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Five Top Tips From Island Records' President

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Photo Darcus beese from island records

As president of Island Records, Darcus Beese has helped cultivate the careers of some of the greats. The late Amy Winehouse, Sugababes, Taio Cruz, Florence + The Machine, Mumford & Sons, Rizzle Kicks, Ben Howard, Robbie Williams and Dizzee Rascal are acts he’s signed and developed over his 22-year career (he officially joined the label in 1993).

Last year, Beese was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the UK music industry. Basically, he knows his stuff. Some of which he was kind enough to share to an audience of aspiring musicians during an interview at London music school, The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance on April 30. So what does it take to make it in music in 2015? Read on for five of Beese’s top tips.

Make an impression

“[Getting into the music industry] should always be about networking. You’ve got to find where people go, and make sure that if someone asks their opinion of you, they have an opinion of you. If you absolutely love music, and that’s where you want to be, you've got to show that you love something, that could be through writing a blog, starting a songwriters or club night. If you want to become a scout, just go and scout. There are young people that I bump into that will email me good unsigned music, I don't employ them, but they want me to know how good they are at finding music.”

Have patience, strategy and listen to feedback

“If you start uploading music don't stop, because if you lose momentum, you’ll lose those one or two people that come and go, I like what this person is doing. Young people online who search for music are very hungry for unsigned music. There’s no secret to success, it’s just about putting music up and people enjoying it or not, and then how you react to that feedback and how you get better and more laser-sighted, more refined about what your offering is to people; the visual, the music and what you’re trying to stand for.

“Then at some point, someone says, I want to see you live. You go and do your first live gig and nobody turns up. Then you can either check out, get a normal 9-5, or you go, Let’s try this again and at some point, something happens, something clicks. You write a song, you get the feedback, you do a gig, the person that came before comes back with three friends. That has to then start a process that you build. I always think that something is going to take two to three years from start to actually being really tangible. Tangible is someone turning up and going, I fucking like that. Someone can easily email or put a nice comment on YouTube, but buying a ticket and turning up is something completely different. Live is a really good measure of what you’re doing.”

Don't overthink it

“People like to see a journey, and fans and lovers of music like to go on journeys with the artist that they've found an affinity with. At [the beginning, making music] should never be overthought, to overthink stuff paralyses you, and clouds your judgement. I love the people that work off naive beauty because they don't know what the fuck they are doing but they are excited about it, and that counts for a lot. However unrefined your music is, it doesn't matter, put it up, because you need to get feedback.

“And you’ll get brutal feedback, you’ll also get good feedback and that’s what makes people what they are and refine what they are doing. Don't ever sit there and kind of go, I’ve got to be proficient at what I do because a lot of punk bands didn't know how to play instruments, they just bashed them.”

Remember how lucrative merchandise can be

“Lethal Bizzle is a millionaire and he’s only just signed to a major. Leading up to that he was very entrepreneurial and brilliant with his merchandise. Even before we signed Tinchy Stryder, I remember sitting down with him, he had just made an album that he’d put out, just gone on tour and he had this t-shirt, I said, Where did you get that from? He said, That’s mine, I make t-shirts, we probably mail out about 10 from my bedroom every day and charge £10. He already had a money making business. It is possible to be self sustaining without a major record label, but you've got to know your business, you've got to know your market.”

Ultimately, stand for something and don't wait to be discovered

“I look for people that want to stand for something, want to do something irrespective of what anyone else thinks. I like people that don't ask me permission to exist. I like people that don't stand there waiting to give me a CD after a seminar, I like people that say, Check me out online, look at my video on YouTube. Rizzle Kicks existed online before we came along, Jessie J existed before - you Googled her and half her album was online - Mumford & Sons had already put out two EPS on their label, Disclosure had Latch before we signed them, Florence had already put out Kiss With A Fist and Dog Days on indie dance label Moshi Moshi. The [accountability] is on artists, individuals, the manager and the band to exist.”

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