SSSO Berlin Feature#28: Meike Nolte
The shesaidso Berlin team speaks to Meike Nolte, Artist Relations & Partnerships Manager @ Beatport
Music has always been a passion of mine. When I was a child, I started to record mixtapes from the radio and my Walkman was my best friend. I partly grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I would spend all of my pocket money on pirated tapes and copied CDs from the Chinese market. Unfortunately there was no real scene with subcultures or leftfield tastes. You had to listen to what you could get.
I would go to the magazine section at the mall and write down the top 100 album lists onto a notepad. Then I would go to the Chinese market to ask for the albums that sounded interesting or that I had heard about. There was no way to pre-listen. I would spend all of my pocket money, hoping that there was some good music in my selection. I ended up with a huge collection of tapes. Most were pretty middle-of-the-road and once in a while you found something you really loved.
When I was 16, we moved back to Hamburg, where I finished high school. By that time I I was mainly into hardcore and alternative. Now my money didn’t just go towards CDs — I also tried to go to as many concerts as possible.
In 1997, I moved to Berlin to study Business Administration at the TU. I was heavily into Drum & Bass then, and my best friend and I would regularly go to Icon for the Recycled nights and to WMF for hard:edged. It was all about the music and dancing. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing my favourite DJs from London. I was often one of the first people to arrive at the nightclub and one of the last people to leave.
At some point I got introduced to one of the promoters of hard:edged, Metro (who now runs Watergate), through a mutual friend. At the time, the event was at the WMF club, and I probably ended up going almost every weekend. Since I often went alone to the parties, I befriended some of the staff at the club, especially Philipp, who worked at the cloakroom. His brother was one of the resident DJs of the house and techno party Nighteffect. One time Philipp asked me to step in for a coworker that didn’t show up for work. This basically started my career in the music industry.
I regularly started to work at the house and techno parties at WMF while I was still finishing university. You could find me at the cloakroom either at work or reading my uni books while listening to the music. This is also when my personal music taste changed from drum & bass to techno and electro. The club also had a small record label, WMF Records, which released music by Ben E. Clock (now known as Ben Klock), Mitte Karaoke, Dixon and other artists that regularly performed at the club. When I was almost finished with my studies, I interned at the label in the promo department while simultaneously writing my thesis on marketing strategies in the music industry and working at the guest list of the club on the weekends.
After I graduated from uni, I didn’t really know what to do. I had tried to get internships at Universal and Mute but it didn’t work out. I then interned at a big advertising agency, Scholz & Friends, and at the marketing department of Langnese/Unilever. But both didn’t fulfill me and I couldn’t picture myself working in such big companies for brands and products I wasn’t passionate about.
At the same time, I became friends with Benno Blome, who was running a small label, Sender Records. He needed help with promotion and booking and I loved the music he was putting out. So in 2004 I started at Sender Records as a Promoter & Booker. A year later I moved over to the PR company Das Promotion and promoted records by Matthew Herbert, Nouvelle Vague, Sven Väth, Jennifer Cardini and many others, while also setting up my own booking agency, Pointer.
One of our PR clients was Richie Hawtin. He had just moved to Berlin and had one of the most hyped labels at the time. Rich decided that he wanted to stay in Berlin and moved over the label from Windsor, Canada. In 2006, I started to work full-time as Richie’s and Minus’s publicist. The team was tiny and we worked out of Richie’s flat. He really is a true visionary and pioneer and the Minus family was very special and the events legendary, like the Beatstreet party at a bunker in Charlottenburg.
In 2009, I gave up my booking agency and moved on to work for BPitch Control. I was fortunate to work on albums like Paul Kalkbrenner’s Berlin Calling, the last Telefon Tel Aviv album, the first mix CD by Seth Troxler and the debut albums by Moderat and Dillon. A lot of these artists are still very close to my heart. It is amazing to see talents grow and being part of their artistic journey.
After almost 4 years at BPitch, I decided I needed a change. I was a bit over doing PR, constantly chasing deadlines and people. 2012 was the year that streaming services started in Germany. I applied for a job at WiMP Music, now Tidal, as Marketing Manager. It was the first application I had to send out in almost 10 years. It was extremely exciting to work for such a growing industry. It totally changed the way the music business operates.
When streaming first launched in Germany, the attitude towards it was very skeptical. Germans do not like online subscriptions, nor do they like to set up online payment. The internet landscape also isn’t that advanced, plus Germany was very protective of their very high physical sales.
A year after I started at WiMP, our general manager exited the company and left me in charge of the Berlin office. I learned so much at WiMP, totally new aspects of doing business and music marketing. Streaming totally changes the life cycle of a release and the music consumption of the consumer. In 2015, Jay Z bought Tidal. We were very excited — not so much after he instantly shut down three European offices, including Berlin.
I then moved on to work at a speaker company, Raumfeld/Teufel, for a few months. There I was again doing PR and I realised it wasn’t my passion anymore. After this very short detour, I started at Beatport in 2016 as a label manager, and a year later I moved into the Artist Relations & Partnerships team. I work closely with artists, plus their managers, bookers, publicists and other external partners. We are a pretty small team of just two people and responsible for booking artists for our social media features and marketing campaigns. I also work closely with software and hardware partners.
This year will definitely be the most exciting at Beatport, as we are entering the streaming market with a professional solution for DJs. It will be very interesting to see how technology will transform how DJs play. Exciting times!
The one thing I regret is that I did not pursue my own PR agency further. But not everybody is made for freelance work and I didn’t want to promote music I wasn’t personally into. I love working in a team and also seeing a long-term effect of my work.
Working singles for six weeks, chasing deadlines and only working with an artist on one release was not for me. That is why I mainly worked at labels that I personally loved. This enabled me to work more long-term and really help artists to grow. This is also what I am doing at Beatport, establishing long-term relationships with meaning.
I love to work with artists and support them in every possible way. It is extremely satisfying to see an artist that you believe in flourish. I am also trying to be a good role model for younger women in the industry. Some of my goals are to get out of my comfort zone more — for example, speaking at bigger conferences. And obviously I hope that I will always be passionate about my job and work in an industry that I love.
Personal advice to the new generation of woman who would like to make their career in the music industry:
Follow your dreams, do what makes you happy and what you believe in. Things often happen for a reason and things will always go forward. Be open and professional. Don’t let people tell you what you cannot do. Know your worth. You are capable of much more than you think.
Set goals for yourself and know what you want to achieve. Never be arrogant or treat people disrespectfully; never think that you are better than others. Make sure to stay healthy and be mindful of a good work/life balance — this is more important than you might think. Stay hungry, curious and focussed. Be present and open to the world and people around you.