Saturday, 18 February 2012

#FindOutFriday Valentine's Special Part 2 - DoubleM Entertainment

DoubleM Entertainment

What I love about this week's feature, is that in addition to focusing on a duo that are making some serious waves in the entertainment industry, it also give me a sneaky opportunity to continue all things love and make this my calmed-down, 'Valentine's Part 2' after last week's rabble-rousing and tomfooleryIf you're familiar with them, it's no surprise; if not then let me introduce you to a Power Couple on the rise...

Sophie Horne and Ben Anderson are DoubleM Entertainment. A literal 1, 2-Punch, they have taken the live music and event management circuit by storm in 8 short months with their Musicalize brand. Hot off the heels of their latest show, they took some time out to have a chat with one of their favourite supporters...

1. SO you two! Let's start with something simple, because there's a lot that I want to cover with you... 'DoubleM': what's the meaning behind the name?
Sophie: Nothing too cryptic! Just 'Music and Media' to cover all the aspects of what we do, and what we plan to add to our roster in the future.

2. You've done more with Musicalize and DoubleM by extension, than either of you can have imagined possible in this short time. What were your goals for the brand 12 months ago and how do they differ today?
Ben: There's more Stress! There wasn't really any this time a year ago, because the actual content of what's gone on to become Musicalize didn't exist! Really, how it all came about, was that I started coming down to London regularly around November 2010. I was going to all of the well-known events, your Sunday Shows, Sunday Night Lives...I started networking and expanding my circle because I was interested in what was going on and the contrast between here and the club-nights in Birmingham, where I'm from. I was doing some music-related work there anyway and I kept getting asked if I planned to put on my own nights. By January/February of 2011 we were coming down more regularly and "No" replies somehow started turning into "Yes's".
Sophie: To my surprise! People would ask Ben and when he'd say "Yes", I'd just think "We are?!"
Ben: (laughs) It wasn't until March of 2011 though, that the ideas really started to take shape. I remember we'd already been to Get Gassed in Bracknell to see Ed Sheeran....
Sophie: I had no idea who he was, but Ben had been going on about him for ages!
Ben: We'd decided from then that we wanted him at an event, but his Management had explained that he was going to be away in America. Beyond that, I just started speaking to the Organisers. I told them we were in the Industry and really just found out what we could. 5 weeks before our first event, I found myself sitting at home one Saturday night and just decided to reach out on Twitter to see what the feedback was like. I was flooded with responses from all of these unsigned artists. That just cemented what I'd already been thinking, that "We COULD do this!"
Ghetts and SB:TV's Jamal Edwards at the Musicalize launch in April 2011
Sophie: Our first venue (Club Alto, Soho), was one of 15 that we looked at! Ben would collect me from work at 7PM everyday for go-sees. We had to change venues about four or five times, because we didn't know that tagging our event with the word 'Urban' would have such a negative knock-on effect.

For us, the question was never "How are you able to get Ghetts - a Black headline artist, to perform live, in a West London venue?" The question was only ever: "Why is no-one else doing it?"

Ben: Yeah, it probably seemed as if we had loads of confidence that we would assume we could pull something like that off, but really it was more that we had no idea you couldn't!
Sophie: In terms of goals for this year; we're aiming for Bigger and Better!
Ben: Definitely. Media-wise, we're improving our relations. We're building an increasing brand on twitter and facebook. I think because it's just us, people are more willing to interact. But for specific goals, we want to secure a more targeted audience. I'd much rather Musicalize have 5,000 music-related followers than 10,000 random ones. Not that we aren't happy for the interest, but the point is to build a network of like minds.
Sophie: We want to have one a month, and we want to make them events that artists are happy to come back to.

3. 5 events in and you've managed to secure a varied stream of talent at each. No two shows have been like the last - a trap that  I think a lot of live shows run into. Which has stood out to you the most and why?
Musicalize Event Launch, April 2011

Sophie: For me, obviously our first one was EPIC because we got Ghetts in a posh Soho nightclub; but if you understood the amount of stress it took to get him in there! And obviously because it was our launch and we still managed to pack the place. But if I had to pick a favourite...Obviously aside from the Ed Sheeran one, because that one doesn't really count! Out of the others...I think the crowd and the vibe at the Bluey Robinson show at Cargo, was great. It was a really nice atmosphere, everyone was involved and singing along; even Ortisé who came down to support VIDA; was inside the main room watching In'Sight, watching everyone, and taking CDs off of them. It was a really nice 'Team UK' night. Everyone looking out for each other; big stars mixing and supporting artists who were only giving their second or third performance, I think was a really nice set-up for me. 

'The Summer Follow Up' - July, 2011
Ben with VIDA Manager Oritsé, of JLS fame
Ben: The reason that was such a good show for me; was that it matched up with the concept behind it - 'Music' and 'Socialising'; that's where the name came from. So for us, Cargo worked amazingly because you had the seated area, it was the middle of Summer, you had the beer garden where, when the Artists weren't on stage, they could go and have a chat. The challenge with us is that because our line-ups are so diverse and so packed, there has been a loss of that opportunity sometimes. So that's why for 2012 we've changed the format. We now run the event from 7-11PM and that first hour is dedicated networking time. We invite Media, Press, PR, A&R, to just come down and have a chat, and artists have the opportunity to mingle, give out their CDs and make real use of that time.
'Ladies Night'
Sophie and Ben's first All-Girl line up
Sophie: For me as well, thinking about it; XOYO was a good one because it was obviously an all-female line-up which, on paper, sometimes people think that's a bit peak because in music, if you look at the scene now, there's a lot more male rappers and male singers, especially; males are pretty much on top at the moment. So our having had an all-female line-up, with such a good variety of artists, only contributed to making it an absolutely fantastic night. I mean obviously Lioness was FAB. Wretch 32 came down to support Kyra that night, we had Premier Footballers down there...I think that was the one that had that 'WOW Factor' for us. Every time I turned around, somebody well-known to the public was there. Even for the quality as well; there was not one weak act on that line up. 
'The BiG One' - The November event was the pair's biggest yet.
Ben: For us as well, for the gig that we did in November...It was a BIG statement to show how much can be achieved in a short space of time if you work hard. Because that was all we did!
Sophie: We spent a fortune...I mean this was before we could get in anywhere for free, before we knew anyone! We'd literally be at the Sunday Show every week for 7:30PM; we'd be queuing outside of Sunday Night Live as early as we could, to get in as cheaply as we could...we'd literally go and talk to random people. It's not until you really put yourself out there, that you realise that the music scene is actually very warm, everyone will talk to everyone; you know this, I've seen you talking to everyone  at events (talking, harassing with a camera in a friendly manner...same diff! ES)! It's one of these situations that everyone is either an Artist, or a Manager, or an A&R or an Event Promoter, everyone does the same thing. This time last year, we did not know anybody; not one, I feel confident that if I wanted to book a top artist, I'd be able to. Or if I wanted to have a massively star-studded event, where I could pull in a lot of people to make the cameras happy like we did at Proud2, where we had 'The Only Way Is Essex' people, we had Loick Essien come down, we had Big Brother contestants...pulling in those sorts of people is now very, very easy. Originally, we would email all the BIG booking agencies begging them to let us have an Artist and we'd get ignored, or told "your event isn't big enough" we have a fantastic relationship with  bookers at many of them, they'll send us over their rosters and we'll get to view the Artists they have on their books. So to be in that position, where we are now being targeted as an event that people want to be at; even if they've never been themselves, their management know about us and our reputation.

4. I think that you two are starting to be seen as something of a beacon for 'Team UK' now; in that every show so far has had a 'Strictly-Brit' line-up. Was that intentional? Or is it that you're simply building the bridge, through building the brand?
Ben: I think last year was a really exciting year for 'Team UK' in general. For us, it was all about, let's go for the people who we believe, genuinely, if they stuck at what they are doing, could really make it.
Sophie: And we've done really well with that; people like Clement Marfo, Bluey're seeing a lot of them. Those that you see who've been pegged by MTV and (Radio) 1Xtra as 'Ones To Watch', these are all people that we're looking at for our events. People who, have got a bit of a buzz around them, but maybe haven't been signed yet or they've just signed a Publishing deal, or maybe haven't been Managed for awhile, but the talent IS there. We can't wait to look six months to a year down the line, see them in the charts and know that we had them, that's the exciting thing. Plus the UK has SO much talent! It's nuts when you see a lot of not so good people on TV, that are getting signed because of their comedic value. The fantastic artists that we've had on our stages, we're just happy to have given them a platform.

5. You may not be aware of this, but you two are actually one of the main reasons I wanted to bring back this feature. It's all very well and good that you give this platform to artists; but for what you have done and in the short time that you have done it, frankly, it's not quite normal! So tell me how it all works:
Ben: A few people have contacted us about this, and are really keen to see what's going on behind the scenes. The thing that always stands out to them is A) I'm not from London and B) that Sophie has her own business that she runs full-time as well. On paper, it just shouldn't work.
Sophie: And that we're young as well; I'm only 24, he's 27.
Ben: I'm thinking about inventing a stage age...
Sophie: Alright, we might make him 25, he's feeling a bit too old...
Ben: I am.
"It's just the Two of Us" - Sophie
Sophie: But the fact that we're both young...I mean my background is somewhat related in booking dancers and whatnot but it's a very different world to anything we've done previously. Our backgrounds; Ben was in the Banking Sector, I was a Performer! I was a Dancer, with a degree and I was going to go on and be a Teacher, that's the path I was going down. Business wasn't really anything I'd looked into. Obviously I  had developed some Business skills from opening my Academy two years ago; but the two of us together, on paper, shouldn't really work as well as we do, in the way that I have my section, Ben has his, we check in with each other every now and then to make sure everything's been done. And that's kind of just how we work. Venues are always very surprised that it's just the two of us, they always think there's 6-7 more people involved!
Ben: I didn't leave my day job until July of last year. It's all part of the battle, in that we were trying to sell this brand while also trying to do a 9-5...It's only when we sit down and talk about it, that we start to realise that maybe what we're doing isn't actually the norm!

6: So you're in sync with each other, but what about the other shows on the Live Music circuit? How do you distance yourself from the competition?
Sophie: The good thing about us is that although there is this competition between some Live Music events; we'll call them Group A, talking about Group B, talking about Group C...We've literally been to all of them. There was a period last Summer where we were at Sunday Show every single week! We've gotten to know the Organisers of them all really well and actually built up great friendships. I don't want to be sitting here going, "don't go to that show, or that one or that one". We go to their shows as well and potentially there's scope for collaborations later in the year. To us, we all have very different audiences, so there's room for everyone, I think.
Ben: The only thing is that people will always say to us, "is ILUVLIVE your competition?" Which is strange, because it's not really! I mean it is in the sense that, if anyone comes to London and asks, 'What's THE night to go to?' Then they come to mind. But they've been going for what is it, five odd years now. I saw a tweet from them recently saying they had Ed Sheeran a year ago...yes they did, but we had him in November...

Ed Sheeran on the Musicalize Stage for 'CoppaFeel', Nov 2011 
Sophie: When he had a Number 1 album...and he shared our stage with Wretch 32; who also had a Number 1 album, they were both up there on our stage at the same time. So for me, having Ed a year ago is great, it shows that you really support artists from the grass roots; I mean they've had Jessie J early as well and that's fantastic; but for us, I think the thing is that A) they've been going for years and years and years which is great and B) they're very happy with the size of their events, which they will always sell out, because they're very good at what they do. We enjoy what they do, we go to their shows. But we're trying to make Musicalize a brand that can work on all different levels.
Wretch headlining the same Stage; Nov 2011 
So we can still have our monthly 600-event with the up-and-coming for showcases; but once a quarter, we can also have a MASSIVE event for Charity, where what we do is going to a great cause to help other people, raise awareness of things, get big Artists involved and so on...I think our views and our aims are slightly different. About 6 months ago, if you had compared us to ILUVLIVE, we would have been over the moon with that, even being put in the same category. But I think now that we've found our feet and know what direction we're going in, we've established that we're very different, I think.

Here was where a first happened that was absolutely necessary to include, because it just went to show and prove how different these two really are...They turned the tables on ME!

7. Ben: As someone who's been to all of our events, what has changed about what we're doing from your perspective?
ES with Mike Hough,
 Musicalize Launch, April 2011
ES(!): Do you know what? If anything, I don't think that you have changed. Which might seem like a very strange thing to say, because I do think that your events now, have a completely different feel to what you started out with.
With FEMFEL, July 2011
I think that because the way that you've always approached them, and what you've tried to do is very, very different from anything else, to me, all you've done is taken what was initially your 'start up' formula, which I'm now learning wasn't really a formula at all(!) and carried that same ethos through from the very first show to now, on bigger and bigger stages
At October's 'Female Takeover'
You've just taken the initial idea, put it in different environments - because each venue has been as diverse as your line-up - and just seen how it works, let it do it's own thing. I really hate when people overuse the word 'organic', but to be honest, it's exactly what you've done. So that's just another reason that I've always been really intrigued by your story and how you do things.
With the lovely Kyra
at November's 'CoppaFeel'
You are completely different to the other shows out there, and I personally feel that with you two, your audience never knows what they're going to get, which is a huge part of your appeal.

8. So on that note, we have to talk about that November show; it was that MASSIVE. Recount 'CoppaFeel' from your perspective:
Just ONE of the packed floors at November's 'CoppaFeel!'
Charity event for Breast CancerAwareness.
Sophie: We finished soundcheck and there were about 40 people there, from Artists, to Management, to extras. We went to go and move all of the bags out of the room and they told us they were going to open the doors - that was fine. I saw about 20 people drift in and run to the front, obviously Ed Sheeran fans...I was literally gone, and this is no word of a lie, about 20 minutes...I came back into the room and it was PACKED! Then I went outside to get some friends in the queue and it was still packed outside and I didn't understand! I could see my friends, people I've grown up with, about 100-deep in a queue, and I just kept thinking, "I don't understand where all these people have come from?!" Ben and I were a bit emotional actually, it blew us away a little bit.
'Knowing your boobs could save your life!'
The first Charity event promoted Breast Cancer Awareness
What was funniest for me, was that this was the first one that my Sister has travelled up for. She doesn't really know much about events, or what we do, but she's very much into whatever's in the charts. So as soon as she it was packed, and she knew Ed was backstage in the dressing room; she rang my Mum and said "Mum! They're not lying! It's definitely big, there's lots of people here! Ed's here and I've met lots of people off the telly!"
Ben: It is quite strange. it was something that, you won't believe that anybody could have done it.
Sophie: Ed Sheeran and Wretch 32 make it very easy to sell tickets. But getting Ed Sheeran and Wretch 32 to perform together, on your show, at the end of their biggest year? Without good networking, good people skills, the hard work we put in and the relationships we've built, it would have been impossible.

Ben: If we started off very, very small, we would never have been able to approach some of the people we did with that level of confidence. Even down to the venue; that was a very big gamble for Proud2 to take with us, because we had not done anything of that size. We've always tried to think big. We didn't want to do our first event somewhere where there was a 150-capacity. That's never been the vision. For every venue, it's been "how can we get 500 people?" Because the other thing we didn't want - and that's something that we picked up during that January to March period - is that some of these events were celebrating their 3rd, 4th, 5th anniversaries in the same 250-capacity venue. No disrespect to those venues, because they're great live music homes... 

Sophie: ...but you want to make your way up.
Ben: Right. You've got to progress.
Sophie: I remember having this chat with Marvyn from Sunday Show and he was saying that he remembered having their first event. There were about 30 people there and they slowly built it up, moved venue to venue and obviously now, they sell a lot of tickets every week. We've had the same kind of approach I think; once you've mastered one capacity, try and go for the next level and work your way up.
Ben: It's just frustrating for us that we can't put on a show for 2000 people every single month, otherwise we'd do it!

9. So. For the budding Organiser out there, who wants that line-up that will secure the 3-4 figure attendee mark and is looking to your example; how should they do it?
Sophie: It's all very well and good going, "Right, we know who we want for the next one; let's get A, B, C and D"; but you have to become so clever by looking at their schedules, looking at who's booked for festivals this year, who's got albums coming out...You almost have to become all of their PAs in one go. It's funny, because we did filming with Kaleem Taylor and Charlie Drew recently and I knew more about their careers than they did! They were being asked who they've worked with and what they've done;  and they needed to have a think, whereas I was just reeling off their CVs! You really do need to know the Artist you're booking inside out.

Ben: Something that started in 2011 and is going to go over into 2012; we used the term earlier - 'Team UK' are doing so well and only becoming more popular. Although we know that they've been working hard behind the scenes for quite awhile, on the surface they're becoming almost overnight successes and that does make them that much harder to get. If we look at someone like Dot Rotten, who we looked at getting last April...
Sophie: For our launch.
Ben: Which now, is going to be really tricky because he's hot on everybody's lips so people will want to book him left, right and centre.
Sophie: You have to be really on the ball and know who's going to blow up before they do. We have somebody booked for March or May who, is really doing BIG things on the scene at the moment. Luckily we were quite clever with our email timing so that we've gotten them before they properly blow up or become too expensive!

10. If I had to pick anything that combats all the amazing things that you are both doing, it would be this: as the shows have grown, so has the status of the Artists on the bill. Do you plan to reintroduce the Unsigned, who don't already have a name and backing to your line ups?
The first event of 2012,
Lady Leshurr headlined
Ben: What we started out doing was giving the Unsigned the chance to perform on the same stage as the established Artists. It's such a gamble though, because you don't want to pick someone who is so inexperienced, that these opportunities are so massive that it doesn't work out for them. We do want to support Unsigned Artists; it's the bread and butter of what we do. But at the same time, I suppose because it's now a business, we have to think well ok; are these Artists going to pull in a crowd? At the same time, our experience would suggest that it's the one's who haven't performed so often that are going to pull in support because all of their friends and family will see it as a massive opportunity.
Sophie: You'll find as well that with the more established Artists - and it's something that we've found to be a bit of a bug-bear, not with all of them, but with some - because they perform so regularly, they don't really promote it, market it or tell people to come down. Whereas with the 'newbies', I swear, our best guestlist section will always come from them!
Ben: For us, that's going to be the balancing act from now on. How do we put on the big names that have got a bit of a following as well as supporting those up-and-comers?
Sophie: If we believe that an Artist has the potential, and either we've seen them live or we've heard about their music and think that they're great, then to be honest, I don't really care if they're established or not, I want to hear their music and I want to promote them at my shows. That's kind of where I come from on it really.

I have to give an Honorary Mention to one of my favourite answers from Ben and Sophie that didn't make it into their 10 best answers...Meet 'The Board':

Sophie's Mum gifted the pair with this to help them organise their first event. It's been with them ever since and lists all of the Artists that they wanted to secure. The Hopeless Romantic in me LOVES the nostalgia of it, the Philosophical Follower loves the motivational quote dated 01.01.11, to 'Make this Year Count'; but the comedy lover in me was floored when Sophie told me that they usually stick the shopping list in a free corner!

You might have Stars the World over knocking down your door, but NOTHING says 'Down to Earth' like 'Don't forget the milk'! Many thanks to you Sophie and Ben, your interview was a pleasure and I, for one, can't wait to see what you do in 2012. 

Keep up with Sophie, Ben and all things Musicalize via their various  Social Media platforms. The next event will be taking place SOON, and you always hear about it on their facebook page first, so make sure you stay tuned.

Thanks for reading, see you for the next one!
ES :)