A brand new spotlight concept has emerged for WARM. Please welcome “Hot Talks” - a series of customer spotlights, shining a light on our dear users. For this first instalment, we had the pleasure to connect with James Marsh, Head of Specialist Radio & Club Promotions at Listen Up - who provides a bespoke 360 promotional service offering radio, club, streaming promotion and press campaigns globally. Listen Up consists of a tight knit team of professionals with a wealth of experience who are passionate about music and its impact on people. He's taking us through his own background coming into Listen Up, his own role at the company and future predictions for Listen Up. Welcome, James.
1. Hi James, lovely to have you with us. First of all, what’s your own background coming into the music industry?
Nice one for having me!
I've always been involved in music in some capacity, playing in punk + hardcore bands as a kid, and then first getting into electronic music about 15 years ago in the early dubstep scene and labels like Deep Medi, Tempa, Hyperdub.
I produced that sound for 5-6 years and had a few vinyl releases whilst also studying Audio Production at University, then once I graduated I spent a few years running and then assisting in sessions at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick.
At that point I hadn't even considered that there were 9-5 Mon-Fri jobs in music as I'd always worked mad 18 hour shifts, weekends etc but I ended up needing more consistent work and a friend working at Listen Up let me know about an intern position.
2. What was it that first made you decide to start at Listen Up?
It was clear from the start how Listen Up value their interns - almost everyone in the company started as an intern, including heads of departments, so it was good to see a progression path instead of being part of an intern conveyorbelt like a lot of early jobs in music are.
3. What is your role at Listen Up?
I started as a Radio + Club intern in 2014 and I now head up the Specialist Radio + Club department. We cover both UK + International Specialist Radio with a focus on electronic music from DnB to Techno - likewise for club we cover the full electronic spectrum with a focus on AAA tastemaker DJ's.
4. How do you feel the music industry has changed since you joined Listen Up?
It used to be routine to pitch records out to radio a few weeks pre-release - all focus would be on exclusivity for the likes of Annie Mac to build momentum into the launch. Streaming has changed that as we almost always have to be on-air on-sale so there's now a lot less focus on exclusivity - we now look to pick up as much as possible across release date once live.
5. Has the pandemic in any way changed how you’re doing your job today?
The main issue we had to overcome was on the club side where the DJ's we send music to were suddenly no longer playing out. Luckily everyone ended up livestreaming sets, so we built up a strong database of weekly livestreams from individual DJ's through to festivals and pitched direct for livestream support. Some livestreams were picking up 100,000+ live views, and it was also actually easier to get footage of the support for socials, so it did have advantages too.
6. What are some of the challenges and benefits you are facing as Listen Up these days?
The amount of music currently released each week means there’s a load more competition for airplay than previous. Quality control is more important than ever for us, we try to make sure we only take on music we're passionate about and believe we can run a successful campaign on - though a successful campaign is completely relative to the artist and record itself, it may be a brand new artist with a focus on BBC Introducing and community looks, or an artist pushing into daytime and playlist spaces.
7. What’s your advice for anyone wanting to build their own career as an artist or label?
Having a long term plan is key - the likes of R1 are much more invested in artist propositions and helping to build an artist through radio than a one off stand-alone single - being able to present a wider plot of forthcoming music, shows etc is important. Especially with newer artists that key support doesn’t always happen right off the bat, we sometimes need to build through several campaigns so it’s good to be onboard for more than the one release.
It's also important to have everything lined up across radio, streaming, DSP's etc - if there isn't that initial passion at radio we have to give them a reason to play the record and the best way is to show wider movement - be that a Beatport #1 or a mint cover.
8. And lastly, what does the rest of 2023 look like for the company?
Busy! I'll be at ADE in October so if anyone wants a pint and a chat let me know. Nice one!