Truelinked is a company aiming to transform the opera and classical music industry. To create a digital community for sparking collaboration, connections and networking.
Sune Hjerrild, CEO and founder, Truelinked
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Your questions about Truelinked answered
The idea is to bring the four stakeholders of the classical music industry, which we have coined the ‘Four As’: artists, arts organisations, agents and audience together in one infrastructure, a working tool that we hope will become what the industry operates on for the future.
The artists gain a largely boosted visibility through a free profile containing the most important information and data that casting directors need. The visibility for the artists and the direct access to talent has been increased greatly recently with our acquisition of Operabase, a company that has been documenting opera performances for the last 20 years and is used by thousands of casting professional and agents all over the world on a daily basis.
The arts organisations gain a tool to make necessary searches in one easy-to-use database, to scout for and find the right talent for the right stage. They also benefit from a collaborative workspace, being able to use the network as part of the talent discovery phase. Truelinked tools also makes it easy to arrange and execute auditions and asking for artist availability. It helps with the processing of the booking of artists without an agent or directs enquiries to the artist’s agency.
Which brings us to the agent, who will be provided with a tool to overlook and manage their roster, as well as the highly valuable possibility to monitor the traffic and interest in an individual artist on their roster, provided the artist allows this. It will also allow them an easy-to-operate channel to the casting directors they work with. Perhaps most importantly, it allows an agency control and security of their business intelligence, allowing a secure and GDPR compliant record and notes of all interaction and work processes.
And last but certainly not least, the audience will have access to the interesting content of the classical music industry and knowledge about what is going on in the industry. They will be able to find information about events and find a like-minded community to discuss and share their experiences - this provides other industry stakeholders with invaluable information to make the audience experience better and to attract new ones. They can follow and become fans of artists and track their performances, become a patron of an institution or sponsor of an artist.
Truelinked will bring the audience’s voice to the rest of the opera community, giving invaluable feedback and creating a synergy. It will give insight into how to involve and expand audiences worldwide and this is something we are truly excited about. The huge potential of growing this art form. Last but not least, the audience will eventually be able to buy their tickets through the platform; this is the plan for the near future.
The bottom line is: Truelinked wants to help make beautiful music and performances of the highest quality.
We gather our data directly from the artists and, since Operabase became part of Truelinked, we now gather verified data from the opera houses themselves. On top of that, we can now monitor traffic and receive data to measure the development of our artist’s careers.
The data is used to empower the decision makers to find the exact talent they need and to give artists and agents the impression of their own visibility in the market.
One of the things we have always been primarily concerned with is that private feedback and notes given by professionals on Truelinked stay private and everything we launch has been built with this front of mind to ensure confidentiality. The platform is compliant with GDPR and the highest possible standards of data safety and we strive constantly to improve all security measures as industry standards increase.
Rest assured, we don’t sell data to third party users under any circumstances.
Absolutely not. We completely understand that for strategic reasons, arts organisations need privacy and we go to great lengths to ensure vital and confidential information stays that way. As part of keeping the season secret until its launch, arts organisations can keep their identity a secret e.g. when asking artists for availability. As is standard industry practice, an agent is typically told this information if the artist is represented.
An organisation will not be contacted directly by job-seeking artists, as it’s not something our system encourages or condones – if used correctly, this shouldn’t be necessary. Of course, we cannot guarantee that this will never happen because it happens today in the industry but most of the time it isn’t even possible, as the artists don’t know who is doing the asking.
We absolutely need the opera institutions, they are the epicentre of the industry; what makes our world turn, essentially. They not only create what is going on in the industry, but their effort to give validated data back to the whole community of arts organisations ensures the great service Operabase and Truelinked now provides that everyone can use and trust in their daily casting. We are a platform for presenting and connecting people with this information; you might say the information is the fulcrum of what we do. Without our aggregation of this important data, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as useful and a lot of it would be lost. This painstaking work is what Operabase has done for the last 20 years and what we hope to continue and improve on for an increasingly tech-savvy community into the future.
We are mainly based on subscriptions with arts organisations paying a fee for our services and tools. For agents, it will be the same. Some features will be free, and others will be paid. Artists sign up and gain a profile for free. There are some fantastic extra services that can be paid for in a premium subscription by artists if they wish. And if an artist is offered a job through Truelinked and they don’t have an agent, there is a small fee involved in the booking process. Truelinked has raised 4.3M euros in funding. Has over 70,000 artist profiles. And provides a 70% time saving throughout casting process for over 400 arts organisations.
We prefer not to, we are planning to set up systems to ensure unrepresented artists are capable of taking care of their own contract negotiation through a seamless booking process. For all represented artists, their agent is responsible for this process.
Not at all. The majority of our members so far have agents, but many artists prefer to use multiple channels to obtain jobs. We have artists from the beginner to the elite, singing or performing at the world’s biggest houses. With Operabase, all artists will be listed and can, therefore, have a free profile with expanded information on Truelinked to become more visible in the market. An artist having a profile benefits their agent greatly too because they gain extra visibility and data measurement about who is viewing them and what that viewer wants to see, how often directors are searching them, and which countries interest is coming from: all data that can provide incredibly valuable insight into how an artist’s career should be developed.
Agents are an important and valued part of the Truelinked community. They will be offered valuable tools to manage their roster, receive traffic data to monitor their artists, a direct channel to arts organisations they work with and gateways to potential new markets. Extra security over their business intelligence and control over their roster, so when an agent leaves their agency, that important knowledge and learning doesn’t walk out of the door with them.
Currently, we have a jury that looks at the material the artist is listing on their profile. Later, we will incorporate a system where the industry validates the artist, based on verification from arts organisations, the artist’s colleagues and eventually the audience, also. For the time being, everyone on Operabase will be considered professional and will have access to a profile. For the classical music/concert industry, since there is not an equivalent to Operabase, we will continue to utilise a jury to ensure quality until a market validation is possible.
The very foundation of Operabase was to serve the opera community and give them information about the performances worldwide. We will continue that tradition of being a valuable source of information for lovers of classical music worldwide, as well as developing our many ideas of how to expand and engage with them. We hope to have a tool for the audience by mid-2019 and agents will join the community by March 2019. We will keep everyone updated via our newsletter, please subscribe at the bottom of the page if you would like to be kept in the loop.
As told by founder Sune Hjerrild
“I learned how vulnerable an artist career is without a strong network as foundation for further development. I yearned for some kind of control over my own career… but with the way the classical music system currently worked, I knew it wasn’t possible.”
“The truth of it is that I wasn’t always a tech entrepreneur – in fact, I had absolutely nothing to do with this field! Once upon a time, I was an artist, an operatic tenor travelling the world and singing my way from one role to the next. I had quite a successful career, but my jobs only came through my agent, recommendations or if a casting director had seen me perform in a previous show.
If it came down to me having to audition, I flunked when it really mattered! It was terrible: when I was performing, I was fine but ask me to stand under the scrutiny of an audition panel of important people and it was all over before it began. At around the same time, my wonderful French agent changed careers and it hit me where it hurt: my emerging career in France really stalled without her as conduit to the industry and I was forced to act as work totally dried up in France. With this experience I learned how vulnerable an artist career is without a strong network as foundation for further development. I felt the results of having ‘all eggs in one basket', as they say.
I yearned for some kind of control over my own career and the ability to be able to make jobs and new roles happen but with the way the classical music system currently worked, I knew it wasn’t possible.
It was on a short flight within Denmark that I would say the second defining moment burst forth. I struck up a conversation with a stranger sat next to me, who turned out to be a tech entrepreneur. At some point in our discussion, he asked me what the idea I obviously had was. And I let it flow: all my thoughts surrounding how I wished to help the industry and art that I loved: to modernise it, improve it, make it easier and at the same time, more powerful.
He listened and then at the story’s end, looked me in the eye and said simply: “Well, why aren’t you doing it?”
And, of course, I thought, well yes, why aren’t I? But it took a complete stranger asking me that question to really light a fire under the idea.
My friends and colleagues and I all used social media regularly to connect on various topics within our professional world but none of us ever got jobs from it. I knew this technology needed to be harnessed to allow me to reimagine how the industry operated and access our networks for impact and action.
So social media was my first port of call to reach out to my network and ask them for their thoughts. The response was overwhelming: the majority felt as I did, that we were dealing with a broken, outdated system that in particular, restricted the progress of an artist but also the industry as a whole.
I was now convinced that something needed to happen. The idea had crystallised and it was time to move on it.
My co-founder Jan Pilgaard Carlsen and I started building a basic prototype with the financial help of friends and family in 2011. Two years later, I officially founded Truelinked as a company. When Jan finally quit his day job in 2015, we received the first big investment from a group of investment angels and the Danish Growth Fund to build the platform. That’s when our sweet little start-up went from being a one-man band to a collective of minds that share the vision for revolution.
Today, we are an operation of around 20 people, all striving to take Truelinked into the world where it can help make beautiful music...and beyond! As far as I see, there are infinite possibilities for this platform and my personal mission is for Truelinked to help as many people as it possibly can.”
“Recently I found an email dated June 2011. That’s one month after I had my encounter on the airplane and the impulse to pursue my vision of Truelinked.
The email was written to my former agent Muriel Denzler, now working at Operabase. I told her about my idea to make a new professional platform for the world of opera and classical music and added: “I don't see us (Truelinked) as competition to Operabase, but we could surely be a fantastic partner in the future.”
In collaboration with the opera industry, Operabase has gathered performance data for almost 20 years. The platform is the go-to for thousands of casters every day and all over the world when they need career and repertoire data on artists and not least when they want to find out which agent to get hold of to hire the artist or ask for availability.
From the very beginning I knew that Operabase would be key to the success of my vision. To be able to offer this unique data in combination with the innovative and technologically advanced workspace and community of Truelinked. As one company we can make a whole new infrastructure available to all stakeholders in the industry. The agents, the arts organisations, the artists, and not least the audience.”
About CEO and Founder Sune Hjerrild
Sune Hjerrild is a former opera singer who had a vision to transform the industry he loved, to make things easier on himself and his colleagues and to connect all the people working within classical music in the hope of seeing the industry grow stronger and attract more loyal fans than ever before.
Born in Copenhagen in 1973, Sune realised his love and aptitude for opera at age 17, when a music teacher heard him sing in the choir and asked him to sing a role in La Traviata. The young tenor went from performing for audiences at his high school to studying at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory and the Opera Academy to his first performance, which as luck would have it, was playing the same role as his first ever operatic performance, La Traviata’s Gastone.
From there, he went on to build a successful career throughout European opera, performing with the revered Sir Neville Mariner, Jeffrey Tate, Graham Luck, Michael Hampe, Herbert Blomstedt, Ivor Bolton among many others and with Teatro di San Carlo, Rome Symphony Orchestra and RAI Symphony Orchestra in Turin. He also competed in both Operalia and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.
Sune’s vision for what is now Truelinked first came about in 2011, after witnessing firsthand how the disconnect between the ‘four As’ (Artists, Arts Organisations, Agents and Audience) of the classical industry could sometimes cause havoc in an artist’s career, not to mention greatly impede the progress and process of arts organisations and agents.
In 2011, he joined forces with COO and co-founder Jan Pilgaard Carlsen and began to develop the idea for a digital tool that would connect all those that love opera and provide a way to connect 21st century technology with an age old, beloved art form.
In 2013, that dream became a reality with Truelinked winning funding from three different sources who agreed with Sune that the classical music industry and indeed, the entertainment economy as a whole, needed to find a new, faster and better way to work.
Sune today acts as both founder and CEO of Truelinked and strives everyday to build on the dream of limitless possibilities for industry engagement with the platform he created.
Sune lives in Copenhagen, Denmark with his wife Christina and four children…and two unruly pups, Silke and Savannah.