Following on with our Ask The Industry feature, we now speak to booking agent Ben Walker (who's roster includes General Levy, Mungo's Hifi & the Sugarhill Gang) about how he started working at MN2S and how technology is ace for discovering new music.
Tell us a bit about yourself Ben…
Before I started here at MN2S I had absolutely no industry experience, wasn’t a musician and had a degree in Sociology & Criminology so was certainly the underdog when it came to getting involved in the industry.
I remember sitting in the library during my finals for 3rd year at university and I got the overwhelming fear of ‘what do I do next?’. I knew I didn’t want to go into a normal job and wanted to do something exciting and interesting.. it took me a while but I eventually decided a music agent could offer that to me. I then emailed every single agency in the UK with my CV and was lucky enough to hear back from MN2S.
If you don’t have experience in music but want to get involved, you will almost definitely have to complete an internship and that’s exactly what I did with MN2S. My internship consisted of a lot of research and outreach over the phone and email. It was certainly a lot of work but ended up giving me the best experience I could have asked for in terms of training to be an agent.
I did this for 6 months and was finally offered the job as an agent with MN2S and I was ecstatic. I started off building a small roster of 2 or 3 artists and slowly built up to the 20+ I have now 3 years on.
What does your day to day work look like?
My day to day is very much office based. There are a lot of email and phone calls, you have to source and negotiate deals for your clients as well as plan for their future.
Aside from the office side of my job, there are also a lot of meetings in and out of the office and industry conferences. You can also go to shows and festivals when they are on. It sounds great, and to be totally honest, it is.. however, it can be very stressful, hard work and you need to be prepared to work long days and be called at all hours of the day and night.
How do you generally discover new music?
When I first started out as an agent, the focus was on building my roster so I used to do a lot more in terms of discovering new music than I do now. But to be honest, it’s so easy to discover new music in today’s day and age, there is so much out there and it’s so easy to find.
I find the likes of YouTube and Spotify’s suggestions for new music are incredible and that can really help you to discover new things. When listening to new music, I always think to myself things such as, ‘what festivals do I think this would work at’, ‘what radio station would play this’ etc. it helps me to decide whether I can see a future for that musician, band or DJ.
Aside from this, you can also track Shazams across the world. This is really interesting because you can literally watch a song start to get Shazam’d in a small city in Greece and then two days later it’s being Shazam’d across the whole of Europe and then the whole world! It’s very intriguing to watch as well as a great way to catch a track before it blows up.
What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
Honestly? It’s not going to be easy… at all. I honestly think that you have more chance of winning the lottery than being the next Ed Sheeran or Adele, but someone’s got to do it so why can’t it be you!
I guess what puts me off a lot of new artists is the fact that everyone sounds the same, or similar, in that specific genre. It’s great to have influences, in fact I would recommend it, but only to a point. Being different will get you further than anything else and don’t be scared or worried to be different. Don’t listen to people telling you that you can’t do it and never give up, you never know what’ll happen.
When would you look to take on an act? What do you look for? How do you know they are ready?
I get so many artists getting in touch asking for an agent, who just aren’t ready. I look at it like this, an agent is probably the last person you’ll need in your team as we tend to come in when the product is there and ready to be taken to market.
I look for a mixture of multiple things, social media following, release schedule, YouTube/SoundCloud/Spotify plays, any press about the artist/group, their upcoming shows, their forthcoming material and whether I like the artist. I find it’s important to work with people whose music you like as it makes the whole experience a lot more pleasurable.
Finally, what track do you have on repeat at the moment?
This new belter by Turnover..
Ben’s roster at MN2S Includes:
General Levy, Bishop Nehru, Mungo’s Hi Fi, Slick Rick, The Sugarhill Gang, Reggae Roast, Mad Professor, The Four Owls, U-Roy, DJ Melody Kane (BBC 1Xtra), Hip Hop Brunch, Gold Teeth, Marcus Nasty, Scrufizzer, Fliptrix and more.