For this edition of “Drop it like it’s Hot” we had the pleasure to connect with industry vet Phil Legg founder of Futureproof a full service music promotion agency and label based in the UK, helping artist releases across radio, streaming, PR, online and retail marketing. Futureproof consists of a tight knit team of professionals with a wealth of experience who are passionate about music and its impact on people. Standing on the founder Phil extensive experience in the music industry as a musician, label manager, producer, and engineer. Phil and his team use their vast know-how and experience to guide artists.
So Phil, I know you have quite a career in the music industry as both artist, producer. label owner and now with Futureproof working on the promotion side. So I'm super keen to hear more about that, what brought you to space in the first place and how has your career evolved ?
I left art college and made my way to London from Dorset in the UK as a teenager. I was fortunate enough to join a new wave band (Essential Logic) as a guitarist pretty quickly and we recorded an album that Rough Trade released. We also had John Giddings as our agent and gigged with Iggy Pop, Joy Division, The Fall, Scritti-Politti, Human League, Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, Delta 5, The Slits to name a few. Next up I went into studio world as an engineer/producer working with Sade, Desree, Everything But The Girl, The Waterboys, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Neneh Cherry, Boy George, Alan Toussaint, Cabaret Voltaire, Beverly Knight, Marc Almond & made Terence Trent D'Arby's The Hardline According to... album with Martyn Ware from Heaven 17. Next, after a period of working in the DnB scene, during which I landed a sync on Gran Turismo with my act TMF, it felt right to start Futureproof and the next chapter in my career began...
Wow, it's really fascinating that you have been able to cover so much ground and work in all these different types of roles in the industry. This must provide you with great oversight and insights of the industry leading into you deciding to launch future proof. Tell us a bit about Futureproof? When did you start, what clients do you work with, what markets do you work, genres and such?
Futureproof started as an award winning club night in Notting Hill before releasing records as a label back in 2003 with seminal UK HipHop artist Rodney P. Then record sales crashed with the development of mp3s, Limewire, Napster etc and we got involved in radio promotion, PR and the, then nascent, digital market. Originally working with urban artists like Apache Indian, Rodney P and various underground artists of the time, we secured radio play across the newly launched BBC 1Xtra & Radio 1, Choice FM & Kiss plus all the pirate stations like Roots, Renegade, Street & Freeze FM. On the press front we'd get coverage for our clients in Echoes, Blues & Soul, DJ Mag, iDJ, MixMag and others. It was with the rise of BBC 6Music's presence in the market place though, that I then pulled on my experience of working within the indie, alternative market to promote artists like Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, Mark Stuart from the Pop Group, seminal nu-gaze band My Vitriol, punk icon Spizzenergi, gypsy blues band The Urban Voodoo Machine, blues guitarist Stephen Dale Petit and mainstream alt-pop duo Right Said Fred while also working with grime artist Afrikan Boy, electro-soul Nigerian artist Ibejii, jazz stalwarts The Weave and others. Primarily working the UK market for radio, press and digital media, we also have an ever growing network of radio stations and websites from around the world covering America, Europe, Africa and beyond. As a musician / music lover my taste is pretty wide and I've enjoyed working across a wide range of genres throughout my career but what links all these together is an independent mindset combined with great songwriting and penchant for great melody and lyrics.
So Futureproof works as both a record label and a promotion agency, could you explain a bit on how this works?
To be honest, in terms of promo campaigns there's no difference between what we do for our clients as a promotions company and the small number of artists that we've signed to our label. One area that we are doing more and more of is online marketing, something that we see as a vital element to building a band's long term sustainability. In an age of highly granular targeting and reporting (like WARM for instance) it's possible to refine who your audience is and how to reach them in unprecedented detail - and with that comes the ability to build a fanbase who you can successfully build a long term relationship with. What is different between what we do for our promotions clients and the artists on our label is dealing with the manufacture of physical product (vinyl/CD) via our distributor Republic of Music, who do a fantastic job (shout out to Mark, Richie & team!) plus the pitching of tracks for sync placements done for the releases on our label (Rainn Byrns & ex Fat White Family drummer Dan Lyons). That said, I'd be more than happy to discuss pitching out a client's catalog for sync licensing if they are interested - please do reach out via our website if you'd like to know more.
Love the focus on using data to narrow in on and understanding audiences and how best to reach them. How do you guys work radio as a release and promotion channel?
As like above, we work all campaigns to the same basic template, covering UK national, regional and student radio plus globally online. WARM is fantastic at managing radio campaigns on a live level, enabling us to maximize exposure by mirroring most radio coverage on our various social media channels (primarily twitter, facebook & instagram). National and specialist radio pitching tends to involve one-on-one meetings with the DJs and Music teams who over the years we've built close relationships with, while the regional, student and online pitches are mainly done over email. Campaigns tend to run for 2 to 4 months but in essence the timeline is dictated by the natural length of the record's life - so if radio stations are still playing it, we'll continue to push it out there.
You have seen the music industry evolve and how music is consumed over the years, how would you describe the role of radio as a medium today?
Radio has always been, and still is, a primary resource for music discovery for all demographics - what has changed is that digital playlisting & social media has stolen some of that pie, while the influence of press (I hate to say it) seems to be receding. I'd still say though, radio is THE most influential medium and in addition the actual exposure you get from the radio play, the kudos of listing support from key gatekeepers like Steve Lamacq on BBC 6Music, Jack Saunders on BBC Radio 1 and the "most trusted ears in radio" John Kennedy on Radio X can really help in progressing a new artist's career. The "kudos effect" also applies to press coverage on key websites like DIY, The Line of Best Fit, Dork, So Young, MOJO etc - one way in which press is still a major influence.
You have been a client with WARM for the last 2,5 years, could you explain to us why you selected WARM over alternatives?
Not too aware of other services that offer the same service as WARM does to be honest. We did use Radio Monitor some years back but that was only for UK airplay although admittedly they did cover TV as well and I think now they do provide global coverage. Chartmetric has a lot of info in there but it can be overwhelming I feel and they suggest new playlists to consider but my past experience of it is that in practice chasing those things can be time consuming and I'm not sure the results are too good either. However, I really like WARM's user interface with the ability to filter out release & artist info plus download highly presentable reports (something that's a great time saver for us). The ability to check out whether a station is being monitored and if not, a way to request monitoring, make it a go to service for our whole team (indie kid Doris in the office loves it too!).
Could you explain how you use WARM as a record label, versus being a radio promoter?
Again, as described above we use WARM as our primary airplay monitor for all campaigns and are very happy to continue that way. I met your bossman Jesper at a BPI event recently he was telling me about some exciting developments in the pipeline so I look forward to seeing how the service is going to develop over the coming months.
How has access to data and analytics tools affected your work as both record label and a promotion agency?
It's taken a while to integrate these tools into our daily routine but would say for a fair few years now we use WARM, Spotify for Artists and Facebook business manager on a daily basis to great effect - and we'll check out Deezer's BackStage, Apple for Artists and Amazon Music for Artists on a weekly basis. I'm sure our process will evolve over time but I think there's a balance to be had in A) learning how best to read these tools B) utilizing the information gleaned from them in a productive way and C) keeping your focus on the job at hand: getting as much exposure for your client / artist and magnifying that as much as possible.
What's been one of the biggest wins for you guys in ‘22?
For us releasing Rainn Byrns' album on the Futureproof label marked a return to business as usual after a couple of years of dealing with the pandemic and its restrictions. With 3 single releases to build up interest in the album, that's worked well but I think on the next album release we'll shoot for even more to maximize further Spotify and other streaming services' ways of working. We finished off the year with a live radio session for UK Radio X DJ John Kennedy, who's been supporting Rainn from the beginning but has now offered him some live slots at his various Remedy events having had him play on his X-Posure show & seen Rainn's talent for real. Another key win has been BBC 6 Music's Steve Lamacq's ongoing support of post punks (& key Extinction Rebellion members) Nrvs. Their outlook on humanity's future gives their lyrics a real dark edge and their animation video for the single Scum is something really special & well worth checking. Otherwise, we've had great fun with Mount Forel's 2nd album, The Fades & their LP Night Terrors, nu-folk artist Malin Andersson, various North of England acts like Spoken word artist Jodie Langford & non binary artist Bizarrefae, all released under the Hull's youth program Warren Records and, on a more mainstream pop vibe, Californian singer-songwriter Monica Aben.
What projects are you looking to work on in ’23?
We're excited to be kicking off the year with new world act Electric Sufi who merge electronica with Muslim, Egyptian and New Age influences - something very different to what we've been working with recently and a great opportunity to reconnect with BBC Radio 3 and the more avant-garde radio shows on BBC 6Music, NTS & beyond. Otherwise we continue on with promotion of Rainn Byrns, The Warren label roster, avant rockers Mount Forel, singer-songwriter Malin Andersson and others... bring on 2023!
Looking forward to continuing to support you guys amazing work with radio data '23 and beyond!
If you'd like to contact Phil and Futureproof team about getting your music out there for all to hear, then please email: email@example.com
Follow @phil_legg @FutureproofPR @FutureproofRecs to stay up on all things Futureproof.