Expanding the Circle: Indie Booking Agent Chriss Rimpel Moves from the Diaspora to Bigger Global Music Horizons
Chriss Rimpel is a young female entrepreneur of Haitian heritage who’s built a career as a manager, an independent booking agent, and head of CR Booking-N-Marketing. Though she learned the ropes by working with artists and presenters in the Haitian diaspora, Rimpel officially launched her agency while working with multi/cross-cultural band (Brown Rice Family), later taking on high-profile clients from across the Caribbean (Emeline Michel, Wesli, Cuban A Cappella group Vocal Sampling), not to forget Multifaceted New comer RIVA & Bohio Music.
Dub MC wanted to hear her perspective as a young world music businesswoman, to learn more about how the world music scene looks through her eyes.
How did you get into the music business?
Haiti is a very cultural and artistic country, as such, you’re bound to have friends or know someone involved in the arts, either in the music industry, or as a painter, sculptor, author, or poet.It just happens that most of my friends growing up were musicians.
As their bands got started, I got my feet wet with helping to promote them with, everything from street marketing, writing press releases, album releases to eventually starting my own promotions company. KiSa?Promotions
I tried my hand at management with a few bands that played kompa, Indie, and Traditional Roots to name a few. I also was involved in many ways with Haiti’s most popular Rap Kreyol group.
Following a successful promotional project, my company was offered an artists liaison contract for a major NY based festival. We basically handled the logistics side in relation to the artists, which included everything from backline to airport pickups to press and VIP management. It was wonderful.
What made you decide to open your own booking agency?
At that time, being very green in the field, I found that artists management could be very intense. It was more than I bargained for. It was draining, though, never-ending and after a while, I just wanted to have a different role to play, while still getting to be an important part of an artist’s team.
I began researching for what would allow me to still be involved, travel, and find them places to perform. Something, that would let me have some rapport with the musicians, but not be responsible for every aspect. Then I discovered Artist Booking.
How did you find your first client?
It was actually through my very good friend Rudy Riviere who had been living in Miami but had just returned to Haiti. Rudy introduced me to international reggae superstar Jahnesta, and he became the first artist that I actually had the opportunity of having under a booking agreement.
Years later, completely by faith I would say, I was invited to see a band perform in New York City and it happened to be Brown Rice Family. They were the first band I started with as an official booking agent under CR Booking-N-Marketing.
I learned that I was good at finding and making connections. Within weeks I had gotten them a shoe sponsor, a regular gig at various known spots in the city such as Cafe Wha?, and a performance at the Groove and it took off from there.
When I started with them they had been together for about 6 years and within a year or so, I had gotten them to perform at the largest festivals they’ve ever performed at, to this day. Actually, Brown Rice Family was recently selected to perform at MASA 2018, so we will be heading to Africa in March. I am very proud of this accomplishment. I introduced them to a whole new world and introduced the world to them.
Through some research in wanting to learn the booking business, I also found a great mentor who had been on the world music scene and was very well known. I listened carefully to his advice and perspective, and started attending conferences like WOMEX, APAP and Visa For Music to widen my horizon and meet more people in the field.
I also learned that when you start a business, you make a lot of mistakes. I initially never signed an exclusive agreement with my early artists, for example, and that, made it hard to work out what gigs I was directly responsible for and therefore deserved payment for. You have to go slow, and do what makes sense. But you also have to be ready to take on new challenges and push to the next level.
Mistakes aside, how did you build your roster?
I think initially because I was so green, it was only what I liked, whatever music moved me. I began to think a lot about which artists I wanted to work with. As I started to learn the business it was a less romanticised idea and more paying attention to what was lacking and trying to find those artists. Many different artists approached me wanting to work with me, as there can be a lot of turnover in the Haitian music industry, in their teams.
What attracted a lot of people was my approach to marketing. They often loved my branding and promotion ideas, and that started the conversation and my involvement in the entertainment industry, being involved and recruited into working on festival committees, into writing proposals, running fundraisers, and finding sponsorships. All of it!
I’ve always wanted to break Haitian artists into new markets, but not every artist is ready for this step yet. I work with those who are, like [Haitian reggae master] Wesli. He would run into me and say, you’re the only other Haitian person here. We’re family! You’re moving and grooving. He liked some of the work I did with Brown Rice Family, and he also wanted to see what we could do to book him outside of Canada in North America.
Ultimately, I’d love to be a go-to representative for Haiti and the Caribbean. I’d love to pick the best of the best of traditional Haitian music and showcase those groups all over the world. We have so much to offer that has yet to be discovered by the outside world and doing that, would be great.
Along with my work with Haitian artists, I’ve branched out to other areas though I’ve wound up staying in the Caribbean. Vocal Sampling from Cuba is a great example of that. They are wonderful, they have this amazing history. Their management and I had a tete-a-tete about how and what I could do with them, and now I’m working with the group. It’s a new market to me, but I decided to go for it.
In my roster, for now, I would rather not have artists who are too close in sound. I want my roster to represent such a variety of unique artists that any presenter would feel confident to book them all for the same event and be assured that they would each bring a great level of energy. I’d be open to a salsa band, or a roots reggae band, say.
For me, it’s less about the style and more about my connection with it. I have to love the music, or I know I can’t sell it, though it has to work for the market as well. It doesn’t matter how great you are, I have to feel it.