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People - 16.08.2021 - 00:00

"As a band, we’re a start-up as well"

What can companies learn from the music and film industries? How are creative industries organised? These are the questions that Andreas Schwendener asks in his doctoral thesis. The business economist conducts research at the Institute for Systemic Management and Public Governance. Also, the 30-year-old has been living his creative side as the percussionist of the St.Gallen electropop band WE ARE AVA.

16 August 2021. With Andreas Schwendener, science and music pervade each other: he conducts research into creative industries, particularly the music industry, and as a musician has an insight into this world himself. Together with Kim Lemmenmeier and Nicola Holenstein, he forms the band WE ARE AVA.

The band as business

The first time that Andreas Schwendener, Kim Lemmenmeier and Nicola Holenstein made music together was in 2018, at a jam session organised by the HSG’s music association Amplify. The session went so well that the three decided to take a week off and make music together in a farmhouse. All the band members have studied business administration. They benefit from this, they say, both in accountancy and marketing, as well as with regard to organisation. They keep on reflecting on how they would like to organise themselves as a band, says Andreas Schwendener. They invest a great deal of energy and time in marketing their own music – time and energy they would prefer to spend on music. However, the music business no longer works without self-promotion and presence in social media. “It’s also something special to create the band’s T-shirts yourself or to produce your own videos. This is also a creative process,” says Schwendener.

Performance at concerts – a back-breaking job

Travelling from concert to concert together in the tour bus and enjoying the rockstar glamour – ideas and reality are miles apart in the music industry. People who want to be successful as musicians today have to have a good network and be able to market themselves. “If we’ve learnt something as a band: we’re a kind of art firm, a start-up,” says Schwendener. “Unfortunately, the rockstar world in which you make music together and with a bit of luck get booked, doesn’t exist.” Performing at concerts and generating public attention as a young band is a back-breaking job. Marketing yourself as a band requires a great deal of administration, numerous e-mails every day and regular communication between the band members.

Working in networks

In his doctoral thesis, Andreas Schwender is investigating the common denominators of the music and film industries: How do the music and film industries organise themselves? Can conclusions be drawn from creative industries for cooperation in classic enterprises? Research on the music industry, how it works and how it is organised, is still a rarity. The music industry is organised in networks, says Schwendener. In a way similar to that of the film, those involved organise themselves around certain projects and take charge of the core areas of business, creativity, label, production, graphics and text. With his band WE ARE AVA, the percussionist got acquainted with the music industry at first hand. He adds that he always has to discuss things with outsiders in order to be able to preserve a neutral perspective in his research. Appraisals from a different angle, for instance by somebody from the health industry, are greatly enriching for his research on the music industry.

Reality is not a model

In any case, the doctoral student likes interdisciplinary work. His Master’s studies on Management, Organizational Studies and Cultural Theory had an influence on him in this respect. Students’ backgrounds included a wide variety of disciplines such as ethnology, philosophy and business administration. “Thus the world can be understood in a more integrative way. More opinions and different perspectives are more likely to do justice to complexity. It’s enriching if a philosopher joins the discussion, even though it can be more strenuous,” says Schwendener. After all, reality is not a model built from success steps and strength/weakness analyses. He became aware of this while working in a bank and in a rehabilitation clinic. For him, management means discussion and discourse: How do we work together? Why in this form rather than another? How much hierarchy is required in a company? Do old structures continue to live nonetheless under the surface of a holacracy, i.e. an organisation without classic hierarchies?

First album produced during corona

Andreas Schwendener is celebrating his 30th birthday this year and has been making music for about 20 years. “I started to play the drums when I was ten; before that, I’d been hitting pan lids,” says Schwendener, laughing. Last year, all the planned performances were cancelled. Live performances at the Openair St.Gallen, at Lumnezia and Quellrock would have been on the programme. “To begin with, we plunged into some sort of limbo,” says Schwendener. However, the band used the time to record its first album: 60 days in the studio resulted in Inner Gardening. Without being distracted by live performances and interviews, the band had ample time for creativity to develop new music during corona.

WE ARE AVA’s album will be released on 10 September. The release party will take place in St.Gallen’s Grabenhalle on 17 September. Further information and music: www.weareava.ch

Text: Sabrina Rohner

Photo: Kasimir Höhener

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