INTERVIEW WITH MUSIC PROMOTER MIKE ZIEMER
At 26 years young, Mike Ziemer already has 10 years of music promoting under his belt, he got his start at the young age of 16 when he started helping out friends in local bands & writing for a small online magazine. After successfully putting on his first concert at the age of 18, for some friends in local Dallas suburb bands, he started Third String Productions; where he and his team have been putting on music festivals and concerts in the North Texas area. Just last year he formed ZH Entertainment where he is the President & CEO at. ZH Entertainment is an Umbrella Company For: Third String Productions, Evolve Music Management, Revelation Booking, Third String Studios, and Archetype Records. He has been featured in BUSINESS WEEK, DALLAS OBSERVER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, SUBSTREAM MAGAZINE, and more for his work.
How did you know you wanted to work in the music industry?
I have been helping my friends in bands since I started high school and it kinda just happened. I wanted to do everything that I could do to help them and as time passed it ended up turning into a job, I definitely feel blessed every single day that I get to do this job.
You started Third String Productions back in 2004 while you were still in high school. Do you think you had an advantage (to your peers and for a business owner) to starting your own business before you even graduated?
When I started putting on concerts, I had no idea I was starting a business. I just needed to put on a show for a few bands I managed and it kind of spiraled from there. I definitely look back now and see it as a huge advantage. I learned everything I could learn at such a young age that I feel I really got the upper hand.
Did you ever have a moment when you realized that music was definitely the career you wanted? If you didn’t get into the music industry at such a young age do you think you would be pursuing a different career path right now?
At the beginning on my Sr year of High School, I was working an internship at an Architects office. I was training to go to school at Texas Tech or UTA and be an architect. Something changed inside me as I kept going to more and more shows and after I booked my first show and it was a success, I changed my major to business and went to UNT instead. I've always loved music and concerts but I never thought I would be lucky enough to call it my job.
Since starting Third String Productions you have hosted many concerts & festivals including The All-Stars Festival, just recently the return of Unsilent Night, and many years of South By So What. What has been your favorite one so far?
My favorite festival ever was probably South By So What?! in 2009 with A Day To Remember, The Devil Wears Prada, and Enter Shikari. I did the first Texas shows for ADTR and Enter Shikari and to see them grow so big and headline my show was incredible. Also, seeing 4000 people at The Plano Centre I kind of just stood in awe and was finally like "you've done something here."
How do you think being a promoter now, in this age of social media, differs from before?
When I first started it was all about flyers flyers flyers. Even in the beginning though, we were on Xanga, then MySpace, and now Facebook and Twitter, so it's always been around. To me Social Media is nothing more than taking what you would do on the streets and take it to the internet. It's the same concept of promoting, just online. I think it has allowed way more bands and promoters the opportunities for success though.
Who do you think changed the music industry? Why?
I think when it comes to the genres I work with, Kevin Lyman (founder of Warped tour) changed the game the most. He made the scene what it is today. Punk and Metal bands got to receive a taste of "mainstream" success. He paved the way for the Asking Alexandria's and A Day To Remember's of the world to have the success they have. Headlining or even just being a part of Warped Tour is such a HUGE opportunity for bands. Festivals like mine may not be as successful as they are without someone like him. I grew up going to Warped Tour and being around Warped Tour and now I want to bring something to the world that has the same impact.
Promoting as much music as you do, have you started listening to a genre of music you never thought you would end up liking?
There's a lot of electronic "EDM" music I never thought I would like. I guess I just never really went through a "techno" phase so I never thought I would listen to artists like Skrillex or Rusko or even electronic indie acts such as Passion Pit and MGMT. But I definitely appreciate a lot more music now that I've been exposed to it.
What is the best and the worst part about your job?
The best part of my job is having the ability to control my own destiny. As the owner and founder of my company, I control the direction it goes and the risks we take. On the flip side of that, is the worst part, the risk and the times we lose big on events we foresaw as giant that just didn't work out that way.
What inspires and motivates you?
I like to believe I am driven by creativity inside my head and positivity inside my heart. It may sound super cheesy to say something like that, but truthfully, my positive attitude and passion for music definitely drives me to do what I do. Obviously like any job, you're motivated by the generic things like money, success, and influence, but I would like to one day use all of these to make a difference in this world that is far beyond just filling my pockets with paper. The biggest motivation for me right now is to reach a level where I can give back in the way I want to give back. My biggest inspiration is and always will be making my parents proud of me, they are my number one fans and supporters and have always been there for me.
What album releases are you looking forward to in 2012?
Honestly, I don't really know what is coming out this year. Most of the bands I love put out records last year (New Found Glory, The Wonder Years, Blink 182), I guess I would need to spend a little more time looking into who is releasing music this year.
2011 was major for you as it brought ZH Entertainment, Archetype Records, the opening of Third String Studios (with up and coming producer John Roberts). What big plans do you have for 2012?
The biggest complaint I get from people is that other promoters, across all genres, are just "doing it wrong" so to speak. When we go into our festivals and shows, we require that a certain level of professionalism is maintained at whatever the cost may be. It doesn't matter if we have to pay more for a bigger stage, better lights, or better staff, because in the end everything we are building up is an experience and the fan and band experience has to be #1 or you are going to fail. Sometimes cutting costs isn't possible to ensure a good show. That being said, our goal is to cross many genres and do new things in the Hip-Hop, EDM, and even indie rock areas. We have a lot of great opportunities this year as far as shows and festivals go and we are going to take full advantage of those. Other plans include signing and releasing more bands, getting our current bands on tour, expanding our management roster, keeping John (Roberts) busy in the studio 24/7 365, and much more. Just keep an eye on us!
What would you tell other people who want to work in the music industry?
You have to do it for passion, love of music, and the desire to make a difference above anything else. If you're coming into the music industry thinking it's all about getting rich, making money, and "having things," you are in the wrong business if you want to succeed. It's very possible to get all of those things, but you have to do it right and you have to earn a reputation and a name before you can just "make a buck." Take an internship, work for free, help a local band, go on tour, learn everything you can about every area of the music industry, don't limit yourself. Get your hands dirty and don't be afraid to take some chances.