Following an unprecedented number of international applications from thousands of promising artists over the course of 2019, the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES) recently announced the full list of nominated artists for its trailblazing INES#Talent Programme.

In a unique initiative co-funded by the European Union and initiated by online booking platform, gigmit, a total of 133 acts – hand-picked by 19 participating festivals from 19 different European countries – now have the opportunity to further their international careers by performing at multiple music festivals and industry showcases over the course of 2020.

Having received a record number of applications throughout July and August, each INES#festival has now selected up to fifteen promising and exportable artists from their own country to make up the official INES Talent Pool. By becoming part of the INES Talent Pool, these budding musicians now have the opportunity to perform at multiple ‘showcase festivals’ all over Europe, thereby introducing their music to senior industry professionals, leading event organisers and front-running promoters across the continent.

We sat down with Marcus Fitzgerald (Founder of INES and CEO of online booking platform Gigmit) to discuss the initiative as a whole, and to further understand how INES is championing up-and-coming talent in an innovative and unique way.

Hi Marcus, thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us here at Music News. How are you?

I am very well, thanks!

For those of our readers who may not know who you are, please can you introduce yourself?

Sure. I am Marcus, live music lover, 35 years of age and live in Berlin. I am the founder and CEO of gigmit since 2012. For those who haven’t heard of it, gigmit is one of the front row platforms in Europe to support festivals and clubs for booking artists. On gigmit, there are more than 100,000 bands and DJs as well as 7,500 festivals.

How did you get into working in the music industry and what are the various positions you have held over the course of your career?

I started promoting my first show at the age of 15. It was a hip-hop show with friends from school and their mates from the record stores playing. Since that time, I have been putting on shows for several clubs and concert halls in Germany over 15 years and even founded a non-profit initiative to start a 5,000 capacity culture and arts festival which I have been organized over 8 years and could successfully hand it over to great people that are still running it. With all that experience in mind, I felt that technology can do more to support artists and festivals or clubs which is why gigmit has been born and is still developing towards making booking shows as easy as possible.

Let’s talk about the Innovation Network of European Showcases (INES). Can you explain the idea behind this amazing initiative?

After a few years of gigmit up and running, I have seen more and more festivals using gigmit from other countries outside Germany, such as Liverpool Sound City, Ment Festival Ljubljana, Westway Lab in Portugal or WAVES in Vienna. They have one thing in common: They are showcase festivals. Inspired by SXSW in Austin or Eurosonic, The Great Escape or Reeperbahn Festivals they want to present the newest talent out of their home country or different other countries in front of the top players of their national music industry. Usually, there is a conference connected that adds amazing knowledge-transfer and networking opportunities. I decided to visit these festivals and explore more about them. What I found out that all are fabulous in their national markets but there is huge potential for a European perspective and broader exchange. Luckily, a few years later we got financial support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union which enabled us to kick-off the initiative to easier connect artists and music industry all over Europe.

How long has INES been running for and how was the idea initially conceived?

INES started in 2018 with 8 festivals in 8 different European countries and has been growing since to an extent of 22 festivals in 22 different countries. I am super excited about that development. The project has several support actions: The biggest one is our INES talent programme were all festival partners choose every year the 3-10 most promising acts of their country. These acts will be higher recognised from the bookers of all participating festivals as they have a certain quota to book from this pool but not just that: The talents get better conditions and pay for their gigs. This is not normal at showcase festivals and we are proud to support development towards better payment for artists. Another action is the INES#pro which gives music professionals the chance to take part in the conferences of the showcase festivals to network and built cross-border relationships to other music professionals. There are open calls for this participation that can be found on as well as the artists that have been selected.

What is the relationship between INES and the online booking platform gigmit, to which you are CEO?

When I explored the festivals first it was because they used gigmit to find new talent and manage their bookings through one channel instead of Facebook and emails and calls and physical mail. These discoveries made the connections happen but there is more: At gigmit, we have the vision to connect all artists out there with all sorts of events as easy as possible. For us at gigmit, it is so important to show transparently when does which festival open their bookings and which type of artists they are looking for. On the other side, it is very important to streamline the whole artist discovery and booking process for festivals. So this is how we got involved with gigmit in the whole project. On the one side, we are working on improving the platform for the use of all festivals and on the other side, we give all artists or their representatives the overview which festival is happening when and give everybody the chance to apply with a few clicks.

You must be very passionate about creating new opportunities for up and coming musicians?

Since I started as a concert promoter, this has always been my passion and my job. I love to see how artists can grow internationally and that I actually can support that. My great team and I are working hard on finding and developing the best pieces in the puzzle to actually support both artists and promoters (such as festivals and clubs in particular) every day!

What are some of the biggest challenges you think face young artists trying to break into the music industry?

First of all, I think there is a huge lack of education and knowledge. I am not saying that to state that every artist, manager or festival booker is stupid. I am saying that because I came across so many great artists and great events that are trying hard to reach and built an audience and invested a lot of money but often without the great results. Since streaming has become the medium of how to consume music and Facebook how to inform about events, there are no local barriers anymore. This means all artists face somehow global competition and it becomes harder and harder to get gigs or earn money out of what you do. I think this is not something artists or music professionals should become depressive about: I feel the chances out of that to build a great independent career have never been better but to get there maybe never been harder. That said, I believe that artists need to work on their greatness first. A unique musical vision, an outstanding stage performance, a clear idea what you want to do as an artist and what not, focus on the specific territory(s) that make the most sense and a HUGE AMOUNT OF WORK (like applying for new gigs every day and not just once) are the ingredients of the successes I have seen.

What’s your vision for INES over the next five years?

There is one thing we believe in: To connect the whole European music industry and artists to think of a European market instead of a French or German or British music market. We are not in all European countries yet. So we work on that. Another part is the educational part: We are developing the technology behind INES in a way that artists find out where to play based on where their fans are or where they have listeners. It is like a handrail. A bit of guidance out there. We are very excited that technology can do a lot here and we try to implement that as much as possible. We would like to see more successful concerts and less empty stages all over Europe!

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us, Marcus.

Thank you for your interest. I am very happy to share these insights. :)