Benjamin Ward

Benjamin Ward

Don't Try

I own independent music company Don't Try and work as a writer on a freelance basis. I am a musician (unfortunately a drummer), having had the pleasure of headlining stages at festivals such as Reading and SXSW, as well as playing shows around the world.

Where are you based?

I’m based in Stoke Newington, in North London. I was hiding out in rural Essex during the pandemic, but decided to head back to the bright lights to soak in some fun.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I run a company called Don’t Try. We are a boutique marketing and talent agency based in London, delivering campaigns to enhance careers in the modern age of music. Our clients include Warner Music, Sony, Easy Life, UK Labour, Theory Management, Modern Sky, 3Beat, Nice Swan, Universal Music Group. We also manage talent we love – working with an eclectic roster of Grammy-Award winning producers and breakthrough artists. We do other stuff too… from releasing records to promoting shows… we even have our own line of apparel. 

My background in music started as an artist – playing with bands such as SuperGlu, Bessie Turner and Dingus Khan. I got to have lots of adventures recording music and playing shows around the world. Don’t Try essentially started as a DIY label to release music I was involved in, and kind of grew naturally from the excitement surrounding these artists.

What are you listening to?

I’m listening to a band called Hovvdy pretty much non-stop at the moment. I saw them a few years back at SXSW when I was lucky enough to perform there with SuperGlu. They started off as a mix of lo-fi indie and emo, but keep evolving with each album. Their more recent work incorporates so many different textures and melodies. I just find their music really uplifting, and it happens to be one of my girlfriend’s favourite bands too, so it gets played a lot. Another act in a similar lane is Soccer Mommy – I recently discovered their album ‘Color Theory’ and fell in love. The record’s production feels warm and polished, but also really honest and delicate. Quite a hard mix to pull off.

On the heavier side is a band called Phoxjaw. Their manager Ryan was in Funeral for a Friend, which our producer Adrian Bushby worked with back in the day. I hadn’t heard of them until we caught up about another project Adrian was potentially going to work on, but their album ‘Royal Swan’ blew me away. Incredible mix of insanely heavy metal and then these wonderfully driving indie/math rock elements. Lots of light and dark, alongside some gorgeous atmospherics. Also got to always give it up for dual vocals… a hearty mix of shout and sung is really satisfying for this ageing emo. 

How do you discover new music?

The most consistent and trusted way I discover new music is via friends’ recommendations. If someone tells me to listen to something because they think I will enjoy it then I usually will, and if they know me well enough then I probably will like it. I’m lucky enough to attend shows pretty frequently, which is always a great way of hearing new acts (especially at grassroots level) – I recently saw a superb act called Prima Queen play with one of our artists…amazing on so many levels. I also listen out for exciting new music on shows such as BBC Introducing and Kerrang Radio’s ‘New Blood’ in case there is anything that might be a good fit for one of our producers…possibly the nicest activity during the working week. In my general life though, Spotify playlists (algorithmic, third party and editorial) have really been driving new music for me in a way I couldn’t have predicted a few years back. If I’m listening to something I already love, Spotify does a pretty damn good job of knowing what I might want to hear next. Overall, nothing has since done a better job of cementing new bands into my consciousness than music video channels, but I’ve not binged on those since 2005 (a music marketer’s dream).

“I’m lucky enough to attend shows pretty frequently, which is always a great way of hearing new acts (especially at grassroots level).”

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

99.9% streaming services now. The discovery element alongside the convenience of it all really rises above everything else for me. I do occasionally buy CD’s or vinyl, but that is usually exclusively as a way of supporting an artist at a live show.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

At work (which I do at my home), when on walks, during travels/public transport, in my car and during runs and workouts.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

I get to listen to so much for my job, so I’m pretty much covered without having to branch out.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

Although it has so many benefits, I think the overall effect of digital has partially been to devalue full length albums/EP’s and also detach us from artists in general – we have become an audience that knows and loves specific songs. I save so many great suggested tracks to my ‘liked songs’ on Spotify…I know how they go, but sometimes would be hard pressed to even name the artist/album.

On a practical note, if we are being sent music it is always best to get a SoundCloud link. Failing that, Google Drive works well. I think the days of WeTransfer or (dare I say) attaching to an email are long gone. We just need something we (and whoever else we are sending it on to) can play straight away. People are lazy!

“I think the days of WeTransfer or (dare I say) attaching to an email are long gone. We just need something we (and whoever else we are sending it on to) can play straight away. People are lazy!”

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

If I like something (assuming I’m listening on Spotify), I save it into a playlist.

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Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

99% of the time, I send a link to the artist’s Spotify. I’m sure no one ever listens.

Anything you want to “promote”?

Man there are so many great bands we have worked with recently… Softcult, Freddie Long, Comforts, Lostboy, Kawala, Depression Baby, Lovebreakers and Anorak Patch to name a few.

Benjamin Ward, Don't Try - #HowWeListen interview

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