the Iamyank live act drumming with the producer and musician. Daniel has a very interesting back catalogue of past collaborations and these are some of the topics we’ve discussed
We know a few Romanian bands have played in Hungary, Budapest and Szighet Festival where there is Dan Panaitescu stage, but also we had lots of Hungarian acts and dj at gigs in Cluj, Oradea, Timisoara, Bucharest too. Also festivals like Peninsula, Electric Castle, Untold and many others have had Hungarian acts and we are friends with a Romanian-Hungarian underground legendary musician called Rodion G.A. I know about GOLAN and Otherside playing at a Budapest Showcase Hub this year too. How do you view the relationship between Romania and Hungary? What do you think the future holds for our countries cultural musical exchanges?
I think both countries have great musical products which have to be shown for each other, not only because we’re neighbors, but because of the hungry “new kids from the Bloc”, which are mainly the Y and Z Generation of the region. The only problem is that they don’t have good sources, platforms where they can easily get access to fresh, quality music, or music related interesting stories from neighboring countries. That’s why we’ve started our brand new YouTube channel, under that name: “New kids from the Bloc”, to show the hidden treasures for everyone, such as Romanians and Hungarians but also the rest of the Eastern European region.
Thanks to CSTP (music program of the Hungarian National Cultural Found) and some other opportunities in the last few years many Hungarian bands have had the chance to tour Romania and vice versa. Without cross-border collaborations it wouldn’t be possible, so that means the industry people started to get to know each other and collaborate. Here are a few of the latest examples: We’ve booked Helen to A38 a few weeks ago in Budapest and Golan will played at Művészetek Völgye (Valley of Arts – Kapolcs). As you said they were also playing last year at this “new cool Hungarian festival” which is also our baby: Budapest Showcase Hub aka BuSH. We dedicated this event to gather All-Eastern Europe’s music industry people and showcase the best bands from 14 countries each year.
Also there was always a huge potential for Hungarian bands in Romania, especially at the Hungarian speaking territories (Transylvania) because people are still listening to Hungarian radios there. Although it’s an other question to what they can listen on these radio stations, but we can discuss it in another interview.
Back in the days, in the communist era it was totally different, there were bands which were on the same legendary level in both countries, e.g. my dad’s band, Locomotiv GT even if they’ve been “kicked out” from Romania for 30 years. I’d be really happy to see something similar to this again, and I am curious from which country would this band be coming from. And I don’t mean the “kicked out” part.
There are more and more festivals happening in both countries too, that is also a new dimension for exchanging artists, like Electric Castle and some others are doing already. Sziget also had a contest in Romania, that had been won by a fantastic Bucharest based band, Next Ex. Their show was astonishing at MMB.
And about Rodion, the guy you’ve mentioned, yes I know him and have met him a few times in Budapest.
Your career as a drummer means you are closer to artists as an A&R? Can you gives us some examples of how your experience as a musician helped you deal with musicians for Eastaste?
We are not a label, but it helped me a lot because most of the bands and their representatives already knew me personally and I also had the chance to see how the industry works and what its ups and downs. I think if you’re a musician or you’re an industry person, the most important thing in this field is the personal connections and it’s the same in almost all the other industries in the world. I also had been lucky enough because of my families background, I was involved in the industry since I was born. I won’t highlight any examples now, but in general I felt most of the times when I tried to sign someone there was already a level of trust from the bands’ side because of our already existing relationships or because of the common friends. This was also one of my biggest “tools” when we’ve started Balcony TV Budapest three years ago, and no one knew about it back then, but even the biggest names in Hungary came to play for us from the beginning.
How would you describe the music industry in Hungary? Is the any particular scene or genre you are most fond of? Maybe you have some artists you have your bets would conquer the charts anytime soon?
It’s relatively a small industry with one main cultural center being Budapest, but it has some really high quality products. They are still a bit separated from the industry. The gap between old, boring mainstream and fresh cool music is still pretty deep and there is a big slice for Hungarian folk music which has it’s own rules. I can’t discuss genres now, but here are some of my personal favorite bands/act these days:
Amoeba, Mörk, The Qualitons, Makrohang, Soul Clap Budapest, Zomblaze, Apey, Route 8
And my bandmate Iamyank
But there are also big international potential in some others too (e.g. Bin-Jip or the lead singer’s Veronika Harcsa’s solo project:
Fran Palermo, Bohemian Betyars,
These bands and their teams are really hard workers and they already have great success stories, not only in Hungary.
Some other segments of the Hungarian industry need to be a bit more organized, educated and sponsored! But I think we’re on the right path and more and more people seem to be taking it seriously, which is a very good thing. The biggest problem is still the economical situation in Hungary, it’s effecting everyone in the music industry. E.g. it’s pretty hard to sell tickets on Western European prices, so bigger international bands hardly count on us as a potential touring destination. But it’s also changed in the last few years, thanks to some local heroes and I think to some foreign agencies who are starting to realize the huge potential of the country and are probably open to local commerce and economy.
What is the first think that comes to your mind when you think of Romanian music? Some of our British friends all think of the Cheeky Girls for example, Electronic passionate Berliner mates name check Cosmin TRG and French people are always humming Gheorghe Zamfir. What is it that stuck with you from our countries musical “heritage”?
Thanks to Eastaste I keep my eyes constantly on the new Romanian scene and I think you have one of the most relevant and interesting indie music scenes in the region. To be honest, I don’t know these bands which you’re talking about , the only old school legend which I can tell you now is the rock band Phoenix. The first bands that come to mind from our generation, even if some of them are pretty new on the scene are: Otherside, Golan, Helen, Moonlight Breakfast, Ligia Hojda, Yelllow, Vama, Byron, Larissa, Rune, Are You Anywhere, etc. I guess all of these bands has a huge international potential. The rest is depending on their strategies, teamwork and of course luck, which is and has always been a strong factor in the music industry.
Have you got some piece of advice for our bands and friends in all the bands in this country, indie, electronic, rock and hip-hop, who would like to take charge on the Hungarian music scene to perform or release there? Beside learning Hungarian.
Build up your own network in the country. Go after the key people, tastemakers and try to convince them about the potential of your music. Find the ones who fit to your story! Be persistent! Maybe you’ll play for smaller fees at the beginning, but if you keep coming back constantly and do a good promotion then the fruits of your labor will come. For last but not least: Invest money! Think about the business side of it, not only the fun part!
Do you think there is room for a Romanian-Hungarian collaboration to win a Eurovision award? And maybe in the not so distant future an American Grammy?
Both would be fun. Why not? It would be better if both countries would aim that high!
What bands from Budapest and Hungary would you rally for BuSH? How is the selection process?
We do the BuSH showcase and we have a special band selection process, let’s say a “social band selection system”, where we involve as many music professionals of the region (this year we asked 500 industry people from 14 countries) to contribute. We encourage them to vote and rate each others’ countries bands. It’s not ethic for me to “rally” my bands and friends. But if you are really keen on finding out more details, I would go with the same list which I’ve mentioned up above.
Can you please talk to us about your experience with Iamyank.
Sure! It’s an interesting project and music wise I feel totally connected to it, which is great, because the music is not written by me, I play drums “only” in my friend’s, Yank’s live band. Of course I add some extra layers on the top, but I think that’s why I’ve been picked for this position. We had a good start in Hungary, with a great album release tour last year and before that, we had some serious gigs (e.g. opening for Kiasmos at Electronic Beats Festival 2015). This year is a bit more chilled, but we had some great gigs abroad. We toured Poland, we had shows at home and in your beautiful country too, where we had the chance to open for GOLAN, at their album release show in Arenele Romane. Also there was a special gig in Kiev, at Atlas Weekend and one again in Poland, at Sea Zone Festival. Even if it sounds interesting, I can say it’s not a full time thing for me, especially this year but I like to play music so I’m always happy when we can show our stuff to others and I’m glad to be a partner in this. Everything is still at the very beginning and this project needs to evolve, so we must work very hard on that.