In a world of experts where all you have to do is ask, we are pleased to bring you this exciting section to Tipping Point’s blog…. Ask The Industry! This week we have Mark Lippmann, founder of Scruff of The Neck music group.
Still proudly independent, Mark Lippmann has built Manchester based Scruff of the Neck from its humble DIY beginnings, into the wide-reaching organisation it is today. With a strong emphasis on the development of new artists, Mark has enabled Scruff of the Neck to go from strength to strength, evolving from local promoters into a multi-divisioned, 360-degree music company with an impressive roster of bands for management, label, publishing and live promotion alongside in house creative, marketing and tour management teams.
Mark has progressed in music with a desire to collaborate with others as well as pioneer his own methods, an approach that recently lead to record deals for Cassia (Distiller) and Larkins (Good Soldier). Now entering it’s 10th year, Scruff of the Neck has statement shows on sale at Manchester Apollo (The Slow Readers Club), The Albert Hall (Larkins) and The Ritz (Cassia) as well as huge tours spanning UK and Europe.
Tell us a bit about yourself Mark
I started out in 2009 by running a gig in a student pub (where I was working and living above!). The then ‘Scruff of the Neck’ night grew and grew and we ended up progressing onto Manchester city centre shows. I’ve always been ambitious and competitive and we wanted to continue to grow and grow and I realised the way to do this was by getting the best bands, but to do this you needed to offer more; so I started taking a keen interest in developing the artists outside of the gigs (helping release music, build a brand etc).
This ethos stuck with Scruff of the Neck and is still fore frontal today, we basically worked hard to learn all aspects of developing artists, making mistakes along the way but also pioneering new approaches and we realised we were very good at it! This naturally evolved into us taking bands on for management roster I now have 3 acts on my roster (Cassia, Larkins and Glass Caves who will have sold over 10,000 tickets between them in 2018 and two of them have signed record deals amongst other incredible achievements!).
What does your day to day work look like?
I run an office with 12 staff in Manchester (how did this happen?!) so I’ll come in and we’ll have a team buzz meeting with a coffee on the second floor and get everyone pumped for the day. I’ll then inevitably have the first hour trying to save my inbox from e-mail Armageddon! Each day then tends to differ but will be filled with meetings with other industry / artists and a load of phone calls to my management roster. In the evening I do quite often get out to shows which is always fun but still constitutes work!
How do you generally discover new music?
Through our Scruff of the Neck LIVE machine. We will have booked over 500 shows in the UK and Germany in 2018 ranging from 80 cap to 3,500 (and growing!) so this is an amazing A&R vehicle as you generally get to put on band’s first ever shows and nurture them both artistically and personally if it clicks and naturally when they fulfil their potential the bond is strong! We found all our management and label roster this way.
What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
For bands (where I work best) I’d say focus on your live set first and foremost. Observe other artists and how they perform and what makes them great on stage and try to find your own way; remember it’s a ‘show’ so it’s OK to wear outrageous clothes and act in an overt way, it’s entertainment! Once you feel gig ready, get cracking on shows but make sure each one counts; quality over quantity! You’ll also hone the aforementioned ‘show’ by playing live so keep going.
I would really recommend researching your local promoters and trying to build a relationship with the best ones that work hard to grow your opportunities. If you build a relationship with a Scruff of the Neck, This Feeling, Futuresound, Birmingham Promoters etc you really will develop. It’s OK to be loyal to one, we never hold that against bands!
What do you look for in a new act when taking on new artists? How do you know they are ready?
I look for 3 clear things:
- Talent – there has to be a ‘thing’ which I know sounds wishy washy but you just get a feel for this. It doesn’t mean the band need to be the finished article but they need something special like a unique frontperson or an insane knack to write a hook.
- Work Ethic – everyone that understands Scruff of the Neck, our people and our bands know we all graft, so I’m always looking for this. Often bands worry about ‘pestering’ but I love seeing those hungry individuals because it shows they want it!
- Good People – working in music is very stressful to the point where mental health and well-being initiatives are really prominent at the moment (and rightly so) so we need to enjoy what we do and look out for each other! So yeah we look for nice people to work with as that’s how we feel we operate as well.
Finally, what track do you have on repeat at the moment? (provide links if possible)
I still listen to all the old noughties indie stuff in my spare time like The Cribs, The Sunshine Underground and early Arctic Monkeys but the reader will probably be more interested in new bands or ‘hidden gems’. I’m going to give you the Scruff of the Neck management / label roster and then a couple of non-SOTN bands so I’m not just blowing our trumpet!:
(note from the editor: We couldn’t host all 12 of tracks on this webpage, so I’ve had to cut Mark’s choice’s down to 1 roster + 1 non-roster [two of my favourites from all them!]. His other mentions from his roster were Cassia, Larkins, Glass Caves, Young Monarch and Kashmere and from the Non-Roster mentions were Marsicans, POLO, Jerry Williams, The Lottery Winners and Twisted Wheel- CD).