Leadership / 04.26.22
Martin Gammeltoft Is Living the Entertainment Industry Dream
Do not call Martin Gammeltoft if you need a new fence built. No, he is not being unneighborly; he is just being honest, which is one of the qualities he most admires in people.
“I can do all kinds of complicated things,” says Martin, “but I wouldn’t know how to build a fence, although I would love to be able to do things with my hands.”
Of all the complicated things he does, Martin is most passionate about working with complex computer data. He has been doing it for the past six years as Vice President of Commercial Operations for Activity Stream, a European-based company with offices in Denmark, Iceland, Serbia and Spain. The company’s marketing platform is engineered exclusively for the event industry, integrates with an existing ticketing system and helps all types of entertainment organizations better leverage their audiences.
Martin would be the first to admit that knowing how to use data to propel a business can be a tough nut to crack, especially for smaller organizations. In fact, it pretty much says so right on the Activity Stream website. It should come as no surprise then that the person he most admires professionally is Henrik Poulsen, Martin’s former boss when he worked in the telecommunications industry.
“Three days in [to my job as his executive assistant], I thought [to myself] I had worked with very smart people [previously], but never on that level. Henrik had a way of analyzing and seeing through very complex problems and finding very simple solutions. I think that is probably when it dawned on me that simplicity is the ultimate complexity. To make things simple is incredibly complex, and Henrik could do that.”
Martin is one of five original members of Activity Stream, a company that has since grown both in size and reputation. It has over 50 employees today.
“In a growing company, there is always more responsibility lying around than what is actually in job descriptions,” he says. “I really admire and appreciate people seeing something and picking it up instead of sticking to ‘this is my job description,’ people who go above and beyond for customers and clients. I am incredibly proud of [what we have accomplished]. The fact that [Activity Stream] was an idea and now it is known across the industry, and we get emails from people saying, ‘I was talking to someone, and they said that I have to talk to Activity Stream because you are the people who know the most about this’ … I think there’s a lot to be proud of.”
Martin with Activity Stream CEO, Einar Saevarsson, at the Stadio Bernabeu in Madrid.
When it comes to professional qualities, Martin says there is nothing he values more than honesty and sincerity.
“I have managed [various teams] from one person to 48. One thing I always told them was that you can ask me anything and I will give you my opinion and my thoughts on it. It may not be the political answer, but you will get what Martin thinks. You will not get what I think that someone would want me to say. Hopefully, there is a consistency between what I am thinking and what the company is thinking. The only way to be a good leader and a good manager is to invest yourself in it and not just be like some rehearsed recording playing back.”
Martin worked for a decade in the telecommunications industry before moving into live entertainment. He says he enjoyed his former work and was good at it, but nothing compares to his calling at Activity Stream.
“I feel deeply committed to this industry, and I feel deeply committed to improving this industry. I see it as Activity Stream’s role and my role to help this industry do better. I am driving change. I do believe that the company can, through communication and the products, share knowledge and experiences. I do believe that a company can change an industry for good or for bad. I do believe that we are part of a change, and we hopefully play our part. Every day I am trying to connect what I hear are the needs with what I know that we can potentially do with technology. We try to combine that into something that will help people do better and help us as an industry do better, which means bringing more people to live entertainment. There is enormous potential because our customers love what we do in this industry. What a gift to have that people actually like what we are doing.”
While live entertainment is not something that he set out to change or even get involved in, Martin really enjoys the industry and the people in it.
“[What I love most is] the fact that it is very emotionally led. The strength and the weakness of this industry is that it is run by people who love live entertainment and sports. They sometimes forget that it is also a business, but I think it means, when you go to a conference, you just meet a lot of great people. I think that is because of shared values and shared purpose, and I love that.”
Indeed, it was at a conference that Martin says he experienced his most memorable career moment.
“[It was] doing a customer moments session,” he says. “I did it both at INTIX and Ticketing Professionals Conference in Birmingham, [England]. It was the same session. That was just an amazing hour of everything coming together. It was a real joy.”
Like so many of us, Martin finds a lot of joy in being involved with INTIX. He is an active member and has served on the Board of Directors since 2021.
“INTIX gives me a connection to a lot of people that I otherwise would not meet or see, so for me, it is the peer-to-peer communication,” he says. “INTIX has the peer-to-peer forum. I love watching the conversations and people asking for advice or sharing experiences. I think that is very unique for INTIX.”
He continues, “I am not in INTIX to get something. I am in INTIX to give something. This entire industry gives me an enormous sense of purpose. There is an enormous sense of [being] connected. We are here for a purpose, and we are all deeply committed to live experiences, whatever they are. We know how powerful they can be. I have had live experiences that left me emotionally drained, happy, sad, ecstatic and full of wonder and surprise with other people. That is what binds us together, I think, and INTIX always reminds me of that.”
Being in the industry, Martin has, of course, been able to take in a lot of live entertainment himself over the years. As a passionate music fan, nothing stands out more than a series of Radiohead concerts in Copenhagen.
“I have seen Radiohead three times where something communal took place,” he says. “I have experienced a Radiohead concert where no one uttered a sound when the music was playing. In between songs, people would applaud, but only for, like, five seconds. Then the applause would die out because everyone was so determined to hear the first note of the next song and not miss anything. If anyone made a sound during a song, five people would turn around and hush them. It was not something that came from the band. It was just something that happened. I saw them the next night and it was different, so it was only that night.”
He continues, “The first time I saw them live, after a concert, people typically say, ‘Hey, let's go grab a beer or talk.’ And I was like, ‘It feels like I have experienced every human emotion over the course of 90 minutes, so I am completely drained, and I need to go and be with myself [and] think about what I just experienced.’”
From that statement, you would be forgiven for thinking that Radiohead is Martin’s favorite band. It is not. That honor goes to Pearl Jam and its lead singer Eddie Vedder, who Martin first discovered as a teenager.
“I discovered Pearl Jam in ’91 when they were coming out and I was, what, 16? It is just one of those bands that they have been with me forever. The way [Eddie Vedder] sings the same song has changed. I loved the song Black when it came out in ’92; it is my favorite song of all time. Then I saw it five years ago when he played it at Wrigley Field, and the song had completely changed. Suddenly I was a grown-up.”
Martin continues, “When you are young, you are either 100% happy or 100% sad. It is just extremes. Then you grow up and you find out that there is a huge gray area, everything has nuances, there is always a reason why and there is always a different side of the story, so it is not black or white. Suddenly he was singing that same song, it was at Wrigley Field. I went to the cinema to see it, which was surprisingly an amazing experience. I listened to him sing that song. It was the same lyrics. It was the same melody, but he took that frailty into those words. The words were the same, but they had a different tone. I love Vedder for his artistic competence and unique gift of relaying emotions in his music. And, in interviews, he [comes across as] a very good person, a decent human being.”
Working primarily in Europe, Martin has visited venues that many of us have never even heard of; one, in particular, stands out as his favorite.
“VEGA. It is a mid-sized venue in Denmark. The big room is 1,500 capacity, and it’s quite small, but a lot of big bands have played there. Typically, three songs into the concert, the band will be looking at each other and going, ‘We have never sounded this good.’ That’s just what happens in that room. It is a combination of acoustics and the way it is set up. It is a small room, but it is absolutely amazing. I have seen so many great bands in that room that just played the concert of their lives.”
Music is not the only passion in Martin’s life. He enjoys a good book. “My favorite would be ‘The Last of the Savages’ by Jay McInerney, because [it is about] youth, love and music.” He also loves to cook. “I manage to cook every day, hopefully to the delight of my family.”
And the greatest love of his life?
“I would definitely say my family,” he says, then begins to laugh. “My wife, Sara, is not in the background [as we are speaking], but I can hear her scream ‘padel!’ I started playing padel (a racket sport) a year ago, and she would probably say that it has taken over my life to a point where she feels that she is playing second fiddle.”
The couple has two sons, 11-year-old Adam and 15-year-old Malthe, and Martin dotes on them all as any loving father would.
“The greatest joy is seeing my kids experience new things,” he says. “It could be suddenly developing a new skill, like learning to ski, or being somewhere for the first time. When your kids are born, you get a rerun of what it is like to experience things for the first time. You can be walking through the city that you know, and you have your 2-year-old in a trolley and they will be pointing upwards and asking you about something. You may think, ‘You know what, I have never looked up at this place.’ You get a new set of eyes seeing them experience something for the first time. It is fantastic.”
A younger Martin with his (then) blond son, showing off the family controversy when watching soccer.
With a family to care for and a demanding job, Martin admits he doesn’t see his friends as often as he would like, but the relationships endure, nonetheless.
“I have friends who work in really high-profile jobs,” he says. “I have this friend where it is now a joke when I say, ‘How are you?’ and he says, ‘It is a busy time.’ That time has now been 10 years, so you have passed the point where you can say that this is a busy period. We just laugh at that. I know that I may not see him for four months because he is running some major company acquisition in the billions of dollars, but when he calls me and says, ‘Hey, do you want to grab coffee on Saturday?’ I am going to say yes. I think that goes both ways.”
He continues, “[My friends and I] are at an age where people have kids, people rebuild their houses, people get divorced and people change jobs. There are periods of time where we see each other a lot and there are periods in our lives where [you say], ‘You have a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, so I will see you in a year. It is a little bit like family. I can always call you and you will be there, but I also understand you are busy and doing things. I will be there when you need me. That is what I appreciate with my friends as well. It is not like, ‘Oh, I feel that I have not seen you for ages.’ It is just that we are all busy, but we really appreciate the time that we can spend together.”
Speaking of time, while new technologies have made wristwatches somewhat passe, Martin still clings to his. Indeed, he says, it is his most treasured possession.
“I did not buy a wedding ring, and my wife gave me the watch when we got married. In the beginning, I was a little bit intimidated by wearing something that was quite expensive. Now it is probably one of the two things that I would turn around to get if I would leave home without it, the other obviously being my mobile phone. I would go back and say, ‘Well, I don’t want to have a day without it.’ I feel strongly connected to it.”
Martin is also strongly connected to his life in Copenhagen, although he admits to having a long list of places in the world that he would like to visit, including Australia and South America. We asked about his favorite place to visit or a place he would love to visit and why.
“Well, right now I am dreaming of going to Spain to play padel,” he says. “I would love to experience the sport that I am completely in love with in the home country.”
With this in mind, we wondered if he would ever consider moving from the Danish capital. Where would you most like to live, we asked?
“I love the second of jumping in water,” he says somewhat esoterically. “Like when you jump off something, you hang mid-air and then you crash into the water. I love that split second. I say jokingly to my wife that I would love to have a house where I could get out of bed, run through the room, there would be a door and we would be 6-8 feet above water, so I could get out of bed, start running and throw myself out from a balcony or something. It would probably have to be somewhere warm, but I would love that. I really also love living in a country where the weather changes from one season to the next, especially in April when people get the first sense of spring, and you can feel that the brain just explodes in happiness. I love that as well.”
Martin enjoying the snow in Italy, February 2022.
And if he had three wishes today. What would they be?
“I would have to go with one that was music-related,” he says. “I want to go back to 1992 and go to Roskilde Festival where Pearl Jam and Nirvana played the same day. I want to go back to that day and experience that. [Then], I would definitely spend one, maybe even two [wishes] on the climate crisis. I think we are all going to be massively affected by that much more than we think. And if I still had one more, I would stop worrying. I don’t worry so much during the day, but my subconscious is really good at doing that a night. I will wake up and be worried about something and it will keep me up for an hour or two. I would love to not have that in my life.”
And while worrying is something Martin is not so fond of, ultimately he is living a life he loves: doing work he loves and surrounded by people he loves dearly. This is a sweet dream indeed.
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