Emily Gonneau: “I started La Nouvelle Onde to highlight and value the young professionals already doing amazing things on the ground”

French-British Emily Gonneau started her music industry career at EMI (London then Paris). She left to found Unicum Music, her own artist label, management and publishing company, and Nüagency, a digital communications agency advising artists, festivals and venues. She is the founder of La Nouvelle Onde, an organization identifying and highlighting the industry’s next generation execs, a JUMP Expert and member of MaMA’s editorial committee.

Moreover, she is an Associate Professor at Paris Sorbonne University, teaches Music Industry topics at Master level at EMIC and has authored “L’Artiste le Numérique et la Musique” (Surviving the Internet Jungle as an Artist), IRMA.

This is part of the interview I conducted before the pandemic exploded in Europe, therefore I will not be able to meet her in person this year, but I am looking forward for next year’s Mastering the Music Business event.

interview by Romanita Oprea

Emily Gonneau (crédit photo Ally Pitypang)

How would you describe your passion for music? 

Not my one and only, but certainly my first love.

What were the main challenges for you as an entrepreneur and how did you surpass them? 

There were many but I always considered them as opportunities:

– I was underestimated for being a woman in the industry, it gave me time and space to move under the radar without much pressure while gaining skills and experience

– I was on my own (at the beginning), it pushed me to learn to do everything myself when necessary but also calmly conduct difficult conversations when they occurred.

– I could only depend on myself to grow the business, it taught me to choose my clients and trust my instincts

– I became a mum, I helped me find a good work/life balance and organize my time as I suited me

– I grew my company and started hiring, it taught me to manage teams and create a healthy work environment.

What pieces of advice would you give to young artists that want to make it on the market in 2020-2021? (the top 5 golden rules)

  1. Find your voice and don’t waste time comparing yourself to other artists, especially if they are in a different place than you are.
  2. Be honest about your priorities (fame ? creative freedom ? peer recognition ? money? other ? in which order?), they will determine the timing and time frame of your strategy and outline which type of professional partners are best suited for you.
  3. Take your time and listen to your instincts.
  4. Surround yourself with good people (competent and kind) and you will go further than a genius with the wrong team.
  5. Take care of yourself by prioritizing your physical and mental health and phase out toxic people from your life.

What about for the artists that want to approach your label?

I sign very rarely because I have so many other activities (digital strategy agency Nüagency, associate professor at Sorbonne University, member of MaMA’s editorial committee, expert on the JUMP program, founder of La Nouvelle Onde…) and only commit to projects I can completely dedicate myself to.

So when I do, it’s because I have fallen in love with the music and know exactly how I want to work the artist’s music. I’m not restricted to any music genre (we’ve released contemporary music, trip-hop, French chanson, electronica and indie rock), but there has to be something unique about it and the way the artist creates and/or sees the world.

Please tell us more about your decision to launch La Nouvelle Onde and more about the program. 

It basically stemmed from the simple realization that if you are under 30 in the French music business, most of the industry doesn’t really see you because youth is still associated with inexperience and entry-level jobs and skills. Yet the day you turn 30, you are made to feel too old compared to the young blood coming through the ranks. It’s a catch 22 situation, all the more so if you are a woman or a person of color/minority.

So I started La Nouvelle Onde to highlight and value the young professionals already doing amazing things on the ground, with a whole process that ensures it doesn’t reproduce any of the existing biases in the industry:

  • there is only one call for written applications each year, no photographs, no peer nominations, there is a double filter in selecting the talents (mentors establish a top 5 for both women and men and send them onto the 10 person jury representing a full range of experiences and musical genres)
  • the whole selection process is gender equal : the 5 categories of the LNO Awards each reward both a man and a woman, the jury is 50% male and 50% female and so is the 30 under 30s list.

The 10 LNO Award winners are announced at MaMA and the complementary list of 30 under 30s is announced a month later. All 40 talents gain access to a year of training, essential tools (a professional photo portrait, books, training courses) and are invited to La Nouvelle Onde’s podcast, monthly meet-ups and partner events.

We also organize exclusive workshops on a variety of topics our partners specialize in (HR and recruiting, innovation, funding…), recommend the talents as speakers on panels, publish their individual portrait/interview on our website and share their main news/accomplishments on a monthly newsletter sent out to music industry professionals.

The response so far has been amazing and we’ve been privileged to have full support from partners across the French music industry, including key organization working on social change (gender equality with SheSaidSo France, mental health with CURA Collectif and safe hearing environments with Agi-Son).