Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson

Access Creative & Cetera / Magikal Management

Ian Johnson co-manages Cetera on behalf of Access Creative. Cetera was developed to support and offer guidance to a small roster of acts from the Access Creative stable and act as management mentors to support them and move their career forward. The Cetera roster currently includes Lili Caseley (Graduation Records), Oliver Say (Full Power Records) and Archy Tomas (Konic).

Ian also manages the music industry partnerships for Access and curates their acts and festival stages at Latitude Festival, Mostly Jazz and Funk, Cambridge Sound and Vision, Ipswich Sound City and Wild Paths Festival. Whilst at Access Ian was heavily involved in the early development of Ed Sheeran, Let's Eat Grandma, Maya Law, Mullally and others.

Ian manages writer and producer Harry Edwards and Gus Harvey under his Magikal Management Co.

Where are you based?

Norwich mostly, interrupted by lots of commuting to London for meetings (pre-pandemic).  In normal times I’m lucky enough to get to visit the many Access Creative campuses across the UK and interact with those cities’ music scenes and industry, Bristol and Birmingham being firm favourites.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I work for Access Creative (once known as Access To Music). I’m their Music Industry Liaison and I also co-manage their Artist Development initiative Cetera. That roster includes Lili Caseley, Oliver Say and Archy and the Astronauts. In my time at Access I’ve been lucky enough to mentor some incredible talent including Ed Sheeran, Let’s Eat Grandma, Maya Law, Bessie Turner, Diamond Eyes, Mullally and others.

Outside of Access, I manage the grammy nominated artist and producer Harry Edwards (UMG) and the creative whirlwind that is Gus Harvey, who signed to the incredible record label House Anxiety just before Christmas.

What are you listening to?

It’s a weekly, if not a daily, changing landscape but my recent playlist and downloads include G.O.A.T and 40oz by Polyphia, Nine by Sault, Yazuke by Flying Lotus, Fifth by Krokofant, Glow On by Turnstile, the singles from AV Dummy and I’ve been revisiting some trip hop and some old school Troublefunk. I’m also pretty obsessed with the Kanye Netflix doc and Intalekts Dojo Cypher (on Youtube).

How do you discover new music?

I buy or subscribe to most of the monthly music mags including Mojo/ Uncut / Prog / Electronic Sound plus random copies of Clash/ Dazed/ DIY and others when I’m travelling. I follow a number of online sites like Pigeons and Planes, Complex, Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily and newsletters like The New Cue/Water and Music/ Motive Unknown / Joe Muggs and others.  I also pay attention to “New Music Friday” style posts from people like Drew Lam (Platoon), Prash Mistry (Engine Earz), Lavar Bullard (The Floor)  and Sunny Winter (Kobalt) as I trust their taste.

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

I download quite a lot of music so that I can make playlists for my train journeys, that way I can focus on the music and listen properly. 

I still buy a lot of albums on vinyl (it’s a 40 year old habit !) and to a lesser extent CDs and tapes. I don’t really stream music at all (much to my wife and the bank manager’s annoyance), but I simply don’t agree with the economics of it for the artist/ writer. 

Whenever one of the artists I’m connected to releases something I make a point of buying it too, I feel it’s my small way of showing my commitment and thanks for all their hard work.

Where do you do most of your music listening?

Up until Lockdown most of my music consumption was on the commute or travelling/walking between meetings. Since working from home became the new normal, the means of delivery has changed. I’ve gone from listening via my i-phone and my Beyer DT990 Pro headphones whilst travelling to  listening to music on my Project turntable and Cambridge Audio set up at home. 

I did buy a Vestax Reloop Spin as a portable record player but I’d be a bit worried about the looks I’d get from across the train carriage if I started busting that out for the commute!

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

Most of the pre-release music I listen to is sent to me by acts on the  roster as they work on their new material. On top of that I often get music from other acts I work closely with as a mentor or as a pair of “ears”. I’m very lucky that lots of people seek out my opinion and want to hear what I think of their new material.

I also get sent plenty of pre-release music by friends and contacts in the industry whether they’re mixing, mastering or a manager. Listening to unreleased music is obviously a thrill especially when you hear something incredible early doors. I’m also very aware that it’s an honour, and a responsibility that I take very seriously.

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

Convenience is the main benefit and the ease and speed in which it can be shared is also incredible. I’m not sure I really have any frustrations with digital music other than its ubiquity and the challenge that inevitably brings. I think we need to find ways to reaffirm music’s value both financially and culturally with the audience and tbh even some parts of the industry. 

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

I have constantly evolving playlists and I tend to update them weekly, particularly if I’m about to travel somewhere. Even if it’s a short bus journey I’ll make a playlist for it. 

If there’s anything digital that I love (which happens an awful lot of the time) I will then buy a physical version for the collection at home to listen to it on a “warmer” sounding system when I’m relaxing.

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

Yes, it tends to be a personal thing via my networks as well as the odd social media post. I will try and get the word out to key people if I hear something/somebody new that I think they will like, particularly if it’s unsigned. Most of what I’m sharing is pre-release so it tends to be private links to trusted tastemakers and other industry people whose opinion I value.

Anything you want to “promote”?

I need to mention the debut mixtape by Harry Edwards (try “Logs Are People Too” as a taster track), the “Lest I Feel Sore” EP by Oliver Say is a thing of beauty (Ben Wheatley needs to use it on a soundtrack), “Albion” by Gus Harvey is a work of art (the video by Netti Hurley is a triumph too), the next single by Lili Caseley called “Pretty Good Bad Idea” absolutely slaps and “Tectonic” by the wunder-kid Archy Tomas is a riffy banger.

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