I am very privileged to bring you the information from a secret interview that took place at the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip, in LA! As I started out on this Thursday evening, there seemed to be a bit of magic in the air. The Sunset Strip was bustling as I made my way to the Rainbow Bar and Grill to meet one of the most interesting people in the Metal Music World today. I would like to thank John Finberg for his time with this interview.
John Finberg is one of the partners in Foo King Entertainment which is North American Management for Nightwish. His booking agency,Â First Row Talent, is the North American booking agent for Nightwish, Kamelot, Epica, Sabaton, Re-Vamp and many other metal bands all over North America, Canada and Asia. He is also the sole owner of a website called Enterthevault.com, an internet ticket sales site. In addition to running all of these businesses, John has some other very interesting endeavors on the horizon.
As I approached the Rainbow, I saw John on the phone in the middle of negotiations, which is what he does 24/7. I went inside and secured a table on this busy Thursday night, before John joined me for the interview. I was not sure what to expect as he is a very powerful force in the music industry. But I was pleasantly surprised to find him to be a down to earth person and one of the nicest people you will ever meet in this industry.
The Interview went like this…
AJ: Was there a defining moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
I never wanted to work for anybody, the music business is probably the only job where you can start out self- employed and remain that way your whole life. I donâ€™t take directions very well, if you want me to do something, tell me to do the opposite. I canâ€™t work for anyone, I have to be my own boss and I wanted to travel the world constantly, do a ton of things that I always wanted to do.
AJ:Â You have a Booking Agency and Online Ticket Company tell us about that.
I started booking bands at a club called the Cellblock in Philadelphia. While I was booking the club, I met a booking agent who wanted to partner with me to start booking tours. I worked out of his house in South Philadelphia and started to book tours myself during the day using his fax machine. I called a bunch of Managers and quickly got a few bands. So I worked at his house during the day booking tours and at the Cellblock overseeing the bands at night. Then the Cellblock burned down. The guy I was working with during the day became the first agent for Type O Negative and got a job offer at a big agency and I told him I couldnâ€™t go with him.
I called around and finally got a call from a contact in Michigan who said they were looking for Agents. I was there for about 9 months and while I was there I signed the band Machine Head. From there, I got a job offer to work with someone to start an LA office of a San Francisco based Agency, but my partner was a huge drug addict and that did not work out. Then a friend of mine who was the manager for Type O Negative said letâ€™s partner up in New York. So I left LA and drove to New York. After being in New York for a while I found out that my guy doing the finances was not paying the bands and taking the money, and being investigated by the Attorney Generalâ€™s Office. The AG called me one night and told me it would be better if I left and didnâ€™t come back. So I called my partner and said, â€œThe Attorney Generalâ€™s office called, is this some kind of joke?â€ My partner said no, Iâ€™m coming to meet you at the office, donâ€™t leave. Knowing his violent nature, I took my book of contacts and left.
I got in the car and drove back to LA. I had a friend in LA who was an agent and, during my drive to LA, convinced me to start my own company. He said he would help me get started and he even helped me think of the company name. I drove across country really slow, and basically called all my clients and said â€œIâ€™m going to LA; are you with me or not and thatâ€™s how the LA booking agency started.
In December 2003, I picked up Nightwish and I booked a tour for them in September 2004. Their ticket prices were really high and I knew services charges were going up. I talked to the management of the band knowing that they would go out on tour in 2007 to support a new record. I wanted to hatch this way to sell tickets and not charge outrageous service charges. Knowing that they were going out in 2007, I built the site [enterthevault.com] with the anticipation to sell tickets for their tour.
We launched the site in December of 2006 and tour went on sale right after the new year of 2007 and it was ready for their tour in Fall 2007. In the Spring of 2007, the Nightwish managers asked me to go to Amsterdam for a meeting where they asked me to partner with them and form the North American management company together, where we would manage the band in the US and North America. This gave me the chance to not only have input in more business decisions, but it made me even more motivated because now we were partners in a management company and it was the best thing for the band. Then I started booking other tours around Nightwish, but the original conception of the ticket site was built for the Nightwish tours.
AJ:Â How did you learn about Nightwish?
I was in Thailand and I saw a video of a song on MTV Asia in my hotel room, back when MTV played videos and thought this is really good. So I emailed everyone I knew and asked if they knew who this band was and this guy who used to be my friend got me in touch with the manager. While I was in Thailand I reached out to the manager, and after only one email exchange, I was hired as their North American booking agent.
Oddly enough, when I sold the tour, I didn’t know what it was going to be like and it turned out to be a huge tour! Then, when I became partners in the management company, it was great because not only do I book the tours but I have more input in crews and merchandise items. As an agent your goal is to make as much money for your band as possible, but as a Manager the goal is to focus on the best situation for the band.
I am working on the 2015 tour and looking at different types of venues for the band.
AJ:Â What is your advice to new bands?
Hire a manager and build a good team.
AJ:Â What is your favorite part of your job?
Traveling, I actually get homesick when I am home. I love to be able to travel and see the world
AJ:Â What was the recent defining moment in your life?
Well basically, I book the band Ministry and in 2012, I found out on Christmas that Mike Scaccia, their guitar player, died on stage of a heart attack and it was hardening of the arteries which is a condition I have â€“ high cholesterol. I was in an internet cafÃ© in the center of Bangkok searching for the cause of death on the Internet and when I found the words, ’cause of death revealed’, I clicked on it and the words rose up off the screen like some kind of message to me. I knew that I needed to slow down and start enjoying my life. He was only a couple years older then me and we have the same condition. So I needed to make some changes. There was a time when I was booking eight, nine, ten tours at once and I had seven more waiting; the work would pile on top of itself.
I took some of the headaches out of my life, some of my bands, and cut them loose.
I will move my business to a place where I can enjoy not having to be me. I can be whoever I want, a place that doesnâ€™t give a shit what I do. Some days I tell people I work in a post office other days a movie theater and they donâ€™t care.
I have re-worked my client list and narrowed it down to a few bands.
AJ:Â Tell us about your other endeavors.
The best bar of all time is located in Helsinki, with the best people and the best area, and I believe one of the best countries in Europe. And I own a part of it. The first time I walked in there I remember saying to myself, “I wished I owned this place”, and now I own a share of it with three partners. I will also have a business in Thailand, and a lot of other things going on.
AJ:Â What are some of your other favorite bands to work with and why?
Because of the friendships with band members that I have developed, I like bands like Kamelot, Epica, Overkill and Nightwish. I consider, Mark the guitar player from Epica, one of my best friends, and I am looking forward to the Epica tour this fall. The guitar player from Kamelot writes incredibly great songs constantly without ever running out of fresh ideas.
With Nightwish, when I go to Finland, I stay in a coffin at the keyboard playerâ€™s house, an actual coffin in the guest room. I had heard about it for years that the keyboard player has a basement like a Haunted House with an actual coffin that you sleep in. I am always the first one to ask for the coffin. The second guest room has horror music playing from the 30â€™s and 40â€™s when you flip the light switch. To find his house, you have to go to central Finland and I don’t even know if he has a physical address. Once you walk in there, you donâ€™t have to leave. Now I know why he never goes out, heâ€™s got everything he needs in that house.
AJ: What instrument would you play if you were onstage?
Drums! I enjoy the drums. I tried it when I was younger and really enjoyed it, but couldnâ€™t stick with it. I always wanted to be a drummer.
AJ:Â Tell us about the new Nightwish singer.
I did an interview prior to the last tour and I was asked my opinion about Annette [Olzon]. At the time, I gave my strong opinion that she connected really well with the fans.
But Floor [Jansen] can perform the older material the way it needs to be sung. She has the ability to sing the newer material in a way that it sounds better. She can change her voice in a weird way, where it could be six different people singing in the band. If you donâ€™t look at the stage, you can almost think that it is not the same person singing all those songs. Her voice goes from A to Z – Compared to A to F – It is like A to Z and then some and she connects well with the fans.
In the US Tour, which I saw the majority of, and with Floor I saw all the dates, she was a little nervous only for the first few shows.
But she is the hero singer of the band; everyone wants this girl to win. Floor came from a band that wasnâ€™t very big in America, two bands actually, and neither band were very big here and they were never high demand bands. However, at the Orlando show, there were people holding up banners with her name on it.
She went from a singer that was appreciated in most of the world to becoming a singer that people are very interested in as a symbol! I personally like Floor more than the last two singers on a friendly level. I am working on managing Floorâ€™s band Re-Vamp; she is great in Nightwish and who knows how big this band can get?
What did the members of Nightwish do to John on the new Nightwish – Showtime, StorytimeÂ DVD, a live performanceÂ at Wacken 2013? Be sure to check it out!
Slideshow Photos courtesy of personal cell phones; Photo at top courtesy of Wikimedia Commons author Cecil
#Nightwish #Kamelot #FloorJansen