Karel Ullner, an artist born in Helsinki, moved to New York in 1997 with his family and grew up in the City. He released his first single named Calling in the fall of 2015, which was then followed up by single Closer to My Body. Karel’s music reflects his colorful music history: he has played everything from classical music to heavy metal and from pop music to rock and roll. In the future Karel is going to focus more on electronic music and mix it with other genres. Karel will be doing shows in New York this spring. He recently moved to London to focus on his music more. FACC interviewed Karel to find out what it takes to break through in the NYC music scene.

How would you describe the music business in New York?
It’s diverse and there are lots of opportunities for new artists. I would say that the difference between New York and other places is that there are so many different kinds of artists and all of them are in the same place. It is easy to network, but the tough part is to get your voice heard.  

What do you love the most in New York in terms of making music?
New York is such a hub of all sorts of stars and artist from around the world. You get exposed to everything possible. One way or another you get the chance to explore different things.

What does it take to succeed in the music biz?
It all starts with a good song. If you have a song that people enjoy and remember, you produce it correctly, you are a good performer and you have a great team, you can turn it into a bigger thing. Mostly you have to believe in yourself and push yourself. You just have to put yourself out there and take it as a learning experience.

Is it hard to find the right contacts in NYC?
It’s a matter of timing and meeting as many people as you can. As of my own experience, it is also important to take advice from as many people as possible.

What would be your dream venue for a show in New York?
I think everyone’s dream is to play at Madison Square Garden. I also like standing rooms because those venues are great for the audience. There you have the most options in terms of the concert experience: you can stand at the bar, sit down, be in the front – basically you can do whatever you want.

What tips would you give to an artist trying to make it in the U.S.?
Again, I think it’s important to have a song that lot of people can connect to and remember. Besides that, believe in yourself and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. New York is one of the toughest cities because of the competition. There are lots of nice people, but also nasty people that you’ll meet on the way. It’s important to learn how to deal with the nasty people and if that makes you stronger, that’s good.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I want to continue making more friends in the music scene, do a lot of collaborations with other artists and experience something I have never done before. With my music I try to reach as many people as possible globally.

Karel will be playing live on May 27th in Karel Ullner Artist Showcase at Santos Party House and on June 25th in Delancey. Read more about Karel here. His recent EP Hunger can be found on iTunes and Spotify.