W.A.S. Entertainment, formerly known as We Are Suburban, is an artist management and company that continues to branch out in support of their artists. Offering a holistic approach, W.A.S. Entertainment has recently expanded to offer label, publishing, A&R and even booking services meeting the needs of their artists, whatever those may be.
Built on tolerance, a sense of community and inclusion, W.A.S. enables their artists to achieve their potential without sacrificing authenticity. Seeking to spread their message of inclusion and positivity through their content, the entertainment company is known for working with diverse, femme, and LGBTQ+ artists who have important stories to tell.
Learn more about W.A.S. Entertainment in our discussion with founder Jakob Løkkegaard, below.
2020 has finally come to an end. How are you doing? How have you personally survived 2020?
2020 has been strange. Tragic, frustrating, and full of insecurity and anxiety in the music industry and the world in general. But for us personally, it has somehow been the year where we’ve been able to really manifest our company. This comes down to our amazing artists who, despite having had zero live-activity due to the lockdown, have managed to establish themselves this year. Together with our artists, I believe we’ve been able to adapt quickly and be as proactive as possible.
So to sum it all up: A year full of contrast.
What have you been up to as of late?
Actually 2021 started just as dramatic as 2020. The Danish government put our country into lockdown once again due to the British virus mutation. All concerts in January and February were cancelled, and we were yet again forced to work from home. Not the ideal way to kickstart 2021.
However, 2021 also brought some good news! For example, our artist Brimheim was chosen as “Ugens Uundgåelige” (Inevitable of the week) at Denmark’s biggest radio station. So it’s been a crazy start to the year with a lot of fluctuations.
You were formerly known as We Are Suburban but have recently rebranded. What brought on the change?
From January 2017 until August 2019, I (Jakob) solely ran We Are Suburban as a boutique artist management company. However, since our artists weren’t getting signed to Danish record labels, I decided to release their music on my own.
The new name and entire rebranding was due to me partnering up with Hisham Maroun (Label/Publishing Manager) and Mathias Bang (A&R) in August 2019. Suddenly, we were able to expand our roster and able to work more holistically. It has always been my biggest wish to create a music company that could facilitate artist development in the best way possible. In my opinion, this can be achieved through:
- Creative, Strategic and Financial Guidance
- Distribution, Promotion & Marketing
- Rights Collection, Synchronization & Fundraising
W.A.S. Entertainment now offers all these things. We are a small tight-knit group of six employees, as well as a couple of interns, who help our artists with all the above mentioned. So, we thought it made sense to lose the premature name (We Are Suburban).
However, it’s very important to mention that we are not necessarily signing our artists to both management, label & publishing. Sometimes it makes sense for us to be involved in all aspects. In other circumstances we seek international collaborations. For instance, we have just signed Rebecca Lou on to a super cool UK record label but we will still handle her management and publishing.
We hear you’re expanding! What’s on the horizon for W.A.S. Entertainment?
We have a lot of new interesting things in the pipeline for 2021. We believe we are now in a position where we will be able to expand further and strengthen our business model for the benefit of our artists. For example, we’ve hired a Head of Synchronization to ensure that our catalogue is featured in movies, ads and games. Basically, we expand as we discover our artists’ needs.
Recently, we began booking in-house because some of our artists suddenly became ‘in demand.’ We didn’t have agents for them, so we just did it ourselves. You can say that we’re expanding and evolving together with our artists.
Last but not least, we are constantly trying to expand our network outside of Scandinavia. So, finding a good UK publicist for a long term collaboration is also on the radar.
What are your goals when working with a new artist? What are your first steps in the creative process?
Our first step is always to listen to the artist. Who are they? What brought them into this crazy business? Where do they see themselves in 20 years? Which artists do they idolize and draw inspiration from? Simply gather as much information as possible. On this basis, we can start asking ourselves the following questions:
- Which key markets will we focus on?
- Which gatekeepers are the most important in order to break this artist?
- How do we work on the current songs and productions so we can achieve these ambitions?
- Are we gonna rely heavily on social media, and in that case which social media?
- Does the artist need assistance regarding their visual appearance?
We call it ‘building the artist’s brand.’ This usually takes a long time, and the artist has to be patient. But since we do not have the resources to make any mistakes, we need to be thorough and on top of everything. When we have a strategy, the hard work begins and when the right time comes, the music is released.
How do you balance supporting and advising an artist while also maintaining their authenticity?
Our philosophy is that the artists are right about 90% of the time. Our job is to hear them out and see whether we are the right fit to fulfill their ambitions. We are not here to change the artists. We are here to help out, to facilitate the right environment, and to enable the artist to grow.
But we do have opinions – whether this has to do with choice of singles, artwork or even the amount of cowbell in the final mix. However, we experience that we, due to our thoroughness in the first steps, often end up agreeing with the artist most of the time. Last but not least, we are just lucky to work with extremely talented and bright individuals. So, it’s actually quite easy to trust their gut. The more authentic the better.
With your emphasis on using music for positive change, how have you seen music impact the world this past year?
Music is super powerful as a means of expression and it often ends up connecting people in subcultures because they use it as an identity marker. However, the past year showed us that music can connect a whole country. In Denmark, during the first lockdown, our national TV Danmark’s Radio hosted sing-alongs every night with live videos of people all over Denmark joining in on the song. You couldn’t help but feel a strong bond to the rest of the country through these sing-alongs. A quite moving and powerful initiative.
On a darker note, last year was also a year, where Denmark experienced a 2nd wave of the Me Too movement – this time with the entertainment industry as the epicenter. The underrepresentation of female, trans and non-binary writers, producers and songwriters in Denmark is horrific and what they experience in regards to superficial comments on their looks and age, for example, is just as terrible. I believe when too many white, privileged men are making decisions, they tend to favor the familiar and consequently the power balance gets twisted.
A lot of artists participated in the debate and shared their stories of sexual harassment and descrimination in the industy, and it was sad to realize the extent of the conditions – but also incredibly necessary. After hearing their stories, we couldn’t just sit on our hands and wait for the large music corporations to do something. So we decided to host an online conference where we gathered the entire Danish music industry on Zoom to discuss how to bring about change. We are not near the finish line – this is cultural change that needs to happen and therefore one of the biggest focus areas of ours in 2021 as well.
W.A.S. Entertainment is built upon inclusion and giving a mic to those who need and deserve to be heard. Can you share some examples of artist campaigns, or organizations you’d recommend, that directly support and advocate for these underrepresented communities?
In general, we have a lot of really cool organizations and initiatives going on in Denmark right now, one of which is the online based community called “Musikbevægelsen af 2019.” It’s a community for female, non-binary and transpersons involved in the music business, and it’s all about sharing, caring and showing support for each other.
The community was really important during the 2nd wave of Me Too, where these underrepresented artists really stood up for each other. They are so good at promoting and hyping each other’s music, which is extremely important since radio, streaming services and other large gatekeepers continue to favor male artists. It’s always been important for us as a company to hand the mic over to minorities so that’s definitely reflected in our roster, and many of our own artists are a part of Musikbevægelsen as well. We also like working with these artists because they often have more to say with their music, which is a large motivation for us.
Is there a particular song or album we should check out that speaks to the LGBTQ+ community?
We are fortunate to be able to work with some very strong representatives from the Danish LGBTQ+ community, including Reveal Party, Brimheim, Rebecca Lou & girlcrush. To choose between these would be like choosing between your children. However, we just released girlcrush debut-ep this fall and the entire EP is one strong LGBTQ+ statement. I think everyone with affiliation with the LGBTQ+ community should check it out. Could also come in handy if you’re a white, straight, cis-person who just want’s to expand your horizon.
How would you encourage an artist to best position themselves to get signed?
If you wanna be signed by W.A.S. Entertainment, you should first and foremost have wonderful songs (preferably written by yourself) and next, you should have a clear image of where you wanna be as an artist five, ten, fifteen years into the future. It’s not our job to create your ambitions. Our job is to help you fulfill them. Last but not least, we like artists, who have something at heart – and the willingness to open up through their music.
Tell us about a few artists we should check out.
Besides girlcrush, my shout out will go to Brimheim, who has been riding somewhat of a hype-wave since we released her debut-ep ‘Myself Misspelled’ in the fall of 2020. Also, keep an eye on Rebecca Lou, who is working on new material, which sounds absolutely amazing and is totally different from her previous work. It will be out soon. We also just signed the cutest couple duo Lil Cat. They are Bedroom Poppers through and through. They do, genuinely, write, record and mix their songs in their bedroom. They have an EP on the way, so stay tuned.
Outside of the W.A.S. family, I recently discovered an experimental lo-fi singer/songwriter called Helena Gao (DK) who I really enjoyed. And Beabadoobee’s debut album was constantly playing back when we were allowed to work at our office.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about W.A.S. Entertainment?
Just that we are eager to come out of lockdown, explore more great music and meet new friends.