With a masters degree in law already securely under his belt, Ash commenced his crossing into music as a knowledgeable, cocky, hard-nosed promoter in Sweden’s capital, the place where so much musical talent originates these days – Stockholm. Making special acquaintances and building strong relationships with the biggest names in the electronic scene at the time, Ash quickly assembled the necessary foundations for a lengthy and prolific innings in music. But unbeknownst to everybody but his self-assured own, Ash was well on his way to seriously dizzying career heights – soon enough he would trade in his promoting apron for a shot at management and the big time; and what a move that’s proven to be…
How did you get into the music industry?
I was always into music my whole life. On a hobby level as a kid but as I got older I started reaching towards the music in different ways. At 22 I was managing restaurants, bars and nightclubs and naturally took charge of the music. From there I learnt how to DJ, where I never aspired to do it as a career but got lots of requests as I was an appreciated performer. That led me in to promoting my own clubs and playing them to booking other talent. When I discovered house music, I wanted to educate everyone on it and set out on a mission that just grew to still being present when I met Tim. We met because I wanted a bigger stage (global) to promote the music from and I wanted to get in already on the music production stage. That's where my passion came from and still does today.
Tell us about At Night Management. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
Initially I didn't want to be a manager. When I met Tim I wanted to materialize my ideas. Whether that was music production or marketing or branding it didn't matter. I wanted to create something and show it off to the world. Together we naturally grew into the having the relationship which marks the strength behind the Avicii brand. Two people in synch pushing an unknown brand into stardom.
That's the attitude that I shaped my business on - the fact that you can utilise the tools around you to create your own success. As long as you are creative and business savvy enough - and believe in yourself and your work. That's what we did and still do to this day. I want to keep it boutique and I never take on established talent. We are there from scratch with all our guys and we launch them into the world. Then we use that insight to bring about changes in the aged music industry to correspond to modern consumer behaviour and demand. That will remain the vision - to become the most influential artist launch management in the world and achieve meaningful changes in the quest of modernizing the music industry.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that attributed to your success?
We really don't have any partnerships with management. We have however, established great partnerships for our clients. Avicii has both Ralph Lauren, the biggest retailer in the world, and Coca Cola, the biggest beverage brand in the world, to thank for a lot of the cementing of his brand on both local and global markets. We've often boasted about how we've done a lot in-house and built competence in a great team that goes far beyond what "normal management" means for a client. The amount of attention we have to details around the few clients we represent is huge and not really strung tight on resources and trying to make as much profit as possible. I think with the team that we have we could easily cater to 50 different acts globally but that is not what we're about. We focus and deliver beyond expectations for each and every artist we take on.
You have stated "We don't discover artists, we create them". Elaborate on this process. What has been the proudest moment and most difficult of your management career.
As explained above, we're there in earliest days. We help create the brand and guide the artist into finding what it is that their essence is about, their sound, look, feel and message. That becomes an area in the music spectra. Then we magnify it into a platform where they can own that area. For Avicii it was uplifting melodic house. Avicii owns that today and it is the platform for which everything else is based on. We don't produce pop, we do the same music we have always done, just developed as Avicii's skills develop. The core platform from day one is still there. We don't produce pop, pop came over to that platform.
My proudest moments in my career have been many. From being able to negotiate deals that change an entire industry's attitude to accomplishing the impossible vision for Avicii that we first set out to do. There are lots. We suck at celebrating them though and I think we should do more often moving forward.
My most difficult moment has been to navigate the enormous pressure on the individual that comes with great success. Both mine and my client's. In the end we are all people and it's never easy foreseeing the psychological effects of colossal life changes. Making sure everyone, including myself, stay happy and healthy has been a big challenge, but nonetheless things we've managed to work through.
How important is social media in marketing your clientele?
We built everything on social media. It was a core pillar of our marketing plan. The possibility to communicate directly with fans is an amazing asset and needs to be nurtured. Social media allows dialogue instead of the monologue offered in traditional marketing.
What industry trends have you noticed and how do you capitalize on them?
I don't really try to notice trends to capitalize on. Rather I can see trends that allow us to navigate the market best for our clients. I can see business trends and possibilities to structure deals in new ways which benefits us but that's different and just part of everyday affairs.
Stay underrated, always over deliver.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Whatever else it takes to achieve success, you must appreciate the value of hard work as the one true constant. The only short cut is luck and you can never rely on that.
Favorite travel destination?
Hayman Island, Australia for sun and beach. Los Angeles, USA for city vibes.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
One of my musical role models doing it right: "Watch Eric Prydz Talk 'Epic 3.0' & Playing Madison Square Garden at All Costs" - Billboard Magazine Online.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
My mother's home cooking and a milkshake.
What music is on your ipod/pandora stations
All kinds of music blended together from folk to grunge to hip hop to movie scores.
Role model - business and personal?
David Geffen, for his business acumen and industry-changing career.
My mother, for her big heart, ambitious spirit and unselfishness towards both family and strangers alike.
What's next for At Night Management?
We are focusing on organization. We are taking very big steps towards setting a solid foundation for our company to grow on. We are establishing huge partnerships, a strong board of directors as well as insightful and globally influential advisory board. We are preparing to make that vision come through.
In 2008, Ash spotted the then-18 year old Tim Bergling on a humble online portal (funny how these things start isn’t it) and instigated an immediate get-together. Sure enough, Tim was signed to ‘At Night’ – Pounouri’s management agency – and everything fell into place. Exercising the knowledge, experience and friendships acquired throughout his club promoting days, coupled with his strong legal grasp and unrivalled foolhardy ambition, Pournouri has single handedly sculpted and nurtured the teenager into one of the most in demand and hyped artists of our time – AVICII.
Now aged 25, the boyish Swede - under Ash's scrupulous guidance - has stockpiled greater success than 99.9% of artists could ever hope to achieve a lifetime. The determination and drive at the heard of their partnership is reflected in the hard yards Ash and Tim put in over three years (2010-2012) when Avicii averaged 310 gigs a year, enabling Avicii to build a relationship with fans from New Dehli to Los Angeles via Melbourne and London. In 2013, Avicii performed 200 headline shows - his record breaking True Tour sold over 200,000 tickets in Europe alone (including 80,000 across two nights in Sweden). Now, Avicii is, through Ash, working with the biggest hitters in music, such as Nile Rodgers and Chris Martin, and more recently has been asked to work on Madonna's album. Among this A-list company, Avicii's more then holding his own, with Nile Rodgers observing - 'Tim is one of the best song-writing partners that I've ever had' (Rolling Stone, Jan 2014).
As proved with the now-superstar, Ash’s A&R prowess and ability to hone in on raw talent is what truly separates him from the pack. Rest assured, Avicii was no fluke. With his next management brainchild project – Dub House duo Cazzette – already in full swing and taking the blogosphere by storm, Ash is proving once again that his fingers are firmly on the pulse of an industry that has yet to realize its enormity. Cazzette will be the next success story from the Pournouri stable.