want to know why your favourite new music brands start their lives in bedrooms?
Ever since the early House clubs in Chicago and Detroit, dance music had been a pretty simple system. You have the producers and DJs, the labels, the promoters, the radio stations and the media. Those interlocking institutions would govern rave culture...
There have of course been overlaps with the formation of dance superbrands like Ministry Of Sound and Fabric. There was a growth in specialist dance magazines like Mixmag and Jockey Slut as they reached a readship of hundreds of thousands. But things were still basically the same - you release a record through a label, it gets played in the clubs, on pirate radio - and if you're lucky - on Radio 1. In the last decade that all started to change. As dance magazines shut down, clubs closed and labels struggled, a new breed of dance brands that didn't fit into any of the old categories started to emerge.
"When UKF started I'd be listening to Fabio and Grooverider [Radio 1's Drum and Bass show] between 11-12," says Luke Hood, the founder of UKF, one of these new dance brands and one of GQ's 100 most connected men. "There's people who didn't want to sit through a two-hour radio show to hear two tunes they like." UKF fixed that problem by creating a Youtube channel, which acted somewhere between a DJ and a label, picking and premiering tracks, but not releasing them in any real sense. They were a new kind of curator for a new kind of dance music fan. It began when Luke was still at school, with a couple of videos posted a week. In 2012, the UKF channels reached 1 billion views. It was the success of channels like UKF that paved the way for Eton Messy, a Bristol based house channel. "It just started as a way of sharing tracks with our mates, there was no big plan with it," says one of its founders Charlie Wedd, who began the channel while at university in Bristol.
Ten years ago, Charlie and Luke would likely have been working for labels or maybe writing for magazines, but at a time when piracy is choking the traditional music and magazine industries while start-ups flourish, they set upon something new. It was a similar situation for Boiler Room, which changed the nature of a DJ set, moving the club to the internet in an experiment that has seen the brand conquer the globe.
"We're most equivalent to the evolution of pirate radio," says Halina Weilogorska, Boiler Room's head of legal affairs. "We foster a discovery mentality. We're a collection of niche genres. We tap into these little subcultures. We just wanted to find a way to enjoy music in a way that was less high-pressured and more immediate." What's striking about all three brands is what they've done wasn't difficult. Sure, as they got bigger they needed lawyers and sponsorship, but at the beginning, it was basically just a laptop and an idea.
So if anyone can do it, why have these three brands been so successful: "Building a brand is about trying to deliver a repeat experience, something that people trust you for," says Halina. "But it's also about saying no." "Yeah and with Youtube, you get your feedback pretty quickly," adds Luke. "If they don't like it, they'll call you out and tell you."
The music industry remains in a doomy period, with labels closing and artists struggling to make ends meet. But by bringing the culture of tech start-ups to music, people like Luke and Charlie have been able to rework the structure of electronic music and fit themselves right in the middle. Encouragingly, they both think this is just the beginning for young music entrepreneurs. "As a small business we try to work with as many people as possible. We went from doing, two camera live streams on the cheap. We worked with the guys from JHO management to do Sub Focus at the Roundhouse and 8 cameras," says Luke. "There's so much space to expand."