Interviews

An interview with Antoine Bisou, the man behind France’s most unique parties

Words by Kate Menzies
Photos by Antoine Bisou, Alphonse Terrier & Isaac Delusion

The boss of microqlima records tells us about his move to live streaming, and why he will always stay independent.

Antoine Bisou has never been someone else’s employee. In his time in the French music industry, he’s always been fiercely independent: as a manager, gig promoter and label owner. Bisou is now best known as the boss of microqlima records, one of the most exciting indie labels in France. But his career had much more humble beginnings back in 2010, putting on gigs. Bisou explains: “It absolutely wasn’t professional. We were only 20 years old and putting on parties in factories in the suburbs of Paris, and open air events with another collective. Since then, I’ve always been attached to producing parties and events of all kinds, even if my main activity is record production and streaming for the label.”

microqlima was born from a desire to create unique experiences. “The name microqlima comes from thinking about the ‘ideal’ event”, says Bisou. “It was 10 years ago, long before I decided microqlima would be a record label. It was 2010 and I was interning in Berlin. I was 19 or 20 years old and I was partying and going to clubs all the time, and I had this idea of ‘microqlima’ [in English: microclimate] being the best term for describing what I want for any event, whether it’s a club night or a show or whatever. To create a very specific word is to create a universe for the party, one that can shake you out of your daily routine and your problems.”

I
wanted
to
make
a
party
that
stands
out
every
time.
Even
today,
that’s
still
the
case.
We
always
try
to
stand
out.

On his return from Berlin, Bisou began to put his idea into practice in the French music scene. “When I came to Toulouse, the idea was to bring some Berlin microclimate to Toulouse by putting on techno and minimal house parties”, he says. “I wanted to make a party that stands out every time. Even today, that’s still the case. We always try to stand out.” So, what does that mean to microqlima? “To be original and give an experience, whether it’s physical or virtual, that’s different from what other people are doing. We always find curious or bizarre names or concepts, and we’re never afraid of having weird ideas. I wanted to make a party that stands out every time. Even today, that’s still the case. We always try to stand out” 

This approach has also informed the way microqlima manages its artists. With a small roster of four acts including the disco pop band, L'Impératrice, microqlima treats each artist as a long-term development project. “Every artist has its own climate and its own ‘weather conditions’, and needs special treatment”, says Bisou. “We like to consider ourselves gardeners, every artist is a plant and we grow them from a seed. It’s patient work and we specialise in development and making artists emerge. This idea is meant to illustrate that we give full artistic liberty to artists. We’re not like major labels and the wider industry.”

L'Impératrice

Their devoted audience has followed as microqlima went online during 2020. The label focused on maintaining their usual activities, but they lost the ability to create their microclimates in person. “It’s terrible", says Bisou. “We aren’t regular event promoters, it’s just a small part of our activity, and we survived. But the sad part is that we just forgot what it’s like to organise live events and parties. We just continued with our label activity, but it felt like something was missing. Something that really brings together the community, that creates the microqlima, doesn’t exist right now. After a year, it’s really started to feel heavy.”

That heaviness has been felt in the music industry around the world, and responses to the limitations put on live events by lockdown have varied wildly. “We tried to adapt as best as we could”, explains Bisou. “We did two things: one was the virtual world tour for L'Impératrice that we did in July with DICE. The other was the only event we managed to keep putting on in 2020, called ‘Qui Va Piano Va Sano’. It was a huge success because it was one of the only events happening in October in Paris, and we had a huge lineup because no artists were touring at the time. There were only a few people in the audience, maybe 50, and it was live streamed by a French TV channel and online. It was very intimate, and we were pleased that we could make it happen.”

We
were
brainstorming
daily
to
find
new
and
funny
ways
of
promoting.

Social media has offered microqlima and its artists a way to keep creating. Bisou remembers the period of the first lockdown in Paris, which saw the team stuck at home for two months. “We managed to be creative on social media”, he says, “and in the first two months the artists were very creative. We were brainstorming daily to find new and funny ways of promoting. It resulted in lots of incredible videos, covers, tutorials, live streams, and interactions with fans. It was a stressful but funny time. The downside was that we were conscious of being too caught up with social media pressure, because there was nothing else to do.” 

But their efforts were rewarded when the opportunity to host ticketed streamed events appeared. DICE worked closely with microqlima to bring L'Impératrice’s world tour to life in a series of streamed events. “It’s thanks to the DICE team that we came up with the L'Impératrice stream last summer”, says Bisou. “It’s been so great that just before the pandemic, we signed an exclusive deal with DICE for ticketing our events. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much to sell up until now, but I’m excited and eager to find out the real potential of DICE in a normal environment.”

It’s exciting to hear what Bisou has to say about DICE so far though: “The Waiting List feature is very cool, and I think the community aspects are very promising. Being able to find fans on the app to target is useful; we haven’t been able to use it a lot yet, but I think it’s the most promising feature. The human relationships we’ve had is probably the key benefit though, it’s made projects possible that we wouldn’t have had the courage to do if we didn’t have the team’s advice.”

I
have
a
feeling
that
right
now
we’re
in
the
same
place
as
the
major
labels
were
in
2001
at
the
very
beginning
of
the
CD
crisis,
you
know?

Live streaming has been a new art form for microqlima to master. When it comes to video production, they’ve invested time and effort into translating their unusual ideas. “I think what we’ve learned is that video isn’t that complicated", says Bisou. “We’ve been forced to improve our video production and be more flexible, and that’s positive. It forced us to ask ourselves questions about what kind of image we want to present to audiences, and how we do that with low budgets.”

As someone with the desire to create new ways of doing things, Bisou is looking forward to the future of streaming. “I have a feeling that right now we’re in the same place as the major labels were in 2001 at the very beginning of the CD crisis, you know?” he says. “Before iTunes and streaming were around, people were just trying to reproduce what already existed online. It didn’t work, and we were 10 or 15 years away from inventing the streaming business model.” He’s hopeful that this is just the beginning. “Right now, we’re doing the same thing – we’re trying to reproduce events from real life online and that’s it. Maybe soon there’ll be a new model or way of streaming that’s going to shape things and make it more interesting.”

And after more than a year, it’s time to start thinking about live events again. Bisou has big plans for the future: “I’d love to put together a festival. I know it’s ambitious, but it’s always been a dream. We’re planning to launch the first microqlima festival in 2022, probably 2023. I’d really like to restart the event culture we had before the pandemic with microqlima, but much stronger. People are going to need to party and be together, and if we take what we learnt from this period about video and live streaming then we can make our events available to people in other countries and other cities. That’s going to be exciting. For now, we’re just waiting for things to go back to normal, or not. I’ll be happy to see artists going on tour again.”

So, after this trying period, what is Bisou most proud of? “There’s success in having just survived this year and made it through with the whole team. It’s a bit sad, but it’s cool too – it takes a lot of energy to stick together and stay in touch, despite all being alone. For me, as a manager and CEO, it’s a lot of energy to keep the team and the artists together and co-ordinated. It’s not a visible success but it’s a real success.” It’s this kind of attitude and approach that’s got French music fans so excited for microqlima’s return to live events.

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