Own your spots with Jasja Heijboer, owner of Ace Agency
Martin Garrix, Don Diablo, Yellow Claw, Sam Feldt, Lucas & Steve, names from the music industry that you probably know. Meet the power babe behind them: Jasja Heijboer, owner of Ace Agency based in Amsterdam. As an international booking agency she represents the leading DJs in the electronic music scene, arranging and organizing everything for all of their performances across the globe. The music industry is still known as largely dominated by men, but Jasja is one of the women who stands her ground right in the middle of it. Let’s find out how she owns her spots!
The music industry is often labeled as male-dominated, but in a previous interview you mentioned that you didn’t notice that until others said it. Has your view of the industry changed since?
To become successful as a DJ it’s crucial that you are a good producer, capable of delivering good productions (music). Right now, producers are mostly male. I’m not sure why the number of female producers is still low, in theory anyone working with the right software in an ordinary attic has the same opportunities to develop themselves into a producer, whether they are male or female. Perhaps it just needs time, perhaps young girls will show interest in producing music and how to go down that road when they see more successful female DJ’s. Behind the scenes, however, the number of women is higher, and I feel like this is still increasing.
And what is the position of Ace Agency with regards to these labels?
When I started Ace Agency, almost all of my employees were women. I looked for certain qualities such as an eye for detail, being able to empathize with the artist, and being able to anticipate based on instinct. I recognized those qualities slightly more in women than in men. Nowadays, the female/male ratio within Ace is 50-50, which works very well for the dynamics within the team. The senior positions within the company are also divided approximately 50-50 between men and women.
Before you started Ace Agency over 15 years ago you’ve worked for different companies, amongst which TMF. Do you feel the music industry has changed since you started working in it?
That’s hard to compare, TMF was largely targeted towards the Dutch market and right now I operate on the international market. In doing so I do pay careful attention to different cultures; every culture needs a different approach to seal a deal. Each individual has their own unique way of connecting with their (international) customer, and in my opinion gender does not affect that.
Many women dream of building and running a company as you do. How does it feel to be looked up to like that?
I don’t really feel like people are looking up to me, I actually don’t think about that at all. Nowadays it seems to be more important how many followers you have on Instagram than whether you are running a successful business! Although properly maintaining an Instagram is also hard work, by the way. I remember being in America and a few women coming up to me asking for autographs, I feel like as a successful woman you are put on a pedestal a bit more in the US. I thought it was funny, but it also felt quite uncomfortable. I personally prefer to stay under the radar, but I think it is important that women continue to help each other by recognizing and reinforcing each other’s success.
The entertainment industry was hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic. However, you seem to be staying strong! What has this period taught you? What advice would you give to others facing challenges?
It’s important to focus on your team, to make sure to keep the business up and running but also to keep everyone motivated. We’ve still had a lot of work at Ace during these times because shows are rescheduled all the time, and then rescheduled again. For my employees it’s very demotivating to put in a lot of work for a final product (the show) that eventually isn’t tangible. The only way to get through that is to keep talking to each other and to have a laugh about it from time to time. It’s important to see every day as a new day. My advice would be: don’t give up, keep putting the situation into perspective and make sure you always have some savings. That offers a lot of freedom.
Once a year, DJ Mag publishes their DJ Mag top 100 list which is seen as the international benchmark for DJ’s within the electronic music scene. The list has been criticized for years because of a lack of diversity. To what extent do you think the people working in the music industry are responsible for changing this?
As I mentioned before, right now it is very important to be successful with your own songs to get a prominent spot on the list as a DJ. In my opinion it is not DJ Mag’s fault that there are relatively few women on the list; I think that female producers are still rising. I do notice that festivals pay more attention to including female acts in their line-ups and I definitely think the audience applauds this.
The music industry sometimes comes across as a pretty tough world, in which you really have to prove yourself to be successful. How did you build the confidence to get where you are today?
I’m not so sure that confidence is the key. I think following your inner compass, even if you’re not quite as confident yet, is the key. Confidence can be a pitfall, too! I think the most efficient way towards a successful career, whether you are a man or a woman, is to stay true to yourself. I’ve never really given any thought to the difference between men and women in business anyway. I think my upbringing has had an effect on this as well; I don’t remember any particularly girly things in my childhood like girly toys, dresses or pink stuff. I do remember technical Lego and a street full of boys playing soccer. My parents left out these gender-confirming aspects very consciously. I think that because of that, amongst other things, I’ve personally never noticed a « glass ceiling » for women. Sometimes it’s nice to not be aware of something, that way it doesn’t unwittingly have your attention. I think that helped me. I find a lot of truth in the well-known quote: « Here’s to strong women; may we know them. May we be them. May we raise them », and I think the last part of it is by far the most important.
Follow Jasja on Instagram to stay up-to-date with her life as leader of Ace Agency!
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