Indie Spotlight Interview with Heidi De Sousa on HDS Entertainment
Indie Spotlight is a multi-layered interview series that’s dedicated to exploring the business side of the music, media and entertainment industry. Our main objective is to establish a platform whereby African music industry insiders can provide some business related information & valuable insights about the ins and outs of starting and running an independent Africa-based entertainment company in this digital age.
That being said, this week, we had an in-depth conversation with South African Cape Town-based, entrepreneur, booking agent, and artist manager Heidi De Sousa.
In a nutshell: De Sousa is the founder and managing director of HDS Entertainment Agency, commonly known simply as HDS Entertainment – a Cape Town-based entertainment agency that – in her own words – “provides all forms of entertainment from African, Afrikaans, classical, buskers, to female and male performers, original and cover bands, as well as themed entertainers, MC’s and speakers nationally and internationally.
Side note: in the interest of being transparent, I will disclose that Heidi De Sousa and, by extension, HDS Entertainment handles my domestic bookings. In fact, I’ve been working with her and her company for more than five years now. Nevertheless, I’d like to further state that Heidi De Sousa has more than 10 years of experience in this industry, so in all fairness it only made sense for us to feature her – especially since her knowledge could be of great use to anyone looking to follow in her footsteps in this digital age.
Keeping this in mind: you can check out this super cool and informative interview with Heidi De Sousa below, and do remember to add (or submit) your feedback or questions in the comment section further down below:
When and why did you decide to start HDS Entertainment?
I started 15 years ago. I guess looking back now; it all seemed like a natural progression. I realised that working for someone else would never allow me a space to grow or expand my financial income.
It just so happened that when I fell pregnant (for the 2nd time) it was the perfect opportunity to take the bold step to being free to move forward. It was quite scary, looking back, but regardless of this, I suppose I trusted that i would be supported. As you know it takes time to build a business and then raising a family was pretty stressful.
Is there an interesting story behind the company name?
Well, I looked at all different types of names but none of them represented me – as my business was really about me.
I remember sitting in the lounge with my husband – at the time – discussing my frustration around what to call the business and he said “well, isn’t it obvious?”, and in that moment HDS Management was born. At first the business was merely a management company and later became HDS Entertainment Agency.
Any thoughts on the current state of African dance music in a streaming age?
In my opinion, there are pro and cons in every industry. Before the internet, it was a lot harder to get your music on radio playlists, but it pushed artists to find ways to get their music out there – from ground level marketing and networking. Not to mention, the only way to get to hear their music was to go to shows, club gigs and festivals.
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Nevertheless, perseverance was the key. Nowadays, musicians have direct access to platforms that give exposure to their music and brands at a click of button, but it is way harder because instant gratification means there is NO longevity.
Fans are bombarded with so many options and before you know it you are a distant memory. Brands are being forced to think out of the box, which can be way harder. Musicians have become self-imposed entrepreneurs and need to have “MBAs” behind them to succeed.
What is that one thing that you do differently from your competitors?
We love what we do! I find my best work is done when I truly love what I do. It always allows a space to work with the right clients, at the right time.
That being said, we are a one stop agency. We source and suggest entertainment based on clients’ needs. We’re able to provide client with quick turnaround and we do a lot of research into each brief.
We are mindful of budgets and, as we have been in the business a long time, clients and artists alike trust us when it comes to transparency and always ensuring that artists are paid.
Can you list three key challenges that you face?
(1) Internet changed the face of the game completely. When we first started we had everyone’s contact details just because we would track them down through posts in newspapers, magazines, events and a lot of landline phone calls [LOL].
Because it was so time consuming and clients used to rely heavily on our intellectual property. The internet changed all that completely – everyone now has access to artists. What they don’t realise is that agencies are still a great source for information as the right type of entertainment that will fit their requirements.
(2) Healthy competition – there will always be challenges when there are many agents that clients can approach. It all depends on how much commission one charges. I prefer to work with clients that have integrity.
(3) This part is the most frustrating part – we see it all the time: when clients approach us with briefs. We spend time looking at details of the brief, researching and placing the right entertainment – from start to finish – and then said client will go directly to the entertainment. Most of the time, artists will come back to us but there are times when they don’t.
What’s the proudest moment from running ‘HDS Entertainment’ so far?
The proudest moment is when your client comes back to you after the event with ‘glowing reviews’ and endless praises. You know that you did a great job and you feel grateful!
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That being said, I have been fortunate to not only work with South Africa’s finest musicians, MC’s, and speakers, but international speakers as well – this includes the likes of Steve Wozniak (Apple), Zev Siegl (Starbucks), Stephen Archer, Nenad Puket and Andy Xie . Hopefully, many more will come our way.
What’s your ultimate goal for the company?
I would say: working towards expanding into Africa and abroad. We are working on making the right connections and partners to help grow into the right market places and attracting the right clients while, at the same time, working with cream of the crop SA and abroad has to offer.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Starting a business is not about how much money you have in your bank account, but merely the love and passion you have for what you do.
When you run a heart-centred business the flow of abundance is great. Always trust this. Hard work is another part of it. Be present and find new ways to market your business while making the right connections and always be professional – because the way you conduct business with clients is essential.
You can follow HDS Entertainment on Facebook for regular updates and more details about the company.