Q&A with Dutch publicist Hans Broere, having been in the music business for a quarter century

"Regardless of genres, music can be a way of addressing racial or other problems. Does it have any effect? I’m not sure but it defnitely doesn’t hurt expressing your thoughts and feelings. Does it matter anyway what colour your skin is? We all bleed red! Do we need to agree on everything? I don’t think so. It’s okay to disagree, to have your own opinion, as long as you don’t enter extremist territory."

Hans Broere: Let The Good Times Roll

Dutch publicist Hans Broere is the owner of Broere Promotion. Having been in the music business for a quarter century, a.o. working as a publicist for a record company and one of Europe’s biggest distribution companies, there's plenty of experience. Also, former co-owned a renowned Dutch alt. blues/roots label. Personal preference is blues/roots related music, but having worked with acts such as Echo & The Bunnymen, Lou Rhodes, Solomon Burke, Ryan Adams, Thomas Dybdahl, John Prine, Ian Siegal, Janis Ian, Beef, Matt Andersen, Eric Bibb, The Hoax, Billy Bragg, Julian Cope, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, Dana Fuchs, Joan Armatrading and many others, musical styles are not that important. As long as there’s belief in both artist and product.

Hans says: "I'm music fan in the first place. I do press/web promotion and radio/TV. Focus will be on relevant music magazines, news papers, webzines, national and regional radio and possibly even TV. Reviews will be chased, interviews set up. Looking for a label or distribution company? I might be able to help out. Your act on tour? Dates will be promoted. As they say so brilliantly at Six Shooter Records in Canada: "Life's too short to listen to shitty music." Couldn't agree more, so let's promote the good stuff!"

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the music Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I’m not sure if it influenced my views of the world much but it has definitly changed my life. I gave up the so called suit and tie thing for the music business early nineties. At first it felt a bit like a dream come true working in the music industry. First for a renowned bluesrock label, then a big distribution company, before starting my own promo office. So over the years I’ve been promoting hundreds of acts in various genres, been organising press days, attending conferences, giving PR workshops and obviously attended many concerts and festivals. Guess it becomes a way of life, although nowadays, after more than a quarter century in the business I mainly focus on the office and don’t travel that much anymore.

How started the thought of Broere Promotion and label? How do you describe your mission and philosophy?

It all started while working at a distribution company, where we represented tons of labels so had a lot of acts to promote. When some label owners asked if I knew someone to do some additional promo work for their acts because we had al lot (read: too much) on our plate, I replied with the counter question “would you consider hiring me if I started my own office?” After some said yes I started Broere Promotion. There’s no label by the way but between 2005 and 2010 I co-owned the alt blues/roots label Cool Buzz with Mischa den Haring (of NL’s finest rootsrockers T-99). The mission is simple. Work with cool acts, create as much media attention as possible and raise their profiles by doing so. Preferably working with decent people because you’re taking quite a long journey together. It’s way more fun when you connect with people on a certain level, have a little fun along the way because (although rent needs to be paid) I’m not in it for the money.                        (Photo: Hans Broere & Solomon Burke, The Netherlands 2007)

"Trust yourself and no one else? No lessons in particular really. It’s just less informal at certain levels than the corporate world and definitely not what some people think. So not exacly the “sex & drugs and Rock ’n roll” cliche. It’s hard work for most, trying to make a living out of it."

What is the hardest part as a publicist? Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences for you?

The hardest part is never being satisfied, always wanting more and sometimes seeing acts go big, while the acts you’re working with (in your opnion) are better... But also the media landscape has obviously been changing quite a bit over the years. A lot of traditional media, like music magazines are suffering so sometimes when you offer interviews you get the question if you’re going to place an advert as well. Also a lot of specialist shows on national radio have disappeared or are now aired on smaller stations. In general it hasn’t become any easier. Obviously there’s a lot more happening online these days and with social media there’s more promotional options again.

I don’t think there’s been a most important experience by the way but working with the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, Solomon Burke, Eric Bibb, Duke Robillard, Kid Ramos, Kim Wilson, Guy Davis, Doug MacLeod, Ian Siegal, The Hoax, Popa Chubby and many others has been interesting. In my time at the distribution company I met up with a lot of acts outside the blues scene as well, like Joan Armatrading, Echo & The Bunnymen, Janis Ian, John Prine, Julian Cope, Bacon Brothers (with Kevin Bacon, the actor), Ryan Adams etc. Interesting, to say the least.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Well, I may be becoming an old fart (can I say that here?) but I don’t miss a thing. Try to look at the present mainly, am not looking back too much. Each period has something interesting to offer and there’s not enough hours in the day anyway. I’m a music fan, not just a blues fan and thinking you know a lot of or about music is silly, because there’s is always a lot more to discover. Regarding hopes and fears, I could say that I hope the traditional record store will always stay. CD’s and vinyl won’t disappear. There’s always going to be good music to promote so there’s no “fear” in that respect but I’m not a huge fan of digital music files so hopefully music fans will keep buying albums on CD and vinyl and preferably in actual stores, not online.

"I’m not exactly a blues purist but I’d definitely like to go back to the heydays of Wolf and Muddy. Some of the folks that electrified the Blues. Or see Robert Johnson or Son House perform at some juke joint. Wouldn ’t mind to see The Ramones and/or Nirvana though either!" (Photo: Hans Broere of Broere Promotion, radio producer Paul Harvey, and blues/roots musician Ian Siegal, The Netherlands).

Make an account of the case of the blues in the Netherlands Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

Well, I don’t believe in “the best or most interesting” really. There’s always interesting acts, regardless of periods. Even under the radar sometimes. Acts that might not get the attention they deserve. When they are interesting enough and persistent though, they might make it anyway. It just might take longer. What’s considered most interesting is also personal, a matter of taste. I was already a fan of Cool Buzz acts like Drippin’ Honey, T-99, Cuban Heels for instance, before I co-owned the label. But that would be overlooking older bands like Cuby & The Blizzards and Barrelhouse for instance that were big here.

Why do you think that the Blues/Roots music continues to generate such a devoted following in Europe?

Does it? I’m not sure. Audiences seem to get older and youngsters seem to care less. There’s a lot of other things keeping them occupied too. People, young ones in particular, have shorter attention spans these days. Of course there’s exceptions but how many kids buy albums nowadays? They are more interested in certain songs. Also for a short period of time and then there’s the next favourite again. Surely there’s still young people going to festivals etc. but if you go to a blues festival or show the audience on average is somewhat older. Obviously depending on which festival or act you go to. Back in the Cool Buzz days we tried to shake up the scene a bit. Mainly signed young, energetic acts, some crossing over into other (mostly roots related) territory. A lot of people may think that Blues is boring, depressing stuff but there’s plenty bands delivering exciting, energetic or soulful music to dance to. Purists may not like it but I think festivals should offer a lot of variety in styles to keep it interesting and to keep large numbers of people going to them.

"The mission is simple. Work with cool acts, create as much media attention as possible and raise their profiles by doing so. Preferably working with decent people because you’re taking quite a long journey together." (Photo: Hans Broere)

What is the impact of the Blues and Roots music on the racial and socio-cultural implications?

Regardless of genres, music can be a way of addressing racial or other problems. Does it have any effect? I’m not sure but it defnitely doesn’t hurt expressing your thoughts and feelings. Does it matter anyway what colour your skin is? We all bleed red! Do we need to agree on everything? I don’t think so. It’s okay to disagree, to have your own opinion, as long as you don’t enter extremist territory.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music business?

Trust yourself and no one else? No lessons in particular really. It’s just less informal at certain levels than the corporate world and definitely not what some people think. So not exacly the “sex & drugs and Rock ’n roll” cliche. It’s hard work for most, trying to make a living out of it.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Envy! What’s the point? Sometimes understandable when you see a lousy act become big but hey, your neighbour might be driving a bigger car than you. Who cares? I’d say keep doing what you do, put energy and heart in it, create the right team around you and try to reach the next level. Be persistent and don’t look at others too much.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I’m not exactly a blues purist but I’d definitely like to go back to the heydays of Wolf and Muddy. Some of the folks that electrified the Blues. Or see Robert Johnson or Son House perform at some juke joint. Wouldn ’t mind to see The Ramones and/or Nirvana though either!

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