On Friday 27th January, we warmly welcomed Founder, A&R and co-owner of Brighton-based independent record label Tru Thoughts, Robert Luis. Rob joined our Music Production, Live Events and Media Production students to give a thorough and personal account of his inspirational journey into the music industry, and what our students can do to make it there too.
Rob started off where many aspiring music producers do, working the decks as a DJ in local bars and clubs. He was also paid to play at house parties. DJing might sound a long way off from Rob’s current job roles, but it’s what got him to where he is today.
So how did he do it, and how can you and our students break into the ever-expanding music industry?
Network, talk to people and make contacts – this couldn’t be emphasised more. Rob got to know a lot of people DJing at a wide range of events. Every time he had an event on, posters would go up into local shops and Rob would make a point of speaking to every single owner and inviting them down to his night, guest list style. When Rob ran his nights, he’d invite other DJs to take a slot on the decks. Those DJs would bring their friends and fans down for a good night. Slowly but surely, all this communication built up to something wonderful… Tru Thoughts.
Tru Thoughts was set up back in 1999 in Brighton by Rob and Paul Jonas. One of their earliest signings and successes was Bonobo. Bonobo’s debut was ‘Animal Magic’ and was immediately well received by critics and fans. Tru Thoughts also signed our very our Music Production Tutor Joe, AKA J-Felix! If you’d like to read more about how Tru Thoughts started and just how passionate they are about the music they sign, visit their website here.
Rob explained to students that when they send in samples/mixes of their work, they need to get them in front of the right people. Artist and Repertoire Officers are a good point of call. One of the sad truths though is that even if you find the right contact your music may not get heard. Rob told us that he tries to listen to every demo sent to him, but with 100-200 songs arriving in his inbox every day, how can he possibly listen to them all? Persistence and patience is key. Don’t harass these contacts, but do stagger emails to them, do call up, do show your passion. Those that pursue in the right way and politely have a good shot at being heard. Rob also highlighted that recommendations go a long way. Again, it’s about who you know! If a friend or colleague approaches Rob and drops you and your music in conversation positively, you’re more likely to get your track heard.
Rob’s had plenty more words of wisdom to give over the course of an hour, but to summarise her are a few pieces of excellent advice…
- Set yourselves realistic goals. Don’t set out to conquer the world immediately. Start small, get your music out to the local community, meet people and network there.
- Don’t beg, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and support.
- Social Media provides great platforms for communication and promotion, but they can also be a hindrance. Get out there and meet people face to face. This is so much more effective and engaging than email exchanges.
- Make music that you are passionate about, not what others want your music to be. Music is an art.
- Get your music out there and ask for constructive feedback.
- You’re always going to make mistakes, but these are important lessons. Learn from those mistakes!
We’d like to say a big thank you to Rob for sharing his truly inspiring journey with us.
If you’d like to start your exciting journey into one of the creative industries, why not apply to join a Dv8 course in September!