Where are you based?
I’m based in Tunbridge Wells and London.
Where do you work? What do you do?
I serve as the Co-Director at SMB, The School of Music Business, where my role encompasses leading courses such as Music Business Fundamentals, Artist Management, and Music Marketing. It’s genuinely inspiring to observe our alumni excel and make significant contributions to the music industry worldwide, collaborating with renowned record labels and publishers. Witnessing their accomplishments and influence in music is truly uplifting.
In addition to my responsibilities at SMB, I also collaborate with governments as a consultant in the music industry, aiding nations in cultivating and enhancing their music ecosystems, from educational strategies to capital expenditure projects. It’s rewarding to be part of the journey of different nations as they explore and develop their musical landscapes, and it’s exciting to see the innovative strides and developments that come from these partnerships.
What are you listening to?
I’m currently obsessed with a band I heard on Instagram called Red Clay Strays. The singer’s vocals are outstanding and I’m really into the Americana genre right now. I’m planning to go to see them in the States ASAP. I love Wrabel – his song The Village has been a real standout track for me this year.
How do you discover new music?
I’ve had extensive experience in artist management and marketing, so discovering new music is something I take quite seriously. I always emphasise to my management students the pivotal role of talent discovery for a manager. It’s crucial to invest the time to find the right artist; after all, a manager is only as good as the exceptional talent they discover.
Currently, TikTok and Instagram are my go-to platforms for unearthing new music, but I also make a conscious effort to regularly read the new music press. Additionally, the algorithms on Spotify offer a helpful hand! Having served as an Expert Board Member of Jump, the European Union’s Music Market Accelerator, for four years, I had the opportunity to travel to many countries and attend numerous music conventions and conferences. This role allowed me to attend artist showcases in each country I visited, unveiling a new world of astounding musical talent along the way.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?
I genuinely enjoy buying vinyl. There’s a unique ritual in placing a record on the turntable and immersing oneself in a body of work just as the artist intended. However, I also strongly advocate for streaming. Viewing it through an industry lens, I am cognisant of the concerns related to artist monetisation, particularly songwriter remuneration, but I also see the democratisation it has brought to music. It has revitalised the recorded music industry, steering it back towards growth after a period of consistent decline preceding 2010. As a user, the availability and accessibility of digital music are simply unparalleled. The sound quality and curation of extensive catalogues enhance the overall musical experience – it’s a great union of convenience and quality.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve listened to a CD. Recently, a new band handed me their demo, and it actually posed a bit of a challenge as to how I would play it! Eventually, I did manage to locate a CD player at home, but I would have appreciated a Soundcloud link instead quite honestly.
“I always emphasise to my management students the pivotal role of talent discovery for a manager. It’s crucial to invest the time to find the right artist.”
Where do you do most of your music listening?
Music is my constant companion throughout the day; it plays throughout my office for the better part of the day. I like to keep an up-to-date playlist that nicely transitions with me, resuming where I left off as I hop into the car and again when I activate the speakers at home. There are moments when I really want to actively engage with the music and listen intently, and then there are times when it serves as a simple backdrop while I cook or cycle.
Investing in Sonos for my home was a game-changer—it ensures that as I move from room to room, the music comes with me.. When that need for active listening arises, headphones are my preferred choice – it’s just a more intimate and enriched experience. My Sony 1000XM4’s haven’t seen an upgrade in a few years, but they remain my favourite for in-house listening. When I’m out and about, the AirPod Pro 2s are my companions—I feel a tad self-conscious donning over-the-head headphones in public!
How do you find and listen to pre-release music?
I’ve been in the music business for over twenty years, wearing different hats—manager, journalist, consultant—you name it. Because of this, I’ve had the chance to work with many new artists, help develop some real talent, and give advice to both emerging music businesses and major music corporations. This has led to me getting loads of new, pre-release tunes sent my way to check out and give my thoughts on. And honestly, that’s one of the real privileges of my career. Being trusted to provide input, and being chosen to listen first… that’s special. I know how much heart and soul artists put into their work, so I never take it for granted.
Maybe it’s the music journalist that’s still in me, but I still love stumbling upon a new track before it’s released and seeing it explode later.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
Speaking as an industry consultant I’d focus my discussion on the disadvantages to highlighting artist and writer compensation. There are obviously ongoing concerns about fair compensation for artists through streaming platforms and that has undoubtedly led to ethical considerations for listeners. Other issues I see are around ‘the tyranny of choice’ – vast catalogues can be overwhelming, and this in turn can impact the ability to be found particularly for new and emerging artists, but in the whole, rather than talk about the downsides, I want to be positive – there’s no point looking backwards, particularly in the music business.
Digital music and streaming, provide extensive reach, allowing artists and labels to connect with a global audience, breaking geographical and logistical barriers that once impacted music distribution. It offers a wealth of data and insights on listener preferences, enabling businesses to tailor their strategies and target their audience more effectively. With independent distribution and streaming, artists have been able to take back control of their careers. There’s a lot to be happy about.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
My personal playlists on Spotify are micromanaged – by me! They’re constantly changing, some new songs progress to my car playlist, some songs get removed from my classics playlist, and I even have a playlist of ‘new music to listen to when I have time’.
I find it easier to manage and keep track of tens of thousands of digital songs in this way than I would with 10k physical records.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
If I listen to and absolutely love a new artist, I have been known to reach out to industry friends at labels, publishers, live agents, other managers and so on, to tell them about my discovery… but I do this sparingly and only when an artist really jumps out as being an incredible new talent – otherwise I’m sure it can get tedious when the call or email comes from Matt once a week!
Anything you want to “promote”?
If you’re passionate about building a career in the music industry, you might want to check out SMB: The School of Music Business. It’s led by seasoned industry pros, who bring real-world experience and insights directly to you. Whether you’re looking to understand music business fundamentals, artist management, or music marketing, SMB offers courses that dive deep into the essential knowledge you need to make your mark in the music world. It’s a fantastic stepping stone for anyone ready to jump into the vibrant and ever-evolving music industry!