Mike Ziemer is most known for his 11+ years of promoting concerts across the state of Texas both in venues and on a festival scale. His most notable festivals are South By So What?! and Unsilent Night Music Festival. Aside from promoting, Ziemer also runs an artist management company called Evolve Management, a record label called Third String Records, and is also the founder of a highly successful marketing company by the name of Z Interactive that he sold in 2010. As a successful entrepreneur of over a decade now, Ziemer is aiming to bring his knowledge of working in the music business, online marketing, and running a business to conferences and schools across the US. In addition, he is offering one-on-one mentoring sessions with individuals interested in seeking advice and guidance as well as bands looking for help finding the proper next steps to turn their passion into a career.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My name is Mike Ziemer, I run a few different companies called Third String Festivals, Third String Productions, Third String Records, and Evole Music Management. I randomly fell into this career when I was still in high school helping out friends in bands and now I’ve been doing it almost 12 years.
What drove you to choose your career path?
I was reviewing music and interviewing bands for an online webzine and some friends at school asked me to help “manage” their band and everything sort of fell into place and became a career over time.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
As I mentioned, it sort of just happened. I was never expecting to be able to have a career in music. I was actually planning to be an architect and was studying CAD (Computer Aided Design) so it definitely was cool to end up where I am. I learned everything I know along the way with help from some great mentors and trial and error.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
Most of my time is spent being the “face” of the companies and networking with people, emailing, phone calls, meetings, etc.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
People think the music industry is all fun, all glamorous, and not a lot of work. I would say we work in a fun industry, but it is A LOT of work, long hours, less sleep than most people, and all the risk falls on me. There’s no reset button. If things go wrong, you’re done.
What are your average work hours?
If I am awake, I am probably working. I respond to emails at all hours of the day and night, I take phone calls, I go to meetings, even when I’m out drinking or hanging out, I try to always be networking.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
There are no real shortcuts. You just have to be the best you can be and constantly be pushing to be better and better.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
I think I look at things more outside the box. I evaluate other companies, do research, see where they went wrong, and try to avoid those mistakes. I’ve learned a lot of people get way too brave and take chances they shouldn’t that ultimately ruin their careers. In this business “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” is a real thing. If you have a formula that works, expand on it, but don’t change it.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
I guess this would apply to bands trying to get my attention. Just don’t be forceful, understand there are thousands of bands, be professional. I can’t like every single song, sign every single band, and give everyone a chance to play a show. Just doesn’t work that way. If you get an opportunity be professional and leave a good impression.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
The worst part of the job is when things go wrong, because they do. I’ve had visions for festivals that I thought would do amazing and they haven’t. We’ve booked club shows that bomb. You just have to roll with the punches and keep growing as a person and a business. Always make sure the bands are paid, the fans are happy, and keep going.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
Seeing thousands of kids attend a festival that I’ve worked for a full year on is amazing. Having them approach me and thank me and tell me stories about the festivals and how they have changed their lives is amazing as well. I just love seeing everyone having such a great time at an event that I created and put every ounce of energy into.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
There is no set amount of money to expect to make. The harder you work, and more successful you become, the more you will make. You can’t enter this job assuming you’re gonna get rich. You get rich because you’re passionate, love the industry, and work your ass off to get there.
How do you move up in your field?
I think people move up by just working their ass off. I started all my companies and have grown them through establishing a great team and working as hard as we can to be the best we can be.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
Start at the ground level and understand that unpaid internships and real life experience are worth more at the start than a paycheck. The things you can learn from working side by side with someone such as myself can truly launch your career. There’s a lot of stuff you have to learn through experience that a textbook isn’t going to teach you.