Taking place from Sunday 9th January to Tuesday 11th January 2022 in the tranquil surroundings of Charney Manor, a 13th Century Quaker House, the “retreat” that formally concluded 2021’s Accelerator Programme was extra special – bringing together not only last year’s cohort of managers, but those from 2020 too.
Thanks to COVID-19, it was the first time many of the group had actually met in person, as well as offering a welcome opportunity to kick off 2022 with some reflection on recent challenges and exchange plans for what we all hope will be positive times ahead.
In total, 30 managers made the trip out to rural Oxfordshire, enjoying two days of discussions on issues including mental health and resilience, led by Julia Payne from The Hub, alongside fascinating guest presentations on entrepreneurialism from such esteemed figures as Paul Bedford (Edition Capital), Sumit Bothra (ATC) and Mervyn Lyn (Strategic Partnership Solutions).
The weekend also highlighted some of Accelerator’s inherent strengths.
What started off ostensibly as grants and education programme, led by the MMF’s Paul Bonham and generously supported by YouTube Music, Arts Council England and Scottish Music Industry Association, has now blossomed into an incredibly important and vibrant network – and one that connects almost 100 managers from all over the country, allowing those from different backgrounds, regions and genres to share knowledge, experience and support.
In what can be an isolated profession at the best of times, the power of being connected to other managers was reiterated time and again by those at the retreat.
“The networking is amazing,” says Jamie Ibe, who represents artists such as Geovarn and Richy Rambo and is now being mentored by Craig David’s manager Colin Lester as a result of the programme. “You’re surrounded by like-minded individuals that are about all-out attack and strategy, and they’ve got dope artists as well. I think the selection committee at the MMF and YouTube Music, they do a great job with the people who they put in Accelerator. I don’t know how many people apply, but everyone in my year has seriously talented artists.”
“It’s expanded my network,” agrees The Ko-Lab’s Ameena Badley, who has grown her business into new areas, including video production. “I’ve even worked with some of the other managers here on some projects. I think Accelerator has given me more confidence to explore. Because there’s such a massive dynamic of people in Accelerator, I can get advice from people outside my sector, which I couldn’t have done before. It’s really helped with confidence and being able to speak to other people inside the industry and genres within the management field.”
Michael Lambert added “The retreat was super useful, and a great opportunity to focus on my own business while networking with loads of brilliant new managers,” he says. “The session on raising finance was particularly insightful, and something I’ve not got a huge amount of experience in. As always with Accelerator, the opportunity to learn alongside your peers is unbelievably helpful, motivating and provides an invaluable focus for the year ahead.”
The fruits of this collaboration and information sharing were also self-evident. Accelerator has already developed an enviable track record in this regard, with artists and songwriters represented by participating managers contributing to 15 Top 40 albums since 2019, alongside a whole series of notable commercial developments across recorded, publishing, live and branding.
Jasmine Srih is indicative of these successes having recently developed a JV with UROK (management company for Liam Gallagher, Jade Bird, Jess Glynne) and started a label in partnership with Warner Music / ADA. “Accelerator really opened my eyes to the different structures in how management companies can exist,” she says, adding that the most important characteristic for a manager in 2022 is learning how to “shapeshift”.
“I think the way that things are changing now is more rapid than ever, partly because of the pandemic, and that has resulted in [growth] of all these new mechanics such as TikTok. The whole industry is forever changing, and as a manager, you have to adapt to these changes and also plan accordingly. I think the main characteristics [of being a manager] are still the same, whether that’s being able to network or being creative, or executing your artist’s vision, but the key one for 2022 is being able to shape-shift.”
There was also overriding consensus that Accelerator had succeeded in its mission of helping participating managers’ businesses become more self-sustaining. “You have to be at a certain point in your career to really reap the benefits of it, and for me, it felt like ideal timing,” says Bobby Brown, who has taken his clients Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn to a prestigious headline show at Brixton Academy. “I’d had 5 or 6 years experience in the industry before I joined the programme, and it felt useful to have that experience and not everything felt alien or an information overload. Also, I think if I’d been further along with my career, I might have had to unlearn a lot of stuff.
“However, it’s been one of the most beneficial programmes or instances of my life, it’s been a real catalyst. I can’t quite imagine where I’d be without it, to be honest with you and I’ve been shouting about it from the hilltops.”
The fourth wave of successful Accelerator applicants will be revealed on February 10th 2022.